Oil Up! Enjoying the Benefits of Ayurveda Oil Massage

One of our top recommendations to guests at The Raj as they head home is to continue with daily oil massage (abhyanga). The effects of daily Ayurveda oil massage (recommended before bathing in the morning) are multifold. Not only will a morning oil massage help pull toxins from the skin (the largest organ in the body and an important organ for the elimination of toxins), it also leaves a protective film that acts as a barrier between your skin and harmful environmental elements.

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While oil massage helps balance all doshas — especially when you use oil infused with herbs that specifically target Vata, Pitta or Kapha — it is especially good for balancing Vata. I know many people who never travel without a small container of sesame oil. After a long plane or car ride, there is nothing more grounding than an oil massage followed by a good soak in a hot bath. (Add in some Vata tea and aroma oil and you are well on your way to side-stepping the jangling effects of travel.)

But the beneficial effects of oil massage don’t stop there. Research also suggests that sesame oil (the oil most often used in abhyanaga) selectively stops malignant skin cancer cells from growing in laboratory tissue culture, and at the same time allows normal skin cells to proliferate.

According to the study, sesame and safflower oils selectively inhibited the grown of malignant melanoma cell cultures, but coconut, olive and mineral oils did not. The traditional Ayurveda texts specifically recommend sesame oil massage to promote health and longevity.

(One note of caution: sesame oil has a naturally heating property. Those with a Pitta body type or with Pitta imbalances may need to opt for another oil and may react to sesame oil with rashes or redness. If you are in this catagory, you will want to opt for a more cooling oil.)

Researchers have known for years that linoleic acid, an essential polyunsaturated fatty acid that is present in small quantities in the body, inhibits many kinds of cancer growth. But because pure linoleic acid is highly unstable and can irritate a person’s skin and eyes, it cannot be used or ingested safely. In the above mentioned research study, scientists used the whole vegetable oil, rather than trying to isolate the active ingredient, thus avoiding unnatural side effects.

Research also shows that oil massage is an important component in removing synthetic chemicals from our physiology. In the US there are thousands of these kind of chemicals used in various types of industry or agriculture. These toxins are present everywhere in our environment and can be found in virtually every living organism around the world. Regardless of our lifestyle, profession, eating habits, or geographic location, by the time we are 40 years old, our toxin level is substantial.

A study on clients participating in the traditional Ayurveda detoxification and purification treatments (Panchakarma) at The Raj showed that blood levels of these chemicals were reduced by 50% after a 5-day course of treatment. Because these harmful chemicals are fat-soluble, they are able to be “washed” from our fat cells by the deeply penetrating sesame oil (as well as by other components of the treatment program.)

Integrating a 10-minute sesame oil massage into your morning routine can have a significant impact on reducing Vata imbalances, purifying the skin and maintaining balance throughout the body.

To learn more about the research on removing fat-soluble toxins through the detoxification treatments of Ayurveda (Panchakarma), visit The Raj website:

www.theraj.com/rajresults/index.php

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Keep Balanced in Winter with Ayurveda

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By the beginning of February, those who live in northern climates have reached their peak of Vata aggravation. Months of cold, dry, windy weather results in an increase of those same qualities within our physiology: dryness, coolness, movement and quickness. Once our Vata becomes imbalanced we can start experiencing problems sleeping, aching joints, emotional instability, less mental clarity, dryness of the skin, increased sensitivity to the cold weather and a low frustration level.

With months of cold weather still ahead of us, this is the time to adopt a diet and daily routine that will help settle Vata. One key to balancing Vata is regular routine—eating and going to sleep at the same time, for example. Going to bed early on a regular basis is actually one of the most powerful tools available for balancing Vata.

You may find yourself thinking more about food than you did last summer. When the cold, dry weather of winter begins to aggravate Vata dosha, we naturally crave hotter, more unctuous foods that help counter this effect. An increase in appetite is also the natural result of the cold weather—it tends to cause our digestion fire to increase. As long as you don’t eat more than you can easily digest, large portions at meals can help keep Vata in balance.

One very important point is that the food we eat in the winter should always be warm. Never eat or drink ice-cold food or beverages. Oil is our friend in the winter. Using olive oil and ghee in our meals will help counter the drying effects of Vata.

Along this same line of thinking, daily oil massage with sesame oil is particularly helpful in the winter. The warm, unctuous quality of the oil is the perfect antidote to the cold, dry qualities of Vata. If you are Pitta by nature, you may prefer coconut oil or olive oil, as sesame oil is naturally heating. Ideally you should heat your oil before applying it. Letting your bottle of oil float in hot water for a few minutes will bring the oil to a nice, soothing temperature. Try to keep the oil on for a while before jumping into the shower or bath. 10 minutes letting the oil soak into your skin is ideal.

Vata imbalances often lead to constipation. Remember to drink plenty of warm fluids during the day. Drinking two glasses of warm water when you wake up can help stimulate bowel functioning. Hot water with black salt can also be helpful in this area.

It is easy to find oneself becoming sedentary during the colder months. Be sure that you incorporate Yoga or some kind of gentle stretching exercise into your routine, as well as other comfortable and easy exercise. Don’t strain or over-do in your winter exercise routine. Spring is a much better time for vigorous exercise, as that is the time when Kapha is increasing and we naturally have more strength and stamina.

If you find that diet, lifestyle and self-massage are not helping, it may be that your Vata imbalance has gone deep into the tissues. In this case Panchakarma, the traditional rejuvenation treatments of Ayurveda, are recommended. Panchakarma removes Vata from the tissues by using various herbal decoctions and oil preparations in combination with specialized treatments to treat the root of the Vata imbalance.

For more information on Ayurveda consultations and Panchakarma treatments, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa web site:

www.theraj.com

Taming Vata with Ayurveda

winter-290903_640As the temperature cools, many people find themselves bothered by vata disorders such as anxiety, tension, insomnia, constipation and aching joints. Vata dosha gets aggravated during cold, dry, windy weather because the nature of vata itself is dry, cold, light and active. To avoid the winter chills and to keep vata in check, try these recommendations:

1. Drink plenty of hot water. Sipping hot water frequently throughout the day will help you accomplish two things: pacify vata and dissolve ama, the sticky waste-product of improper digestion that can clog the channels of your body.

2. Favor hot drinks and meals. Opt for warm, heavy foods. Cold drinks and cold, light foods increase vata. Be sure to avoid ice-cold beverages and foods. Ice cream season is over.

sleep-13. Get more rest than usual. Because the nature of vata is active and restless, one the best ways to balance vata is to get extra sleep. With the sun rising later and setting earlier in the day, there are fewer hours of daylight. This is a signal from Nature to spend more time resting.

Remember that according to Ayurveda you gain a better quality of rest if you fall asleep before 10:00 p.m. and rise before 6:00 a.m. If you need more than eight hours of sleep, try going to bed earlier rather than sleeping in. Sleeping late in the morning can lead to blockages of the shrotas, the channels of the body through which the natural intelligence of the body flows. This can aggravate both vata and kapha and can throw off the biological rhythms of your body.

4. Exercise daily. Exercise increases circulation, improves your appetite and raises your body temperature. If it is too cold to go outside, go to the gym, use indoor equipment or exercise DVDs—or just dance around your house. Be careful not to overdo it, though. You should adjust the amount and intensity of exercise to fit your individual needs. If your level of exercise is such that you can not breath comfortably through your nose, you may be taxing your physiology and actually increasing vata.

5. Keep your head and ears covered when outside. Ears are one of the main seats of vata. Protecting your ears and head from the wind and cold will make being outside in winter a more healthful experience.

6. Do daily abhyanga (Ayurvedic oil massage). Abhyanga is especially soothing for vata dosha because your skin is a primary seat of vata.

7. Start increasing your portions of foods that are sweet, sour and salty, as these pacify vata dosha. Spicy, astringent and bitter foods increase vata.

8. Enjoy Panchakarma (Ayurvedic massage and detoxification therapies). Winter is a good time to schedule a week of treatment at The Raj. While the cold wind blows outside, you can stay warm and cozy, enjoying soothing, warm herbalized oil and relaxing massages. Also, undergoing Panchakarma before the holiday seasons can put in you the right frame of mind to enjoy the holidays without binge eating or straying from a healthful diet and routine.

For more information on Panchakarma, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa site:

www.theraj.com

 

 

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Supporting Beautiful Hair and Skin — and a Healthy Body — with Daily Ayurveda Oil Massage

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.how-to-do-abhyanga-a-self-massage-with-warm-oil-youtube-13925719214ngk8

(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:

www.theraj.com

 

 

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