January 23, 2009
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.