Herbal Cleansing Rituals
I was in a yoga training a few years back and we opened each day by burning sage to clear our space and selves. Every day we took our mornings in silence, using gentle eye contact and smiles to greet our kula as we found our space on our pillow in our circle. Once seated comfortably, the sage would make its way around the room.
The ritual burning of herbs is common to many cultures in the world, one of the most ancient and purest methods of cleansing people, places and things. The tradition of burning sage and sweetgrass, known as smudging, has been a part of indigenous Native American culture and spirituality for thousands of years - simple, powerful and effective. Other forms of ritual herbal cleansing include Middle Eastern frankincense, Asian incenses and brush burning in many native cultures. This purification of matter, space and energy is a global modality.
In our yoga training, those of us who had never smudged with sage before were shown the 'technique', which held lots of room for interpretation. As we went through this ritual every morning, each of us adopted our own unique routine.
Like any healing practice, you do what feels right.
I would start at my heart, holding the sage between my thumb and index finger, wrapping my free hand around my 'sage hand'. With closed eyes I would begin to center myself, drawing in a few slow breaths and letting myself settle. Once I felt it was time to move from this place, I would mindfully start to trace the sage around my body, usually starting down in my feet and eventually standing up at some point to really cover all the spots. The length of this process would vary depending on how I felt that day; it was comforting to know that I could always take as long as I needed with this ritual.
I would end at my heart, smile inward, breathe out and pass it along.
According to Google, sage is a "perennial, evergreen subshrub, with woody stems, grayish leaves, and blue to purplish flowers. It is a member of the family Lamiaceae and is native to the Mediterranean region, though it has naturalized in many places throughout the world." The Latin word for sage is ‘Salvia’ and stems from the word ‘to heal'. It is often associated with clarity and wisdom when burned - just think of the connotations of someone who is 'sagely'. Dried sage is usually sold in bundles that may be burned as a whole or broken apart into smaller stems. The smoke is potent and unmistakable; sage wastes no time going to work.
Set an intention for your cleansing ritual. Work your way through your body, home, car, studio, office, etc. Move slowly with it. Remember to breathe. The smoke can become thick quickly - be careful not to inhale it in too deeply and know that you do not need to go overboard as it will smoulder quite heavily.
A little bit goes a long way.
You'll know when you're done.
Since that training I have continued to enjoy the benefits of burning sage. I moved into a new home, set up a workspace and have hosted many gatherings; sage has been a helpful tool to reset energy when I feel it is needed. Currently, the two bundles of sage I use were gifted to me separately by two of my dearest friends, and many little stems have been broken off and shared with others. Like a yoga practice shared in a room with many, the journey is personal but the experience is universal.
Special thanks to Jana Roemer for sharing this wonderful practice. Namaste. ❤️