We all know that the foundations of good health are regular exercise and a diet of fresh, wholesome food. However, in our often hectic lives, it is easy to neglect our inner world. Meditating, taking a solitary walk in nature, and practising yoga are methods we can use to connect with and nurture ourselves. Another is to perform daily abhyanga, or self-massage, which is one of the daily rituals prescribed in Ayurveda, the ancient Indian form of medicine. Abhyanga is a wonderful way to relieve stress and anxiety, promote mindfulness and clarity and simultaneously nourish and care for our skin (Read how to perform abhyanga here).
The benefits of abhyanga can be enhanced by first performing dry skin brushing on the body. This simple technique is carried out using a dry plant fibre brush on dry skin. It stimulates the circulation in the skin - white-skinned people will turn slightly pink - whilst gently exfoliating the dead skin cells, enhancing cell renewal in the epidermis, and helping the sebaceous and sweat glands to carry out their excretory functions more efficiently. For some people, dry body brushing is a meditation in itself, others find they feel energised, like they have just had a workout. One of the obvious benefits is that it allows improved penetration of your moisturiser through freshly exfoliated skin.
Most people perform dry skin brushing in the morning – a convenient place is in the bathroom just before showering. You should use firm but non-painful strokes, adjusting the amount of pressure according to the sensitivity of the skin on different parts of your body. If in doubt, brush gently until you are more practised at it. Avoid dry brushing the face, breasts and genitals, any area the skin that is damaged or inflamed, and over varicose veins.
Start with the soles of the feet and work up the legs, then move on to the hands and up the arms. Next brush the back, a long-handled brush comes in handy here, then the stomach in a clockwise direction, and finally the chest, always massaging towards the heart. This takes around 5 minutes. Follow with a shower to wash away dead skin cells, then towel dry and perform abhyanga using an organic body oil (see our beautiful 100% certified organic Sesame & Frankincense body oil here). The full abhyanga takes around 20 minutes, but a condensed version can be carried out by massaging in the same sequence as the body brushing, starting with the feet, and once again massaging towards the heart, taking no longer than a few minutes.
In the ideal world, full body abhyanga would be performed daily, but for many people this is not practical. Carrying it out once a week, mindfully and without haste, brings many benefits, and is a self-affirming treatment that you will grow to love. In between times, you can ‘supercharge’ the value of your moisturising oil or cream by performing dry body brushing, showering, then applying your moisturising oil or cream using the condensed abhyanga. This little morning ritual is like a mini meditation and mini massage which, if done mindfully, will repay the extra few minutes many times over in a more positive, expansive state of mind, together with the pleasure of living with healthy, resilient, glowing skin.