8.12.2013

Natural Health Hack #5: Dry Brushing and Oil Massage

Cleanliness of the body and mind is an important part of ones physical and spiritual health in both the Ayurvedic and Ashtanga traditions.  The daily bath is a sacred time for cleansing oneself of the accumulations from the previous day. With our busy modern lifestyle, daily cleansing can feel like a chore through which we must hurry, mindlessly soaping up and rinsing off before heading out the door.  However, if we can take the time to slow down, tend to the body, and appreciate the cleansing ritual, bath time becomes a meditation and a source of relaxation that supports us in our daily life.

Cotton washcloths, dry body brush, organic oil

Dry Brushing

The daily cleansing ritual begins before you even jump in the shower, not with soap and suds but with your dry body brush.  Your skin is the largest organ of your body.  It is the barrier between your fragile inner self and the outside world.  You must care for it well.  Dry brushing sloughs away dead skin cells and toxins expelled through the pores, revealing the youthful, vibrant skin beneath.  It also promotes better circulation, improved lymph drainage, and cellular regeneration, making it a powerful boon to your overall health and wellbeing.

Start from ground up.  Brush your feet and legs in long, firm, circular strokes, moving up the body to your back, belly, breasts, chest, and arms.  Spend extra time on problem areas, such as cellulite or itchy, blotchy skin.  Do not dry brush your face.  (Learn to care for your face naturally here.)

Abhyanga

After you dry brush, massage your entire body with your favorite organic, cold-pressed oil.  I use coconut oil during the spring and summer months, and sunflower oil in the fall and winter.  You may benefit more from sesame or almond oil, depending on your Ayurvedic constitution.  Start from the top down.  Massage a bit of oil into your scalp, hair, face, and neck.  Then, move down the arms, chest, belly, back, and legs with long, firm strokes, finally ending with a brief foot massage to soften the feet.  Spend extra time massaging any areas that feel dry, sore, or tense.

Once the entire body has been lovingly brushed, oiled, and massaged, run a hot shower.  If you do not have a rubber bath mat in your tub, you will want to purchase one, as the oil will make the floor dangerously slick.  Continue to massage the oil into your skin, and let the hot water rinse away the remainder.  Do not wash the oil off.  Instead, use just a small amount of soap (I like Dr. Bronner's) on your underarms, between your legs, and feet.

Before you leave the shower, rinse yourself head to toe with cold water to soothe the skin, tighten the pores, and strengthen your natural, healthy hair.  Dry off with a clean, cotton towel, apply your Crystal, and enjoy your day.

Extra Tips

  • It may sound like a lot of work, but once you get the hang of it, the whole bathing process need not exceed 15-20 minutes.  
  • Wash your towels and bath mat in the hottest water your washer will allow to avoid oil buildup in the fabric.  
  • Once a week or so, clean your tub and unclog your pipes by boiling a large pot of water to pour into the tub and down the drain.  

Links to Purchase




Questions?  Comments?  Leave them below!

12 comments:

  1. This series is a service, and very valuable. These tips are all interesting. But I have to say as a person with a very demanding job and really a lot of family responsibilities, I feel that I am reading about another universe--much as I do when I read of going to Mysore. "only 15 minutes" is an interesting concept. Sometimes that's how much time i have for the Ashtanga practice that really takes an hour 45. When you have structured your life around building financial support for a family/educations, you end up with more money than time. Natural health is not on the horizon for some of us. If I did not love and need my ashtanga practice so much, sometimes reading blogs would lead me to believe that is not for me either. I tell myself it's a practice for householders and finding a way to make it work is part of the practice, but I do feel something in my life will break soon. I can't actually do anything related to health or beauty that requires 2 min of thought much less extra minutes of activity. I don't know but perhaps there is room at the edges of the yoga world for us middle aged people raising kids and caring for elderly parents and working our asses off while competing with people in their 30s and 40s to remain employed. I am grateful my teacher supports me in doing what I can, but when I read about the path that yoga carries people on, to a life where there is time and energy for such natural health practices, I do wonder and worry, that yoga might be lost to those of us who need it most.

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  2. Sorry you don't have to approve previous post. I didn't mean to make it sound like I was attacking you. I do believe it's a good idea to share what one has learned. It just brings home to me that we all have very different lives. I think i read that you wrote somewhere "What if I had a 9-5 job?" Some of us work much much more than that and commute, and take care of others. It's just a different life I guess. More power to you.

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    1. Hello, Anon. Thank you for your sincere and thoughtful comments. I did not for a second feel attacked.

      Like you say, we all have to make our own choices in life and align with our own priorities. I have chosen to lead a simple life. I live alone and work relatively little because I value my health and peace of mind. I have far more time than money, but this is my choice. I do not have everything I want or need, much like you don't have the time you need. Health insurance, for example, is something I cannot afford, but I do what I can to keep myself healthy. Natural living is a part of that.

      While 15 minutes may seem like a lot to you, this series of posts offers a streamlined approach to the natural/Ayurvedic lifestyle one might find outlined in conventional books on the subject. Perhaps it's not for everyone, but that doesn't mean that a healthier, more natural lifestyle is not available to you. Be creative. Hear your own frustration and demand a better life.

      I admire your efforts to maintain your yoga practice, however much or little that may be, and you are lucky to have a teacher who understands your situation and supports you. Five minutes (or fifteen) a day is better than none. I wish you the best and hope you find the time and space you need to be healthy and happy. God bless.

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    2. Hi Megan and Hi Anon, I am a self employed professional. I do really have to travel and work. Yes, I do agree that if you do a full time corporate job it is really difficult to do regular long Ashthanga practices. However, according to me that does not mean that you will be denied your share. I am taking permission from my Ashthanga Guru Megan Walker to say that very small 5-10 or even 15 minutes of workouts can do wonders and it will boost your energy and confidence to face your regular challenges and duties. They will no more feel like a burden to you. You can include basic postures like Bhujangasan, sphinx pose, ardha bhekasan,adho mukha swansana, Dhanurasan , Downward Facing Dog ,Child's pose and then Savasan at last. Start your practice by doing the alternate nostril breathing technique. This will reduce your stress and make you feel calm. You can even do a combination of these asans as per your convenience. This will surely going to improve your blood circulation and de stress you. Try out. Yoga is for everyone. Best wishes to your life and yoga practice.

      Regards
      CA Abhishek Sanyal

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  3. megan and Ahishek

    I am the anon who wrote before. I appreciate your thoughtful response megan. I wrote the comment while a passenger from one place to another or I wouldn't have had time. You are right, we make choices to some extent. But the choice to care for those for whom we feel responsible is a hard one to balance. I do agree that practicing some, and some pranayama every day or almost every day is crucial and beneficial. That's why i do it, and why i read your posts. 30 years ago my life was more like yours (though no yoga yet). But things happen. Anyway, I hope you find a way to get health insurance and I hope too, that you are able to maintain your healthy life and enjoy its benefits. We are all lucky to have found some yoga.

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  4. more from anon

    the yoga nurtures and sustains me. But it seems there is a lot I can't access.

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  5. Maybe we all have to look through the windows available to us at other practices and other lives and know they are out there so that when we pass through these stages ourselves, of different kinds of practices and different kinds of lives, we will know that it is all strung together with the same thread. (same anon, more thoughts)

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  6. I am moved to comment because I think I know how Anon feels in the first post above and it's stirred something in me. I am a person like you've described who is sandwiched between caring for kids and aging parents and have more money than time. And because I am easily trapped by 'Compare and Despair Syndrome', blogs like this can leave me feeling alienated and, or worse, have me berating myself for what I don't do or have in my life.

    Thankfully bringing more yoga practices into my life (I'm now a certified and practicing yoga teacher), has gone far to ease the symptoms of this Syndrome. While reading a post about natural living might set my mind automatically to a place of comparison and dreams of how my life could be different than it is today, I'm learning to ease up on the "should haves" and the "should dos" in my life and celebrate the things I have and things I do. And I'm learning to view blogs like this as inspirations for living vs aspirations.

    Anon, as I read your comments in the thread I think I'm seeing a similar struggle. If I'm right, I just wanted to let you know you're not alone. If I'm wrong, then I hope you don't mind my sharing my thoughts.

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  7. Hey Megan! Hope you are doing great. If I don't have a body brush that I just use a 100% cotton washcloth to exfoliate the body and face?

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    1. Hi April. You can certainly use a clean, dry cloth if you don't have a dry brush. It will have a lesser exfoliating effect and will not perform well in stimulating blood circulation to the surface layers of the skin they way a dry brush does. A decent dry brush will cost you less than $10. You can do without and use a dry cloth for as long as you need to, but the investment in a good brush is totally worth it.

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  8. Hi Megan, i am 64 years old, long time Ashtangi home practitioner. from last Summer i developed very itch torso, more so in my belly area, only to be relieved by heavy message with pure aragon, neem oil twice a day. i think it is from stretching in backbends in my practice. Since it never seems to stop, do you recommend me to stop doing backbends all together in my practice.

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