Blog Author: Emilia Wheaton
Blog Editor: Kristen Kennedy Smith
Ayurvedic tradition calls us to honor our physical bodies by undertaking our daily health and hygiene routines with a sense of reverence and intentionality. Pampering ourselves, instead of briefly splashing some water on our face and running a toothbrush across our teeth, allows us to present our best self to the day. Ayurvedic traditions such as oil massage, dry brushing, and henna hair dying, just to name a few, promote self-care at its deepest core level of honoring the physical body our soul inhabits. Without focusing on superficial qualifiers of beauty, we can instead focus on letting out inner beauty shine by fortifying the health of our skin, mouth, and hair. When we feel our outer shell has been polished, we can put our best foot forward and promote within ourselves a sense of pride and vitality. No matter your daily beauty routine (and especially if you are very low maintenance like myself), I’m sure you can relate to the feeling of being prepared to greet the day once you have spent some time admiring your hair while brushing, or trimming and painting your nails, or simply washing your face and putting on a daily lotion. Whatever makes us feel ready for the day lets us step out of the house with exuberance.
Here are some ancient Ayurvedic methods of self-care you could adopt as part of your daily routine to care for your mind, body and soul:
Dry brushing is exactly how it sounds: sloughing off the dry skin which is stimulating for our Kapha energy. Dry brushing is best done in the morning, right before you shower. Swipe a gentle brush (like a soft loofah) over your skin, always brushing toward your heart. Over joints and your belly, make circular strokes. Brushing our skin can give us more lustrous skin, reduce the effects of stress on the body, improve lymphatic circulation, and improve our metabolism. Plus, it feels pretty great!
Warm Oil Massage
A traditional Ayurvedic oil massage, or abhyanga in sanskrit, can reduce our anxiety and clear toxins from the body. Oil massages also promote nervous system health and proper circulation, plus...can you think of a better way to show your body some love first thing in the morning? Spending about fifteen minutes after the shower consciously and intentionally massaging your skin, focusing on nourishing each layer of tissue. Traditionally, each Dosha calls for a type of oil to pacify an imbalance in your doshic constitution. Try sesame oil for Vata, sunflower or coconut oil for Pitta and for Kapha try almond or corn oil. A morning massage will warm and lubricate your body for the day ahead.
Oil pull is the mouthwash of Ayurveda. Swishing about a tablespoon of coconut oil in our mouth is a way to maintain oral health and detoxify our mouths. Bacterias enter our body through our mouth and sinuses, so it is important to keep these areas clean to reduce our risk of infection or disease. Oil pulling reacts like a magnet to bacteria, so when you spit it down the drain you rid your body of potential toxins. The ultimate goal should be to swish the oil around in your mouth, without swallowing, for 15-20 minutes. But start out small and aim for 5 minutes until you can work up to a longer period of time.
Chemical-free alternatives to hair dying
Ayurveda promotes natural hair dye in the form of henna or indigo dyes as a substitute for harsh chemicals that come in contact with our scalp and hair. Henna and indigo can be used to darken brunette locks or to dramatically redden blonde hair. Using a combination of indigo and henna results in more complex, deep shades. Switching to a natural dye such as henna enhances the nutrition of our hair and skin rather than stripping our hair of its vitality.
Yoga and Breathwork
I know, I know, I’m playing the old yoga card again as the cure-all, but it really is the most powerful way to strengthen our bodies and, paired with breathwork, to calm our minds. As the sister science of Ayurveda, it is only natural that yoga goes hand in hand with Ayurvedic practices. Synchronizing our body’s movements to our breath aligns our mind to our movement. With practice and consistency, this conscious alignment allows us to go throughout our day fully present and conscious of how we flow within our surroundings. As if we need more reasons to start our days with yoga and breathwork, a physical benefit of yoga early in the morning is the jumpstart of the body’s circulation and metabolism.
Ayurvedic wisdom has been passed down over centuries. It is tried and true, as many millions are practicing Ayurvedic traditions everyday, sometimes without even being aware of it. Out of the shower, we might take extra care to massage lotion into our skin simply because it feels nice to pamper ourselves even just for a few moments. We use commercial mouthwashes to do the job of an oil pull and exfoliate with loofahs in the shower. These common habits did not appear by themselves but trickled down from ancient Ayurvedic wisdom. We can honor Ayurvedic traditions by holding them sacred and special, in turn devoting time to feel sacred and special within our own physical bodies. I invite you to take some time for yourself to truly care for and honor the skin you live in by incorporating one or more of these Ayurvedic methods of self-care into your daily life.
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