By Karen Espig

Ayurveda is considered one of the oldest Traditional Systems of Medicine (TSM), dating back about 5000 years to India. The core tenet of Ayurveda is to achieve balance in the body and mind, which translates into optimal health and well-being. 

Beauty truly comes from the inside-out. It asserts that there are three doshas, or sources of energy: vata, pitta, and kapha (Sanskrit words as none exist in English). Vata is associated with movement, pitta with metabolism and digestion, and kapha with lubrication and structure. Poor health is felt to arise as a result of an imbalance among these. 

Within each dosha exists five elements: space, air, fire, water, and earth. As we explore it a little more, we will focus on practical applications regarding beautifying the skin and hair, but I encourage you to take a deeper dive into Ayurveda—there is much to learn. Here are some Ayurvedic beauty practices you can implement right now:

Abhyanga (Self-Massage)

You may already be doing this and not realising it. Abhyanga is self-massage, head to toe. So, when you apply your moisturiser after a bath or shower, essentially, you are on the right track. Ideally, you would complete the massage before washing so that any toxins released are sloughed off the skin as you shower. For optimal benefit, use coconut or sesame oil (or an ayurvedic product), applying light pressure with a brush or simply your hands, spending at least 15 minutes.  

And note that there is nothing stopping you from repeating the process after you bathe–maybe even use a lightly scented oil to elevate your experience.

Garshana (Dry Brushing)

Garshana is also a toxin-releasing self-care process that stimulates the lymphatic system and encourages blood circulation. Doing it on dry skin first thing in the morning is best, using a soft, natural-bristle brush or a dry washcloth (if your skin is sensitive). 

You should begin with the bottoms of your feet, working your way upwards towards the heart. Brush vigorously! For the large abdomen, chest and back areas, use broad circular strokes; on the legs, long, even strokes, and smaller circular motion on the joints. 

Note that while abhyanga is calming and relaxing, garshana is stimulating and a great way to start your day!

Shiro Abhyanga (Hair Oiling)

According to Ayurveda, massaging warm oil into the scalp and hair (shiro abhyanga) benefits the hair’s physical condition, improving its texture and lustre. It is also said to stimulate the nervous system, possibly providing relief for headaches and neck pain and improving overall well-being.

You may either buy a prepared ayurvedic hair oil product or make it yourself. The base ingredient is typically coconut, or sesame oil, with other botanicals added depending on your particular dosha.

Begin by warming the oil, ensuring that it is not so hot as to burn your scalp—this should be an enjoyable practice, not a torture session! Your hair should be dry. 

Part your hair and apply a small amount of oil with your fingertips, massaging the scalp and drawing the oil down along the length of your hair, a small section at a time. Once one section of hair is done, create a new part in the hair further down the scalp and repeat the process until all of your hair has been lightly oiled. Continue massaging the oil into the scalp. 

There seems to be mixed opinions on how long the oil should stay in, some indicating just a few minutes, while most suggest overnight. Consider beginning with a shorter time to see how the experience is for you and adapting it until you find what works for you. Hair oiling is suggested once or twice per week, washing with a mild shampoo after you complete the treatment.

Diet And Exercise

Yes, I said it; and yes, you have heard it before. A healthy diet and regular exercise, yada, yada. Ayurvedic diets take the well-balanced regime a step further, where one eats according to one’s dominant dosha.

Similarly, you can fine-tune your exercise to best support your particular body type. 

Oral Health

A smile goes a long way, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the ayurvedic practices of Jivha Lekhana (oil-pulling) and Gandusha (tongue scraping). Oral health is an excellent indicator of overall health and therefore plays a vital role in achieving balance within the body.

So that is the tip-of-the-iceberg in terms of practical Ayurvedic application. The main takeaway is that this beauty regime is not a one-off but a change to the pace and intention behind your self-care. It requires spending some time over a long period. It requires a commitment to finding the balance between body and mind, between you and your environment. It is a gift to yourself that keeps giving. 

Go on, give it a try; you are worth it!