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Category Archives: Ayurveda

The Many Benefits of Daily Body Oiling

Abhyanga is an Ayurvedic practice that involves massaging good quality oil into your skin every day. It’s the perfect remedy for the cold, dry, winter air! Most obviously, daily oiling helps your skin retain its hydration and luster. When you oil your skin in the morning, you feel warm and cozy all day, as if you were wearing silk long underwear. Oiling your feet at night helps you to get more restorative sleep. The physical action of massaging oil into your skin and joints helps to relieve stiffness and improves circulation, giving your whole body a nice glow and boosting energy and overall health. Since there is so little circulation in the joints, they can really benefit from the extra attention. You can even put a little oil in your nostrils to help keep the sinuses moist, which helps you to avoid colds and sinus infections.

The benefits of abhyanga don’t end with the physical. According to Ayurveda, the cold winter air can also impact the mind, causing us to feel jittery, scattered, and exhausted. Regular application of oil infuses your body-mind with a grounding energy that soothes any winter-induced anxiety or forgetfulness. All of these symptoms (cold, dry, stiff, anxious, scattered, tired) that we can relieve with abhyanga are often associated with aging. This is why abhyanga is considered one of Ayurveda’s top anti-aging strategies!

How to oil

  1. Since your skin absorbs whatever you put on it, use the highest quality oil you can find – organic, cold-pressed, and in a glass bottle when possible. Jojoba, sesame, and coconut are great choices. Most of these are available at the grocery store. However, you can also purchase wonderful oils infused with herbs or essential oils (we especially love Sarada’s Woman Power oil!). Natural, cold-pressed oils contain fatty acids, vitamin E, and other antioxidants that promote healthy skin. Sure, lotions often add vitamin E, but not the whole vitamin E complex, like natural oils have.
  2. Before your shower, rub the oil into your skin, using long strokes on the long bones, and circular motions around the joints. Be sure to pay attention to your toes and feet, fingers, and neck too. Enjoy it!
  3. You don’t need to use a lot of oil.
  4. If you like, you can rub some into your scalp. This helps keep your hair healthy and conditioned. (When doing the hair, it’s great to let it soak in for 10-15 minutes if possible.)
  5. Using your pinky finger, you can apply a bit of oil to your nostrils as well. “Nasya” oil was created for this purpose, and is usually infused with sinus opening herbs like eucalyptus. But of course regular oil also works well.
  6. When you shower, the warm water will help the oil to sink in. Be sure you don’t use soap on the arms and legs. You may need to shampoo twice if used a lot of oil in your hair. Blot your skin dry after the shower.
  7. An alternative option is to apply the oil after your shower. Just use less oil, and give it a few minutes to sink in before getting dressed.
  8. When you’re cooking, rub extra olive, sesame, or coconut oil into your hands!
  9. Ayurveda is pretty obsessed with oiling. They even put drops in eyes, ears, other places :-0 and swish with oil like mouthwash. It’s really good for dental health. Swishing with coconut oil actually whitens your teeth while improving dental health! If you decide to try this, swish for about 10 minutes as you do your morning routine, and spit the oil out in the trash, not the sink (because it can clog the sink over time).

Image credit: Lisa Mair

Three Ayurvedic Beauty Tips for Summer

Ready to glow this summer? These simple tips from the time-tested wisdom of Ayurveda (literally “the knowledge of life”) will help you look and feel your best!

#1 Body Skin Care

Abhyanga, or self oil massage, will restore youthfulness and radiance to your skin. Like all Ayurvedic beauty practices, the benefits are never purely superficial, and the application of oil over the entire body is renowned for its healing effects on the body and mind. From boosting the immune system and balancing the nervous system to promoting flexibility in the muscles and lubrication of joints, Abhyanga is like giving yourself the gift of beauty from the inside-out.

The ideal oil to choose depends on your constitution, but in the summertime it’s safe to say that organic virgin coconut oil is an excellent option. If it’s a cool day and the oil has solidified (as coconut oil will if it’s under 76 degrees), warm it up first to liquefy it. Massage your entire body slowly, with loving care (this increases oxytocin levels), before you shower. The water in the shower will help the oil penetrate more deeply.

Bonus tip: Apply ground chickpea flour to your skin in the shower to soak up residual oil and leave your skin extra soft.

#2 Facial Skin Care

Here are the steps to doing an Ayurvedic facial.

Steaming

Pour boiling hot water into a large bowl. Cover your head with a towel and lean over the bowl, breathing in the steam for 5-10 minutes. This will open your pores, release toxins and prepare your skin for a mask.

Bonus tip: Add 5 drops of nasya oil or a combination of eucalyptus and rose essential oils to the steam to improve respiratory health and promote mental clarity.

Mask recipe

  • ½ tsp organic neem leaf powder
  • ½ tsp organic triphala powder
  • 1/8 tsp organic turmeric powder
  • 1 Tbsp organic chickpea flour
  • Organic rose hydrosol (rose water spray)

Mix ingredients to form a paste and apply to face, avoiding contact with the eyes. Leave it on for 5 minutes and rinse several times with warm water. If you need to replenish some oil to your face afterward, apply a thin layer of coconut oil. Finish by spritzing with rose hydrosol

#3 Hair Care

Massage coconut oil into your scalp and comb it through your hair. I hate to be redundant with coconut oil tips, but it truly is our ally in beauty! Leave the oil on for a minimum of 30 minutes before shampooing, but if you can leave it overnight, even better. Put an old towel over your pillow to prevent staining, or wrap one gently around your head. Coconut oil is full of fatty acids that will repair split ends, penetrate the scalp and thereby soothe the nervous system, preserve color, resolve dandruff, detangle, and hasten hair growth. This treatment will also leave your hair looking lustrously healthy. Wow!

Bonus tip: To get the oil out of your hair more easily, do a “dry shampoo” which means don’t get your head too wet before shampooing.

I heard a quote that recently that really resonated (source unknown): “Haste and superficiality are diseases of the 20th century.” While I’m sure hastiness and superficiality have existed to some degree historically, they are prevalent features of our modern day culture and are root causes of psychological and physiological illness. None of these ancient Ayurvedic beauty tips are hasty in the same way that putting foundation on your face to cover blemishes is, and they’re not superficial either because they have far reaching health benefits. That said, nothing can make our skin shine and our hair lustrous like taking the time to do a well crafted cleanse, like the Ultimate Rejuvenation Cleanse, at least twice a year. After all, 80% of the skin’s appearance on the outside is determined by the health of our organs, blood, lymphatic and circulatory systems. So enjoy the immediate benefits of the practices I’ve described here, and do the work of radiance from the inside-out by following Michael Pollan’s sage slogan, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly Plants.”

Image credit: Susanne Ollmann

Emmie Stamell is an Ayurvedic practitioner and yoga and meditation teacher. She offers private Ayurvedic consultations, mindfulness coaching and personalized yoga. She loves connecting with folks and is happy to answer questions. Feel free to reach out via email: Emmie@sukhayoga.org or phone: 781.608.9369. Learn more about Emmie at www.sukhayoga.org