Oil Pulling: An Ancient Secret for Releasing Neck Tension
Contributor - Yoga, Massage & Bodywork
Our necks are tapestries of skeletal tissues woven around seven arcing bones. Fluid-filled membranes cushion and protect this stacked energetic column from compression and the impact of falls or injuries.
With only seven vertebrate and 26 muscles supporting the weight of a human head, the neck is vulnerable, yet tolerates huge movements. If even one neck muscle splints or severs, there can be a host of problems radiating around our shoulders, skull, or jaw.
There have been several points in my life where I restored and rebuilt positive sensations in my neck after injury or intense dental work. Western rehabilitation practices are effective, but also incredibly limited. Closing the chapter of a decade of poor neck and jaw health resulted from looking outside the scope of traditional medicines. If I had become resourceful sooner and turned to alternative wellness models, I would have minimized injury and cut my healing time in half.
The Benefits of Oil Pulling
Disease prevention is in its infancy in the United States. On the contrary, in many other parts of the world, prevention is seen as the primary focal point of wellness. A peer of mine mentioned the benefits of Ayurveda and its oil pulling method years ago after a yoga workshop where we were both in attendance. In India, this ancient-science-based healing system has empowered and treated millions of people for thousands of years. Ayurveda is translated into “the study of the science of life” and dates back to 1200BC.
In April of 2014, I added oil pulling into my morning routine to treat my tight jaw and neck. My pterygoid, masseter, tongue, and hyoid muscles receive a great workout that left my throat, mouth, and jaw feeling relaxed. In addition this practice decreased the amount of oral bacteria that could otherwise cause inflammation and disease elsewhere in the body.
In the United States, Dr. Bruce Fife leads talks and interviews about the benefits of oral hygiene in regards to disease. He said, “What happens in the mouth can affect the entire body.” Joint pain, swelling, infections can occur, simply because of what brews in our mouth. In his book, Oil Pulling Therapy, Fife mentioned that oil can be used to pull out bacteria, plaque, pus, and mucous from ours gums and mouth.
Floyd Dewhirst, an associate professor in the Harvard-Forsyth Department of Oral Biology, found there are 615 bacterial species in the mouth. In his article about the mouth’s microbes, he stated that "many of the pathogenic organisms found in the mouth are likely to be found in infections elsewhere in the body, where they are not easily recoverable." He illustrated how the mouth is not separate from, but rather, an integral part of the whole body system.
A Daily Routine for Overtaxed Bodies
Overtaxing the body comes in many forms: eating poor quality foods, not drinking enough water, limited exercise, limited mental rest, smoking, negative thinking, and being around external pollutants. These negative inputs take their toll and add up. Overloading our body with adrenaline and environmental pollutants will eventually cause illness. Our body can only deal with so much before it affects our chemistry and, ultimately, our health.
Add this Ayurvedic oral remedy in as part of your daily routine. It can produce some powerful results, alleviate issues with neck tension, and help with dental hygiene.
Oil Pulling Directions
- Use only high-quality sesame seed or organic coconut oil.
- Begin with one tablespoon, eventually working up to two. I add two drops of peppermint, OnGuard blend, or Melaleuca oils for healing gums and freshness.
- Swish the mixture around in your mouth for five minutes, eventually working up to twenty. Press the oil through your teeth and between your gums and lips. Also, get your tongue working. It is tiring at first, but your muscles will strengthen.
- When finished, spit in the garbage - oils clog sinks and drains.
- Floss, then brush.
In the weeks that follow taking on this practice, make note of the benefits you receive. Use oil pulling as a method to become more aware of having a relaxed neck and jaw. Look in the mirror and check for proper head alignment - meaning, tongue wide, mandible slack, jaw parallel to floor, ears over shoulders, shoulders at rest below ears, and eyes forward.
Notice if your head tilts, jaw clenches, or shoulders are uneven and work to correct this. The position you hold your body in can repeat poor alignment. This poor alignment becomes repetitive stress, which is injurious to your health.
Let the tension go. You won’t fall apart. You won’t lose your grip on reality. You will create a new, more enjoyable one.
1. Science in the News. "The practice of oil pulling." American Dental Association. 2014.
2. Chopra, D. Quantum Healing: Exploring the Frontiers of Mind/Body Medicine. New York: Bantam, 1989. Print.
3. Landau, M. "Oral Biology. The Mouth's Microbes Could Hold Clues to Early Cancer Detection." Harvard Focus. 2002.
4. Fife, B. Oil Pulling Therapy: Detoxifying and Healing the Body through Oral Cleansing. Colorado Springs: Piccadilly, 2008. Print.
5. Singh A, Purohit B. "Tooth brushing, oil pulling and tissue regeneration: A review of holistic approaches to oral health." Journal of Ayurveda Integrative Medicine. 2011 April-June: 64–68.
Photo 1 & 3 courtesy of Shutterstock.
Photo 2 by Dr. Johannes Sobotta [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.