The dry brushing/massage combination – a morning ritual to keep for life…

dry body brush shot small

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, 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 massage oil (see our beautiful body oils here and 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.

How to care for your hard-working feet.

In Ayurveda, regular oil massage is one of the keys to good health, helping restore balance, stimulate the body’s healing systems, and open the mind to inner awareness. We have previously written about how to perform Abhyanga , or full body self-massage here, which takes around 30 minutes to perform. When time is limited and for a wonderful uplifting effect, a foot massage can be the perfect start to the day, helping to soothe and ground mind and body. When combined with a scalp massage, you have a mini-abhyanga, since the marma points on the scalp mirror those on the feet, and help balance the body’s subtle energies.

What oil to use:

Classically, the oil of choice will depend on your body type, or dosha, which will generally be a predominance of vata, pitta or kapha. A brief description of the 3 doshas is given here.

Vata and kapha body types should massage with a warming sesame-based oil, like our Sesame & Frankincense Body Oil while pitta body types should use a cooling coconut-based oil, like our Coconut and Sandalwood Body Oil.

How to perform Ayurvedic foot massage:

Using the thumb, massage the point in the middle of the arch on the underside of the foot, with a circular, clockwise motion.

Using the thumb, massage the middle of the fleshy part of the underside of the big toe.

Massage the underside of the first joint of each toe, then pull from the base to the tip of each toe.

Massage the top of the foot in the groove between the big and second toes, using both thumbs, working from the base of the toes towards the ankle

Using both hands, massage from toes to ankle, top and bottom of foot.

Using both hands, massage the ankle joint clockwise, on the front, back and sides of the ankle.

You may wish to dab your feet with a towel to remove excess oil before getting on with your day.

The after-effects:

Regular foot massage helps restore energy to mind and body, and brings an awareness and gratitude for the work your feet do for you every day. Treat yourself to the full abhyanga treatment when you can manage it, and feel marvellous all over. The time spent carrying out this restorative treatment will be well rewarded.

Ayurvedic Baby Massage

Baby massage is an ancient custom in India, the home of Ayurveda, and is considered to provide many physical and emotional benefits to the growing child. These include reduced stress levels, improved bonding between parent and child, the development of healthy sleep patterns, and promotion of skin health. According to Ayurveda, baby massage may continue until the child is old enough to perform self-massage, or Abhyanga, which we have described here, which may become a life-long practise.

Some golden rules

  • Most practitioners would advocate starting massage after around 4 weeks of age, when the baby has gained strength, and after the navel has healed.
  • The palms, rather than the fingertips, should be used to ensure gentle pressure is applied, and the touch should be very light.
  • You can massage at any time of the day, but preferably not immediately after feeding or when the baby is hungry or distressed. Many people like to massage their baby in the evening just before bath time to promote a deep relaxing sleep.
  • It is important to stop the massage if the baby is not enjoying it.
  • Carry out massage in a warm, draught-free place, on the floor or a table, covered with a towel or blanket that can be washed easily. Traditionally, you would sit on the floor with legs straight out, and support the baby between your legs.
  • Turn off the tv and radio, and talk or sing to your baby while you perform the massage.
  • Use a certified organic vegetable oil for massage. The traditional massage oil in Ayurveda is sesame oil, which is warming and nourishing. Other good choices are almond, jojoba, coconut, camellia or macadamia oils. Avoid at all costs mineral-based oils which are petroleum-derived, may contain toxic contaminants, and do not nourish the skin. Many people like to carry out a patch test with the oil on the baby’s arm a day or so before applying to the whole body, to ensure there are no sensitivities. Essential oils and oils containing perfumes or synthetic ingredients should not be used on babies. Read about safety issues with essential oils  here. Our Essential Oil Free range is perfect for pregnancy and babies – our Pure Face & Body Oil works well for baby massage.
  • Warm the oil to body temperature by standing the container of massage oil in warm water – test the temperature on the inside of your wrist before applying it to your baby’s skin.

The massageBaby massage small

  1. Begin with the baby lying on her back, and apply the warmed massage oil to the limbs and the whole front of the body in long, sweeping strokes.
  2. Massage the crown of the head in long circular clockwise strokes.
  3. Massage around the ears and side of the head in large circular motions.
  4. Massage both shoulders in circular motions clockwise, and then up and down the arms, then the palm and back of the hands clockwise. Massage along the length of each finger.
  5. Massage the chest very gently.
  6. Massage the abdomen using a large circular motion around the navel in a clockwise direction
  7. Massage the hips in a circular, clockwise direction
  8. Massage up and down the legs, and then the feet, using a clockwise circular motion with the thumb over the soles of the feet.
  9. Turn the baby over onto her front, and massage the back of her head in a large circular motion.
  10. Massage the back very gently up and down in long gentle strokes.
  11. Massage the buttocks using a circular motion.
  12. Massage up and down the backs of the legs.
  13. Place your baby onto her back again and massage the face very gently. Use circular motions over the cheeks, use a finger to massage along the jawbone from the centre of the chin up to the ear, and then in long strokes across the forehead from one side to the other.

If you are already familiar with Abhyanga, you will notice that this massage is based on the full Abhyanga procedure designed for adults.

On completion of the massage be aware that your baby will be slippery with the oil – wipe away any excess oil and wrap her in a towel before bathing or dressing her. She will now be ready for a long, relaxed sleep! Make it part of your daily routine and enjoy the benefits for you and your baby.

As a parent, be sure to look after yourself – carrying out Abhyanga is a great way to give back to yourself during the physically demanding years of early parenthood.

We enjoyed watching this homemade video of a mother carrying out Ayurvedic massage on her baby – such a warm, nurturing thing to do! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y7SkPyKySvA

Abhyanga, a rejuvenating massage treatment you can do daily

What is Abhyanga?

Abhyanga is an ancient Ayurvedic massage treatment that may be carried out by an Ayurvedic practitioner, or can be performed on oneself on a regular basis. Abhyanga has many benefits. When carried out regularly it is considered to delay the ageing process and prevent illness, promoting vitality and a calm, balanced mind. More specifically, it helps alleviate stress, improve immune function, and revitalise and rejuvenate the body. It involves massaging the ‘marma points’, which in Ayurveda are the body’s vital energy points. Many of the marmas are located over the joints and lymph nodes, and include the 7 ‘chakras’, which are the ‘great marmas’ which centre on the major endocrine organs of the body.

Specific benefits include:

  • improved muscle tone and vitality of the body tissues
  • helps joint mobility
  • improves circulation and aids drainage in the lymphatic system
  • assists in elimination of impurities
  • stimulates the internal body organs
  • increases stamina
  • calms the nervous system
  • improves the quality of sleep
  • softens and smoothes the skin

In Ayurveda, carrying out abhyanga is considered an essential part of living a healthy, balanced life, and may be performed daily, but for maintenance once a week is considered sufficient to remain fit and balanced. It generally takes around 25-30 minutes to carry out the full procedure. From personal experience performing abhyanga revitalises and nourishes the skin, and gives a feeling of calmness and grounded, abundant energy throughout the day. It also helps you accept and value your body, and appreciate it for the miracle it is.

How to massage

Generally, the touch should be light but firm. An important part of the massage includes massaging marma points, which in Ayurveda are important in balancing the ‘doshas’, which in Ayurveda are the 3 main energies that make up the constitution and, when out of balance, cause disease. On the marma points, including over joints, massage is performed clockwise. On the long bones stroke up and down, and on hands and feet, stroke upwards only. On the neck and face stroke upwards or sidewards. Generally, 7 or 8 strokes per area is about right. Warm the oil gently by standing the bottle in warm water. Sit on a towel in a draught-free place and for extra ambience you may wish to play music or burn incense.

What to use for massage

Mokosh massage oilsFor maximum benefit, it’s important to use massage oil that suits your dosha. If you’re not sure what your predominant dosha is, you can take a quiz here. For predominantly ‘pitta’ types the oil should be cooling, and based on coconut oil, for example Mokosh Coconut & Sandalwood Body Oil. For ‘vata’ types it should be based on sesame oil, which is warming, such as Mokosh Sesame & Frankincense Body Oil. ‘Kapha’ types should not use oil but should massage with a loofah or body brush. For the face, you should use a face oil rather than a body oil, for example Mokosh Natural Face Oil for your skin type. Whichever oil you use, make sure it’s certified organic so that you do not absorb toxins through your skin. Because most people have a combination of predominant doshas, and they tend to be aggravated, or imbalanced, at different times of year, you may need to alter the massage oil at different times. For example, a person who is vata-pitta combination may require a warming oil in winter and a cooling oil in summer – listen to your body and determine the most appropriate for you.

The best time for massage

The recommended time for massage is first thing in the morning before bathing, or at night before bed to promote a deep relaxing sleep. It is beneficial to allow the oil to sit on the skin for as long as possible after the massage, to allow it to penetrate the skin more fully. If time is short, a 3 minute scalp and foot massage is still beneficial (see steps 1 and 2 below). Many people avoid using oil on the scalp (see step 1) if they do not follow with a hair wash. Simply massage without the oil on the scalp on those days and save the oil massage for just before a hair wash, as the scalp and hair benefit considerably from massage with oil. You can also make the ‘Natural face lift’ massage part of your morning moisturising routine (read how to do this here).

When not to perform massage

Most Ayurvedic practitioners advise not to carry out abhyanga when menstruating, pregnant or if you have a medical condition, unless given specific advice byu an Ayurvedic practitioner.

How to perform Abhyanga massage (main marma points and chakras are numbered on the diagram)

Marma points diagram1. Three marma points on the scalp are massaged clockwise with a dab of oil using the middle finger. After massaging, firmly pull the hair over the point to stimulate.

– the point in the middle of the scalp where the skull bones fuse during infancy (1),  7th chakra

– further back, the crown, directly above the ears (2)

– the deep indentation at the back of the skull where it meets the neck, generally just above the hairline (3)

2. Massage the right foot and leg in total as follows, then repeat on the left.

– using the thumb, massage the sole of the foot in the middle of the arch (4)

– using the thumb, massage the middle of the fleshy part of the underside of the big toe

– massage the underside of the first joint of each toe, then pull from base to tip of each toe

– massage the top of the foot in the groove between the big and second toes, using both thumbs, working from the base of the toes towards the ankle (5)

– using both hands, massage from toes to ankle, top and bottom of foot.

– using both hands massage the ankle joint clockwise, front and back.

– massage up and down from ankle to knee on both sides

– massage front and back of knee joint in clockwise direction

– massage up and down thighs on all sides

– with the middle finger, massage clockwise the point mid way between hip and groin in line with the hip crease (6)

3. Upper limbs – massage the right hand and arm completely, then repeat on the left.

– massage the point in the middle of the palm (7)

– massage the base of each finger, starting with the thumb, then pull each finger from the base to the tip

– massage the top of the hand from fingers to wrist

– massage the front and back of the wrist clockwise

– massage the forearm up and down on all sides

– massage the front and back of the elbow clockwise

– massage up and down the upper arm on all sides

– massage all around the shoulder joint clockwise

– raise the arm and using the middle finger massage the centre of the underarm (8)

4. Massage as much of the back as possible without straining

– massage the buttocks clockwise

– with the palms, massage up and down the lower back and up the back as far as possible. Then massage shoulders and upper back as far down as possible.

5. The abdomen should not be massaged if pregnant, or when there are heart or intestinal problems

– massage the navel area clockwise with the fingers (9), 2nd chakra, then using the palm make gradually larger circles until the whole abdomen is covered. Then reverse the direction, making gradually smaller circles towards the navel

– massage the solar plexus area in a clockwise direction (10), 3rd chakra

– massage over the heart – directly between the nipples slightly to left of centre, massage very gently using the palm in a clockwise direction (11), 4th chakra

– massage the right and left upper chest area below the collarbone, using one hand on each side

– using the middle finger, massage the notch just above the sterum (12) 5th chakra

6. The neck and face should be massaged with a lighter face oil, rather than a body massage oil. A detailed description of the face massage with additional face lift can be found here.

– with both palms gently massage the neck upwards from base of neck to chin

– place the index finger on the top of the chin (13) and the middle finger below the chin, massaging the jawline from the midline to the ear. Repeat on both sides

– using the index fingers, massage the laugh lines from the chin to the base of the nose in an upward direction, then using the palm from the base of the nose across the cheeks to the temples

– using the ringfinger, massage under the eyebrow from the centre outwards, then under the lower lid inwards, and back to the nose

– using the middle finger, massage upwards from the base of the nose to the point in the centre of the forehead (14), 6th chakra

– use all four fingers of right hand on the left temple, and stroke across the forehead from left to right, and do the reverse with the left hand. Repeat 5 or 6 times.

Good Hair Days the Ayurveda way

hair photo 2 smallby Marion O’Leary

For hair to be strong and beautiful your body needs to be in a state of homeostasis (that is, all is functioning well) and receiving the nutrients it needs. Factors such as trauma, stress and anxiety affect our hair because they reduce the flow of blood and oxygen to the scalp.

Hair growth begins beneath the skin surface in a little bulbous structure called a follicle. There, a clump of cells called the papilla produce the keratin, a specialised protein, which becomes a shaft of hair. The growth and health of every hair depends on these papillae receiving rich supplies of oxygen and nutrients. When circulation to the scalp is reduced for any reason, the papillae receive fewer nutrients and less oxygen, and hair suffers.

Scalp massage is one of the most beneficial treatments for maintaining beautiful hair. In Ayurveda, scalp massage is traditionally carried out daily but benefits are gained by performing massage only once a week. Oils have been traditionally used for nourishing and feeding the scalp to assist in restoring and maintaining healthy hair and condition.

In Ayurveda, scalp massage involves using oils to massage the marma points on the scalp which are considered to connect and stimulate health in other body regions.  In our Balancing Hair Treatment, we have blended the traditional Ayurvedic oils, coconut, sesame, neem and hemp with other hair restoring oils macadamia, argan and rosemary, to create the perfect nourishing treatment.

Practiced regularly, the following procedure will bring a beautiful lustre to your hair and long-lasting health benefits.

Method:

hair sketch 4i)                    Apply oil to the whole scalp by parting the hair in sections.

ii)                   Massage the oil into the scalp then gently tap the head all over with the pads of the fingers

iii)                 Gently pull small tufts of hair from the roots and twist firmly a few times

iv)                 Place a finger on point 1 (see diagram) and massage in a clockwise motion for 20-30 seconds, moving skin firmly over the bone.

v)                  Repeat the procedure with points 2 and 3 (see diagram).

vi)                 Comb the oil through the hair

vii)               For best results leave the oil at least an hour, covering with a shower cap and a warmed towel. In Ayurveda, oil may be left in for days!

viii)              Wash the oil out of the hair using shampoo or soap. In Ayurveda, conditioners are not considered healthy for hair as the build-up tends to trap dirt and block hair follicles. A cider vinegar rinse is a great alternative.

Benefits:

In Ayurveda, this traditional scalp massage is considered to:

–          Promote hair growth and health, promoting a glossy shine

–          Relieve tension in the neck and back

The marma points 1,2 and 3 are considered to be connected to the pituitary and pineal glands, helping to regulate hormone secretions, helping reduce stress, regulate blood pressure, and enhance the mood.

Give yourself a natural face lift with Ayurvedic face massage

by Marion O’Leary

An important part of the ancient Indian system of medicine known as Ayurveda is the practise of self massage, or Abhyanga.  Massage helps tone the muscles, reduces stress, eliminates waste by improving lymphatic drainage from tissues, and improves energy levels. Regular Ayurvedic massage is considered to restore balance in the body, as it tones and nourishes the body, opens the mind and enhances general well-being.

Ayurvedic massage focuses on ‘marma points’ which are the body’s vital energy points, located over lymph nodes, joints and the 7 chakras which are associated with the major endocrine glands. The marma points are considered important in promoting balance in the body and stimulating the body’s circulatory, lymphatic and nervous systems. In the Ayurvedic tradition, it is considered that through massage, yoga and meditation, these energy centres are opened, improving the state of mind and body.

It takes around 20 minutes to carry out the full massage, from head to toe. We will be focusing on one section at a time, beginning with the face massage, which can be carried out in isolation, or as part of a full body massage. This particular massage takes around 5 minutes to carry out, and acts as a natural face lift, helping to tone the cheeks, reduce facial lines and generally improve the appearance of the skin.

We recommend beginning by cleansing the face using our Face Cleansing Powder, to remove the superficial layer of debris from the skin. When the powder has been rinsed away, perform the face massage using one of Mokosh’s Natural Face Oils for your skin type, or the Eye and Neck Serum.

With each direction below, take one or two drops of oil onto the fingers of each hand, or sufficient to achieve a smooth glide of the fingers across the skin. When massaging face and neck, use a very light touch as this skin is very delicate. Each instruction should be repeated 3-4 times. Marma points should be massaged gently in a circular clockwise motion with the middle finger.

The Massage:

Face massage guidelinesNeck – with both palms, lightly massage upwards from collarbone to chin.

Chin – place the index finger of the right hand in the cleft above the chin, and the middle finger beneath the chin. Slide the fingers up the jaw line to the right ear. Repeat on the left side using the left hand.

 Cheeks – use the index fingers massage from chin to nose along the smile line, then with the palms massage the cheeks upwards from edge of mouth to the temples

Eyes – place the ring finger beneath the eyebrow where it meets the nose and glide outwards using a very light touch, following the eye socket around beneath the eye and back to the starting point.

Third eye – starting at the side of each nostril, use the index and middle fingers to massage up the length of the nose continuing on to the middle of the forehead, the site of the ‘third eye’ or 6th chakra.

Forehead

–          Using the middle and ring fingers of one hand massage from the bridge of the nose between the eyebrows upwards towards the hairline

–          Using all 4 fingers of the right hand sweep the fingers from left to right across the forehead , then use the left hand and sweep fingers from right to left across the forehead.

The Marma Points:

Face massage marma pointsFinish by massaging each of the marma points below using the middle finger:

1. Centre of the chin

2. The corners of the mouth

3. Between nose and upper lip

4. The outer corners of the nose

5. Centre of cheekbones

6. Lower lids,  just above the cheekbones – this skin is too delicate for massage, just press gently

7. Junction between eyebrows and nose,  on the lower part of the eyebrow ridge

8. Temples

9. Third eye (6th chakra)

10. Crown of the head: place hands on crown of head and move back and forth rapidly.

Written by Marion O’Leary