This Ayurvedic technique requires a very small-time investment, but has many benefits such as: shedding dead skin cells (and encourages new cell renewal), resulting in smoother and brighter skin. It can also help with ingrown hairs and assist in improving vascular blood circulation and lymphatic drainage.
Dry brushing can be done daily, preferably in the morning before showering. Using silk gloves or a dry skin brush, start at the feet and work your way up to the crown of your head. If using a dry skin brush, start with a gentle brush and soft pressure and work up to a firmer brush and apply firmer pressure over time. Brushing toward the direction of your heart drains the lymphatic system and can help the body move waste more quickly while stimulating the burning of fat. For added benefit, this technique can be practiced preceding self-massage.
Self-oil massage, or abhyanga, helps calm the mind and nervous system. Daily abhyanga is especially important for Vata types, as it helps alleviate dry skin that is often a result of Vata imbalance. Massaging your body can soothe the entire nervous system and emotions. Abhyanga, when performed daily, enhances balance in the energy bodies and overall longevity, releases toxins, calms the nervous system, increases circulation, softens skin, stimulates nerve endings, and tones muscle.
How to Perform Abhyanga:
1) Heat the abhyanga oils to a pleasant temperature, the oil should always be applied warm to the body.
2) Place a small amount of warm oil in the palm of your hand for each point listed below (using small amounts will help you avoid feeling too oily).
3) Now start applying oil to your head gently massage the oil into your scalp using fingers and palms (if you do not wish to put oil in your hair, simply skip this step).
4) Apply oil to face and neck, front and back, and the outer parts of your ears.
5) Massage the arms, using a back-and-forth motion over the long bones and a circular motion over the joints.
6) Use a circular motion to massage over the heart and a clockwise motion over the abdomen.
7) Massage the legs, using the same long motion over the leg bones and a circular motion over the joints.
8) Last but not least, massage the feet. Take your time doing this since the feet contain many important Marmas (pressure points according to the principles of Ayurveda) if massage properly can boost circulation. While massaging your feet make sure to apply oil to the entire foot (i.e. between your toes). Use your palms to massage vigorously back-and-forth over the soles of your feet with firm pressure.
9) After massaging is complete allow for the oil to marinate into your skin while you sit quietly for 15-20 minutes so that oil is deeply absorbed by your skin. You can also meditate or perform other Dinacharya (such as Pranayama- breathing exercises). Once the oil has absorbed, follow with a warm bath or shower.
When Abhyanga Massage Is Not Recommended
- During the menstrual cycle: Ayurveda does not advise massage with deep pressure during the menstrual. During massaging the body can initiate a release of ama (toxins) at a time when the body is already a bit burned.
- During Pregnancy: Massaging during pregnancy is not a good idea to stimulate any type of detoxification process. This is for the precaution to protect the growing embryo and fetus, as massage may risk it or cause unnecessary exposure to a ama.
- During Injury: When you have injury, cuts, wounds, swollen or painful areas in the body it is generally not recommended.
- During Illness: During any type of sickness such as fever, chills, flu or acute indigestion or taking some medication for certain illness.
P.S. This post is part of my Ayurveda series, if you found this post interesting, please check out some of my other posts in this series: Being healthy in Ayurveda, Oil Pulling and Tongue Scraping, Shirodhara, and Pinda Sweda.