January 23, 2009

Ayurveda, Skincare, and Not Slipping in the Shower

Sorry for the grainy photo – the light isn't great in my bathroom! I've been wanting to bring you a post on this topic for awhile because it's such a happy part of my recent beauty and wellness routine.

I'd been searching for an affordable natural skin moisturizer, something that had no chemicals and ingredients I could pronounce. Around the same time I had an Ayurvedic consultation and was advised to help balance my Vata dosha with a sesame oil massage daily. Perfect! So I've been using nothing but sesame oil on my face and body for the past 5 months and my skin looks and feels great.

Ayurveda is yoga's sister science – a truly holistic approach to health. The practice of oil self massage (called abhyanga) is one of many ways to bring balance to the body.

Here's what I say: It's a low-cost, easy and effective way to moisturize skin and smooth away wrinkles! I certainly don't have time for a full body massage every day, but at the very least I rub a little bit onto my face and feet at night before bed. Who needs expensive night creams? Sometimes if I have time to lounge around, I layer the oil on thick, especially on my face, and let it sit for a good long while.

I'm happy to introduce a guest blogger helping me out today: Lauren Klatsky, a friend and fellow yoga teacher. Lauren holds a professional certificate from the Kripalu School of Ayurveda.

WDYBG: So Lauren, what exactly is this oil massage business all about?
LK: Anointing the body with oil may seem exotic and indulgent, but it is an ancient practice used to promote health and beauty. Ayurveda recommends applying oil to the body on a daily basis.

WDYBG: Ok, so how does one go about giving themselves a full oil massage?
LK: The oil should be heated to just above body temperature to make it comfortable and soothing for the nervous system. Shut off the radio and remove other distractions so you can place your undivided attention on the motions and emotions that arise from the act of self-massage.

Beginning with the head, work your way down the body applying gentle to moderate pressure as you rub the oil into your pores. Use up and down strokes on the long bones of the arms and legs and circular movements over the joints. You may wish to pause as your hands circle the chest and pass over the heart. When massaging the abdomen, do so in the clockwise direction following the natural direction of peristalsis.

Always finish the treatment by generously rubbing the soles of the feet. The whole process should take fifteen to twenty minutes to complete. It’s beneficial to allow the oil to stay on the skin for another ten to fifteen minutes and apply heat to the body by taking a bath or sauna.

WDYBG: Sesame oil is good for winter months, but can you say more about what types of oils to use for different people and times of year?
LK: While sesame is the most commonly recommended oil for abhyanga, it is not appropriate for all individuals and seasons. Because sesame oil is heating, individuals with Pitta constitutions or imbalances should use almond or coconut oil instead. Coconut oil is great for summertime because it is extremely cooling and can be used to relieve painful sunburns. Kapha benefits from mustard oil which is heating but not quite as heavy as sesame.

WDYBG: Should the sesame oil be organic? Refined or unrefined? Or, do you have any recommended brands of Ayurvedic oils?
LK: Organic, expeller-pressed, unrefined sesame oil is preferred. However, conventional unrefined oil will do the trick. (Just make sure not to purchase toasted sesame oil) My favorite brand is Banyan Botanicals, a company that specializes in Ayurvedic herbs and products, which you can order from their website.

WDYBG: How can I give myself an oil massage and not make a huge mess or slip in the shower? How much oil should I use? Should I soap it off when I'm done?
LK: Using just enough oil will minimize the slipperiness of the whole ordeal. For most people, a quarter cup is about the right amount. I like to keep my oil in a plastic squeeze bottle so I have better control over how much I use. After lubricating yourself, it is best to allow 10-15 minutes in a warm moist environment before showering. Some people like to soap the excess oil off their skin. Because sesame oil has antioxidant and antibiotic properties, I prefer to rub the shower's hot water over my oiled body and just use body gel to cleanse my armpits and genitals. Whatever you do, be careful so you don't slip in the shower - you may want to consider putting a non-skid mat in the tub or shower floor. It is also a good idea to designate towels specifically for drying off after self-massage with sesame oil. After a while, the oil will coat the terrycloth making it no longer able to sop up moisture.

WDYBG: It sounds great, but what if I only had 5-10 minutes to do this? What areas of my body would be most important to massage with oil?
LK: At least do your head and feet. Focus on the bottom of your feet and give attention to each toe. A nice little foot massage before going to sleep is also a great idea. Put on a pair of little booties afterwards and let the oil soak in overnight.

Visit Lauren and learn lots more at Rasa Rx.


Ellen Claire said...

Thanks to you and Lauren for a really informative post! I'm going to try this out this weekend.

Noodlegirl said...

Oh that was so informative I was always intersted in Ayuveda

Lori said...

Thanks for the informative post. I have heard of using olive oil like this, but not sesame and never an explanation of the purpose. We have some ladies at our Farmer's Market in the States who bring over olive oil from Italy. They like to tell how their mothers used it for wrinkles.:)

I have a question. Have you ever had any breakouts on your face from the oil? I am all for putting it on my body, but breaking out worries me for my face.

Erica said...

hmmm- interesting! My skin is always a mess- maybe I will give this a try! Have a good weekend

Hanlie said...

I've been using coconut oil on my body for a few weeks now and it's great! For my face I use the Oil Cleansing Method (olive, castor and tea tree oil). Love the way my skin has responded.

Nice blog! I'll definitely visit again!

Not Another Omnivore said...

This is really interesting! I'm currently embarking on the no shampoo, no poo, adventure and want to stay as far away from extra oil as possible right now, but as soon as this supposed month of oily hair is done and my body reaches balance..or as soon as I give up..I will try this.

I share Lori's concern however about the face breaking out, and am interested in the answer, although Hanlie seems to offer an interesting solution.


Michelle said...

Ellen--enjoy :-)

Noodlegirl--there's a ton to learn about it! Lauren is a good resource.

Lori--I was worried about breaking out too because I have oily skin to begin with. But it hasn't been a problem, if my face seems extra oily or starting to get a zit I just skip oil in that area for a day or two. I've heard that by moisturizing correctly your skin then does not produce (and overproduce) its own oils. And such a natural skin treatment means less irritation overall.

Erica--try it out and let us know how it goes!

Hanlie--coconut oil must make you feel like you're at the beach :-) I'd like to learn more about the oil combo for your face. Interesting, thanks for stopping by!

NAOmni--what exactly are you doing--no shampoo, no poo?? interesting! well, if you give the oil massage a shot in the future, like I said, breakouts haven't been a problem for me.

Not Another Omnivore said...

No poo is slang for no shampoo, and yeah, I'm giving it a try. I've read that in the end your hair ends up better, plus the less chemicals, less plastic, and less money aspect is appealing. So we'll see.

I mentioned you in my post on my blog about it though. I just said I'm not going to go too crazy though, I'll never not shave!

I will try the oil in the future for sure!


miss v said...

i do use a night foot oil (peppermint) that had done wonders! interesting post!

Jane said...

I am really excited to try this, but what is the best method to heat the oil and how do I know when it is the right temperature? I was also wondering if you could recommend any good books about ayurveda or ayurvedic cookbooks? Thank you! And, I love your blog! :)

Michelle said...

Here's some additional info from Lauren in answer to Jane's questions:

To warm the oil before massage, I just run my squeeze bottle full of oil under hot water for a few minutes or let it sit in a sink full of hot water for about 10-15 minutes - until the oil is warm to the touch, so a bit warmer than body temperature. I'm not sure exactly what temperature that is but probably somewhere around 100 degrees.

I have some links on Rasa Rx to informative sites and books. I recommend the following Ayurvedic cookbooks:

Ayurvedic Cooking for Self-Healing by Usha Lad & Dr. Vasant Lad
The Ayurvedic Cookbook by Amadea Morningstar
The Ayurvedic Cookbook for Westerners by Amadea Morningstar

Alexandra said...

This was very informative :) I recently started using virgin coconut oil as a moisturiser after reading a lot about the benefits. I use it on my face and body... It works great on the skin! and even in the hair...I have very curly hair and this smoothes out the frizz.

Thanks for visiting my blog btw!

Torrie said...

I've been practicing ayurveda since the fall and it has been amazing. I do the self-massage as often as I can in the morning and I feel the effects of it the whole day.

I recently found your blog- love it!

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Thank you for such good infos! Appreciate it a lot.

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If you know any new Ayurvedic blog, please inform to me.


Soins du Visage Marseille said...

Great Blog and nice information. I have been using coconut oil for the last five years and now feel afraid to try anything else on my body.

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The best thing about ayurveda is it does not have any side effects .

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