As part of our daily routines expand, there are many small things we can do that are beneficial. Today, I would like to share how to take care of the skin, nasal passages, ears, and eyes.
Lets start with the skin:
Self oil massage, or abhyanga is such an easy practice and is beneficial in a multitude of ways. By far, in all the practices I have learned since I started this course, abhyanga has given the most noticeable and quickest results.
Abhyanga is good for all doshas, but what oils we use and how we apply the oils changes accordingly. Did you know the word for oil and love in Sanskrit is the same? Snehana is such a beautiful word because it encompasses both the intention of abhyanga as well as the method. It’s not enough to simply apply the oil; the oil is giving us a sense of self love and care. Putting a mindful intention into doing abhyanga of love for one’s own self will allow us to practice ahimsa which builds ojas. But ojas are only one benefit of this practice.
– purifies the lymphatic system
– removes amas (toxins)
– nourishes and balances the nervous system
– since oils are too large to penetrate past the epidermal/dermal layers, it allows our body to focus on lubricating the deeper layers.
– protects our largest organ, the skin, from toxins in our environment. There are over 3000 nerve receptors in our skin alone!
– balances Vata and it’s subdoshas (most of us have vata imbalances due to the agitating environments of today’s society)
– builds ojas!
If you are at all skeptical of the benefits of oil massage, try this experiment: take a drop of oil and place it on a paper. Check on the paper periodically – every 30 minutes or so. Notice what happens to the oil. As time goes on, the oil spreads slowly to consume more of the paper. Oil can be used in practically every orifice of the body to promote health.
– Use sesame oil for vata, coconut oil/sunflower/olive oil for pitta, and safflower/mustard oil for kapha. Almond oil can be used for both vata and pitta interchangeably. Ghee is considered tridoshic. If you have multiple doshic problems (like me for example with vata dryness and pitta circulation) you can combine oils 50/50.
– Always, always, always use unprocessed, unrefined, organic, untoasted oils!!!!!!!!
– heat up the oil in a bpa free baby bottle in some already boiled water for 1-2 minutes.
– apply before bath or shower and keep on the body for at least 20 minutes. If you struggle with this timeframe, try doing other things during that 20 minutes – meditation, gathering your clothes, etc.
– If you wish to do it after shower, keep in mind you will find you won’t be able to use as much oil as it will get all over your clothes and the minerals and chemicals in your municipal water will wind up in your skin, which you will then essentially lock into your body by sealing it with the oil. Before shower is recommended.
– Start with the arms and do long strokes along the long bones. Be sure to apply some pressure and speed as to stimulate the lymphatic system. At the joints, do circular strokes.
– Work from the arms towards the chest and downwards to the feet for grounding energy. For Kapha, work upwards to bring stimulating, invigorating energy.
– For the scalp, put some drops on your fingertips and massage gently into the scalp. For dandruff, neem added to the oil will help. Be sure not to rub oil throughout your hands through your hair or you will find it gets greasy.
– For the palms of the hands and soles of feet, put some oil on and rub in between all the nooks and crannies, massaging it in deeply. Whatever oil remains on your hands can be rubbed onto the face. There is no need to add extra oil when massaging the face at this time.
– Use less oil and more stimulation for Kapha. Moderate oil and stimulation for Pitta. Vata’s could essentially be in an oil bath with no issues.
– Make sure to focus on self care and love as you do it! It should feel amazing.
Note when showering we are obsessed as a society with scrubbing off every last bacteria on us. This is completely unnecessary. It would be pointless to do all this abhyanga and then scrub it all off. Be gentle when showering and use soap only on the obvious areas (armpits, genitals, anus), and for shampoo and conditioner try baking soda and apple cider vinegar respectively.
In addition to general abhyanga, the ears and nose are treated a bit differently.
Neti & Nasya - nasal care
– decreases congestion
– increases clarity of mind
– treats allergies
– acquire a neti pot (pictured) at a drug store. They are inexpensive
– use warm (above room temperature but not too hot) water
– add 1/4 to 1/2 tsp of organic salt to 1/2 cup of the water (roughly the capacity of most neti pots)
– blow the nose gently before starting
– tilt the head forwards moderately
– rotate the head to the side while tilted
– tilt the neti pot so that water begins to easily flow from one nostril directly out the other
– You may notice for some time after that more mucous and water drain. This is normal so just keep a tissue handy.
– After one hour, apply some oil directly into each nostril by placing a drop on your pinky and massaging inside.
– neti can be done daily if needed or 3x a week otherwise in the morning.
Neti can be confusing, weird, or difficult to master for some. If your feel any burning, this means there is not enough salt. Salt balances the pH level of the water. Your instinct will be to add less salt, but this is false and will make it worse. If you are having difficult getting it to drain out of the nostrils, try adjusting the angle and tilts in subtle ways. Make sure to keep the mouth open so you can breathe. Sticking your tongue out can help too. Yes the whole thing looks silly. My advice is try it for awhile first, then stop. Notice the difference in how you feel, and continue if you feel it’s helping you. You can always watch youtube videos as well for help with the technique.
Nasya is supplemental to neti and is basically dropping oil directly into the nostrils. It can be done in the evening if you have dryness. Take an eyedropper and place 3-5 drops of oil directly in each nostril with your head tilted back so your nostrils are parallel to the ceiling. Keep in this position for 5-10 minutes as to lubricate all the sinuses.
These practices are best done as neti in the morning and nasya in the evening; however it’s best to do it at a different time than to not do it at all.
Karna Purana – ear filling
– supports the health of our hearing system
– good for tinnitus (ringing of the ears)
– helps in grounding
– good for infections
– keeps the ears healthy
– can be done daily or more often if there is a symptom
– best done in the morning during abhyanga or in the evening with nasya.
– place 1-2 drops of oil in one ear with the head tilted. Then do the same for the other ear.
– Massage the lobes of the ear with a small amount of oil.
Note if you have an actual infection or other such symptom, consult a CAS as they can do more therapeutic and deeper treatments.
Netra Tarpana - eye wash or eye filling
– helps with dryness, eye strain, excess secretion, infections, burning, redness
– reduces inflammation
– increases strength of eye muscles
– improves eyesight
– prevents degeneration
– purchase an eye cup from any pharmacy
– purchase some pure rose water (nothing added). Often called rose hydrosol.
– Mix 50% rose water and 50% warm water in the eye cup. If you are feeling more irritated, try using only the rose water.
– hold the cup in front of your face, then tilt your head down towards the cup. Place your closed eye over the cup and form a solid seal. Tilt your head back to normal position, then open your eye, blinking 3x. Repeat with the other eye. The same rose water cup can be used for both eyes.
– can be done 1x a week for general maintenance during your morning routine, or daily if there are symptoms or if you wear contacts.
– place a dab of oil (best is ghee) in the corner where the eyelid meets the bridge of the nose to promote the health of the tissues. Do so at night as sometimes it may blur your vision momentarily.
Note if you have more chronic symptoms, consult a CAS to make a strained herbal formula for use in the eyewash for you. Rose water alone won’t cut it with more advanced symptoms.
Today we covered a lot of practices. No one is expecting you to start everything all at once. As I mentioned yesterday, start small with one practice at a time. Start with whichever one seems easiest. And if something is not working, try doing it less than I recommended, and slowly build towards it. Slowly your practice will grow. But I highly recommend sticking with abhyanga.
This was my last class for term 1 – ack! Finals soon. Wish me luck! I may blog here and there before my term 2 starts in 3 weeks.
It’s been a great journey through the past 66 classes of Ayurveda with you all. I can’t wait for next term where I will have even more to blog about. Namaste!