December 5, 2013

See You Later, Alligator: Ayurveda for Winter Skin. ~ Carole Westerman

As we begin to head into the winter months, it’s important that we take extra good care of our skin.

 In addition to being our largest organ, our skin is a reflection of our inner health. Therefore, if you want to put your best face forward and radiate good health, you should consider two of Ayurveda’s (yoga’s sister science, the “science of life”) most amazing remedies for winter skin!

Garshana (dry skin brushing):

Garshana is a traditional practice in Ayurveda, that is detoxifying, invigorating, and boosting to immune function. Those are all things we really need in the winter months!

Garshana can be done in one of two ways, either by using raw silk gloves or by using a natural bristle brush.

Basically, you dry massage (rub) your skin in a specified manner before you shower, with a frequency depending on your “dosha”.

Those with a Vata constitution need to practice Garshana less, maybe once a week.

If you have a Pitta constitution you can practice Garshana moderately, perhaps two to three times per week.

Kapha constitutions can get away with the most Garshana in the winter, with some individuals benefiting from it daily.

Now that you have an idea of how often to dry brush your skin, here’s a little run-down on how you do it:

-Start at the feet, and work your way up to your upper thighs.

-You can dry massage firmly on the tougher skin of the feet, but you want to be more gentle in places where skin is thinner.

-Think of making long stroking motions up towards the heart, moving lymph as you go.

-Circle at the joints, such as the knees and hip crease.

-Don’t be shy! Really get into the hip creases and thighs!

-Move to the trunk next, using horizontal and diagonal strokes on the belly and back.

-From there, move to the hands and use long strokes toward the heart.

-Remember to use a circular motion at the wrist, elbow, and shoulder joints.

-Pay special attention to the under arm area by making sure to brush over the area thoroughly and toward the heart.

-Next, we move to the chest and heart area, taking care not to massage over the breasts.

-After your Garshana, it’s ideal to follow-up by nourishing and moisturizing the skin.

Abhyanga (self-massage):

Abhyanga is one of the most amazing practices Ayurveda has to offer! It not only nourishes and conditions your skin, making it glow from within.

It is also a wonderful way to practice self-love, gratitude, and appreciation for your body.

You can practice Abhyanga with a variety of different oils, depending on what’s available to you. However, since whatever you put on your skin is absorbed directly into your body as if you’ve eaten it, food grade oils are highly recommended.

Sesame oil is traditionally used in Ayurveda, as are herbalized oils specifically formulated for your “dosha”.

In a pinch, you can use olive oil from your kitchen! But, as you fall in love with the practice of Abhyanga, you will probably want to look into oils created for self-massage, as there are many available on-line and at your local natural foods store.

Abhyanga is best performed after your Garshana, and before your shower. Ideally, you will perform your Abhyanga massage about five to 20 minutes before your shower so that the oil has time to absorb into your skin.

-Starting at the head, begin your massage.

-You can apply the oil to your scalp, which is very nourishing to the hair, but know that it will take an extra shampoo to get it all out.

-After you decide if you’re going to massage your scalp, begin massaging the face, ears, and neck.

-From there, move to the hands, arms, shoulders and chest paying special attention to the joints as you did in your Garshana.

-Next, spend some time on the belly. Massaging in circular motions, back-and-forth, and diagonal strokes.

-Allow this belly massage to morph into a side body and back massage, making sure to get as much of your body as possible.

-After the trunk of the body, begin to move down the legs all the way down to the feet.

-Please be cautious if you massage the feet, as it can get very slippery! You may want to skip the bottom of this feet for this reason if you have slick tile or flooring.

-Wait up to 20 minutes, then step into the shower.

As you get comfortable with Abhyanga, you can experiment with the amount of pressure that suits you, from gentle to vigorous.

Combining these two practices together in the winter months is sure to elevate your mood and keep your skin in tip-top condition. And it might even have you appreciating all your nooks and crannies in a new way!

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Assistant Editor: Karissa Kneeland/Editor: Bryonie Wise

Photos via flickr and Carole Westerman

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