Asher Yatzar is a Jewish prayer that offers gratitude and awe for the miracle and function of the human body. I have offered a brief reflection on part of the blessing, followed by a guided meditation/embodied experience of the prayer.
Although it is short in linear time, (about 5 mins) I hope you will feel as if you have visited the sacred temple of your body, returning deeply nourished from a long rest.
According to Rabbeinu Yonah of Gerona (1180-1263), when you are careful about what words you speak, you sanctify yourself like a holy vessel used in the temple service. A holy vessel is suitable only for the highest purpose, and so it is with our mouths. If all your words are for an elevated purpose, then your mouth is as a holy as the temple vessels.”
(With Heart in Mind, Mussar Teachings to Transform Your Life)
I often start with the body, in order to bring lofty concepts and ideals into my life in practical way. I hope you will try this, as well as pondering the thoughts offered below.
Physical Purification of the Mouth
The tongue scraper, an inexpensive yet transformative utensil, is a simple, thin, u-shaped piece of stainless steel or plastic. It can be found in virtually every store in the dental hygiene department. It consists of a blunted edge that removes plaque and build-up from the surface of the tongue. Dentists in America are recommending the tongue scraper more and more because it helps to fight cavities by removing bacteria from the mouth. The tongue scraper also prevents bad breath, especially for people who eat a lot of dairy and build up mucus in the mouth, nose, and throat.
The tongue scraper comes from the tradition of Ayurveda, (a sister science of the practice of Yoga) which asserts that people who use a scraper are better at public speaking, express themselves more thoughtfully, and speak more sincerely and authoritatively. Some people ask if the same effect can be gained by brushing the tongue with a stiff toothbrush. Brushing the tongue moves stuff around and is helpful, but a tongue scraper is more effective as it clears out the deep deposits and generally keeps the area cleaner, stimulated and alive.
Cravings can be reduced by cleaning the tongue of leftover food. When the mouth can still taste the food, you may experience cravings for previously eaten foods. A tongue scraper reverses the process of desensitizing your taste buds, which has happened to everyone to a greater or lesser extent. It allows you to taste subtle flavors in food so that you can eat vegetables, fruits and whole grains with greater joy and mindfulness. When old residue is removed from the tongue, you will be better able to taste your food and won’t need to eat as much since you will have gained greater satisfaction from your meal.
apply a few quick strokes, 2-3 times a day
use the rounded cleaning edge to scrape gently down the tongue several times while applying slight pressure
rinse under running water and gently scrape again until no white residue is left
there should be no pain or gagging involved whatsoever—if you feel any discomfort, you are probably scraping too hard or starting too far back on the tongue.