The Magic of Ayurveda

Why ancient Indian wisdom is nature's most wholesome plan for good health

MassageAyurveda is the ancient system of Indian medicine. In Sanskrit, ayurveda means the science of life, or philosophy of being. The oldest medical system man devised, ayurveda is a comprehensive system that combines natural therapies with a highly personalised approach to the treatment of the individual with the disease, and not just the disease alone.

Ayurveda, in other words, is health-specific, not disease-specific. It takes into account the given individual's entire personality, and identifies three basic types of energy, or functional principles, present in every one of us - vata [a principle related to elimination, physical movement, senses etc.,] pitta [metabolism, skin etc., and fire or heat], and kapha [the heaviest of the three, which is related to lubrication, stability, mass and structure, including fertility]. They are called doshas.

Kapha, for instance, is said to increase in our physiology before the onset of the warm months of the year. It manifests into what ayurvedic physicians diagnose as kapha-related skin problems. The presenting feature is often excessive oily skin, followed by the emergence of skin complaints. From the functional point of view, there could, again, be a kapha-induced want of clarity in some of our thoughts and actions.

Steam therapy

It would be a good idea for you to pamper your facial skin with steam therapy at home. Steam therapy helps release deep-seated toxins and clear the conduits of the skin. In short, steam therapy helps your skin to breathe with new energy.

You may use herbs such as lavender and rose petal powder, for steam therapy, if you have normal or dry skin. Neem, citrus peel and holy basil powder are good for oily skin.

You can also add variety to your skin therapy, once in a while. Some experts recommend neem tea for removing scales from dry skin.

All-body care

Ayurvedic therapists recommend the use of a mix of four parts of chickpea flour or coarse oatmeal along with one part of sandalwood powder, mixed in milk or water. A few drops of rosewater may also be added to the preparation, if you like. The best way to nourish your skin is by way of a light application of a natural herbal moisturiser. Some practitioners recommend natural herbs such as Indian sarsaparilla, marshmallow root, manjistha [Rubia cordifolia], and turmeric, for cleansing and nourishing the skin.

Turmeric - a great antiseptic agent - is a classical remedy that has been used to enhance beauty since ancient times. For those who do not fancy the yellow sheen of turmeric, there are a few herbal turmeric creams available that don't leave the noticeable yellow stain, or shade.

Experts in ayurveda note that it is just not good enough for you to cleanse yourself from outside but also from within. This includes purifying the sweat glands and blood. One good way of doing this is by eating "cleansing" vegetables and juicy fruits high in water content.

A light diet is also recommended. This should comprise of whole grains such as quinoa or amaranth, spring vegetables such as asparagus, baby greens and carrots, and skin-friendly spices such as turmeric and cumin cooked into foods. Make this a regular habit.

There is no need to emphasise on the importance of avoiding rich sweets, deep-fried foods and heavy cheese for good health and skin. These are taboo for those whose skin is "naturally" oily - fatty foods clog and lead to unhealthy skin.

Things to Do

You need to detox your body by drinking good quantities [1-1/2-2 litre] of pure water everyday. Warm water is good for regulating elimination and removing toxins from the body.

Detoxifying tea is also effective. Some cleansing teas can be prepared from a teaspoon of cumin, coriander and fennel seeds mixed in one quarter of water. Steep the spices in boiling water for 15 minutes, and savour the tea during the course of the day.

Ayurvedic self-massage, called abhyanga, with pre-bath warm oil, is excellent choice during the warm months. The massage helps retain the softness of your skin. It tones the muscles, calms the nerves, promotes good sleep, and aids in circulation. More importantly, it helps eliminate deep-seated toxins.

You can pick your type of massage oil depending on your skin type. Therapists often prescribe almond or jojoba [Simmondsia chinensis] for vata skin, coconut for pitta skin, and olive or sesame for kapha skin type.

Remember: you need to protect your skin from the elements and environmental pollution. The two can aggravate kapha-related skin problems.

Needless to say, you should avoid the use of chemical-based make-up or skin care products that contain strong chemical ingredients. These substances contribute to toxic build-up in your body and also skin.

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Rajgopal Nidamboor
Rajgopal Nidamboor, a trained physician, is a writer, commentator, and author. In a career spanning 25 years, Nidamboor has published over 2,000 articles, on a variety of subjects, two coffee table books, an E-book, and a primer on therapeutics, aside from an encyclopaedic treatise on Indian philosophy.

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