I had to laugh when I read about “the new trend for 2014”: conditioning your hair before you shampoo it. Fashion magazines claim that “reverse shampooing” promises to give your hair more volume, recreating the effects of freshly blow-dried hair. I laughed because there is nothing new about the concept. Ayurveda has always recommended that you massage a small amount of oil into your hair and scalp before taking your morning shower.
(One tip: after you have let the oil soak into your scalp for some time, put your shampoo directly on you hair before getting into the shower. This will help remove the oil more effectively. It’s like using spot remover before tossing clothes into the washer.)
And don’t stop with the head! According to Ayurveda, your entire body needs a coat of oil each day. Daily morning oil massage helps the skin perform its important functions efficiently, allowing toxins to be released from the body and nourishment to be absorbed by the tissues. The practice helps increase circulation (especially to the nerve endings) and lubricate the joints, and supports elimination of toxins from the skin.
Ayurveda massage is traditionally performed in the morning, before your bath or shower, to facilitate the release of toxins that may have accumulated during the previous night.
The skin is the largest organ in the body and is one of the main organs of elimination (along with the colon, lungs, lymph and kidneys). It is also our first line of defense against pollution and environmental toxins. Toxins are expelled through the skin when we sweat. When we can help the skin get rid of toxins more efficiently it takes the stress off our other organs.
You can use plain sesame oil or use oils that are specifically herbalized for specific body types. Pitta types may find the sesame oil a bit too heating and may prefer olive oil, which has a more cooling influence. Whether you chose sesame oil or olive oil for your massage, look for cold-pressed, chemical-free organic oils for the best results.
It is recommended that you “cure” your sesame oil. To “cure” or ripen the sesame oil, heat the oil to 100 degrees Centigrade. Remove from heat once this temperature is reached, cool and store for use as needed. It should be used within 6 months, and not be re-cured. Of course, you should observe safety precautions when curing oil. All oils are highly flammable. Use low heat, and don’t leave the oil on heat unattended. If you drop a small droplet of water into the pan (just one!) you will hear a “crack” when the water heats and rises to the top of the oil. This is an easy way to know when your sesame oil has reached its proper temperature. A word or caution: If you put too much water in the pan, the rising water can create a splash of oil, which can get on the burner and cause a fire. One small drop of water is sufficient.
Why cure your oil? Sesame oil contains antioxidant properties, which are increased with the curing process. This increases the oil’s ability to protect the skin from free radical damage.
How to do an Ayurvedic abhyanga full-body massage
Use comfortably warm massage oil. You can put your container under running hot water for a few minutes to bring it up to body heat.
Apply the warm oil lightly to the entire body, applying even pressure with the whole hand — palm and fingers. Use circular motions over rounded areas such as your head or joints, and straight strokes on straight areas such as your arms and legs.
Apply light pressure on sensitive areas such as the abdomen or the heart.
Use more oil and spend more time where nerve endings are concentrated, such as the soles of the feet and palms of the hands.
After you’re done, relax for 5-15 minutes, letting the oil penetrate into the skin. The longer the oil is on, the deeper it penetrates. During this time you can either rest, or continue with your morning routine, brushing your teeth, etc.
Some people prefer to pat off excess oil with a paper towel before stepping into their bath or shower.
If your schedule doesn’t allow for a daily massage, try and fit it in a few times a week, perhaps on the weekends if your morning schedule is less hectic at that time.
Daily oil massage is part of the ideal daily routine that is suggested to guests of The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa and Treatment Center during their consultations. An Ayurveda expert will be able to specify what type of oil will best suit your physiology.
For more information on Ayurveda or to download a free Ayurveda Booklet, visit The Raj:
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