Incorporating an Abhyanga for good health – Krya tells you how you can use this ancient Ayurvedic practice for balance, well being and great skin and hair

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Reading Time: 12 minutes

I have a pitta constitution, is sesame oil okay for an abhyanga?

Can I use plain sesame oil for an abhyanga? Must I necessarily use specialised abhyanga oil?

I am used to Mustard oil, especially in Winter – is it okay to do an abhyanga with this?

Why are you so against Olive oil? I am told it is great skin oil. Why can’t I use it for my Abhyanga?

I remember my Grand Mum adding hibiscus flowers to sesame oil for my hair – can I apply that for my body as well?

Our previous posts on the Abhyanga elicited a lot of doubts and queries on how to incorporate the Abhyanga into your daily / weekly regimen. This post addresses many of the subtle nuances behind an abhyanga with insights on why certain choices are made (like the choice of a base oil) to give you greater health benefits.

 

An Abhyanga is a part of every single Samhita and Ayurvedic text and is mentioned by every great Acharya from Acharya Charaka to Acharya Govind Dasji Bisagratna (of the Bhaisajya Ratnavalli) as an essential part of the Dinacharya (daily practices) for a healthy life. The Dinacharya also describes practices like waking up at Brahma Muhurtha, quiet contemplation before dawn, Yoga, Pranayama and activities related to cleansing like the Gandusha and Snana.

1-abhyanga

 

An Abhyanga can be seen as a part exercise, part examination of the body, part toning of organ systems like the digestive system, maintenance of the musculo skeletal system, care of the skin and deep cleansing of the entre body. Most importantly, along with the above, the Abhyanga helps in balancing all 3 doshas of the individual, bringing the whole body back to a state of alertness, vitality and balance.

 

This definition of the Abhyanga from the Indian system of Ayurveda makes it very different from the western concept of a massage for relaxation, which is why at Krya, we insist on using the original Sanskrit term, ‘Abhyanga” and not the term massage to describe this Dinacharya.

 

As the Abhyanga is seen as a part exercise for the entire body, it was used in several ways:

  1. For the aged and infirm who cannot do strenuous exercise the abhyanga is to be performed by a well trained specialist who would work the muscles during the process of Abhyanga slowing down degeneration and decay. If this specialist is not available, a self abhyanga can also be done. Old age is considered high in vata dosha – therefore oil which uses vata reducing herbs is recommended.
  2. For the active sportsperson, the Abhyanga is used as a part of the cool down to relax tense muscles, bring them back to a state of normalcy and prevent muscular tears due to stiffness and over use. As exercise excites vata dosha, vata reducing herbs aid bringing the body back to a state of balance. In addition, regenerative and repair based herbs like Ashwagandha, Brahmi, and Manjishta are very useful when added to the oil.

2-postworkout

  1. For the infant whose body is just developing, the abhyanga is used as an aid to help the body’s development. Here the texts advice using kapha building and muscle building herbs like Mulethi, Bala, etc.6-baby-abyanga
  2. For the stressed working man or woman, the abhyanga helps reduce excited vata and pitta dosha. It also aids tranquillity and balance, pacifying the overwrought mind and body. So here cooling and pacifying oil for the head is suggested and a vata reducing oil for body abhyanga is suggested.
  3. For the post partum mother, the abhyanga helps build the body’s immunity, removes tiredness and exhaustion caused by child birth and baby care, and helps in rebuilding muscles and strength. The main emphasis here is on providing warmth and vata reduction to remove exhaustion, and to ensure there is no mucous production during this time which can in turn affect the baby.

 

How does an Abhyanga restore health back to the body?

City living is considered high and vitiating to Vata dosha. This combined with high commute times, constant travel, air travel; use of vata exciting devices like the mobile phone, computer, and constant use of the brain ensures that most of us have aggravated Vata dosha in excess of what we should have.

 

The Ayurvedic texts tell us that when Vata is in excess it contracts the minute channels (srotas) all over the body. This means that Rasa dhatu (lymph fluid) which is responsible for our strength and immunity has a narrower passage to flow through, which means that the body is depleted of its vital nutrients. When Rasa dhatu (lymph) is constrained, it in turn affects the free movement of rakta dhatu (blood).

 

When Rasa dhatu and rakta dhatu have a constrained flow in the body, we will feel exhausted, fatigued, mentally worn out and can also get easily over wrought, depressed and anxious in difficult situations. Our response to these situations is to make use of external stimulants like tea and coffee to help us keep going at work. Unfortunately, tea and coffee further aggravate and increase Vata dosha leading our body into a vicious cycle of imbalance.

3-fatigue

This is why Ayurveda prescribes the use of a Taila Abhyanga and the use of specific Sneha like Cow ghee internally in vitiated Vata.

 

The external application of Taila in the abhyanga works by trapping excess vayu from the skin. As the abhyanga is done continuously with warm oil, it helps trap vayu along with minute debris, dirt and dead cells through the skin surface and helps it leave the body through Sweda (sweat) generated after a vigorous abhyanga. As the action of the taila is warm, unctuous and penetrating, it is the opposite of vata dosha which is cold, rough and light – this in effect helps bring down the excess of vata dosha and restores the body back to a state of balance.

 

The internal use of cow ghee frees up the internal constrictions and allows the smooth passage of Rasa and rakta dhatu. This is because ghee is minutely penetrating (sookshma), demulcent and moisturizing in its action, and is pacifying to all 3 doshas, especially pitta and vata dosha.

 

What are the 5 positive changes I can immediately see after a month of regular Abhyanga?

Please remember that an abhyanga alone will not do if you have vitiated vata dosha. You must make necessary changes to your diet, include cow ghee and make a few lifestyle modifications as well. All modern devices excite vata dosha (cell phone, e readers, laptops, i pads) so ensure you set a diligent cut off every night after which you will allow your body to recover from the impact of using these devices.

If you have been sincere about implementing small diet and lifestyle changes along with a once a week abhyanga, here are some changes you should see:

  1. You should find it much easier to fall asleep – insomnia or an inability to fall asleep easily is typically symptoms of vata aggravation. As your vata is brought back to a state of balance, you should be able to fall asleep much easier.
  2. If you have been feeling maudlin, depressed, anxious and negative in general, you should be seeing a change in your disposition. Aggravated vata is considered to lead to mood swings and depression in the texts. When this is brought under control, you should see a change in your outlook on life.

4-moods

 

  1. You should see a positive change in your ability to digest food and your appetite. Vata aggravation brings about inconsistency in digestive ability and appetite. With vata under control you should be able to digest your food much better and should get hungry at roughly the same time and regularly every day.
  2. Higher energy and less aches and pains during the day – vata dosha has its seat in the joints, lower back and all organs of movement including the neck and shoulders. You should experience vitality and new life in all these areas and should wake up feeling fresh and full of energy.
  3. Change in hair and skin texture – when vata goes out of control, the first 2 systems to feel its effects are your skin and hair. You hair will become coarse, rough, brittle, have split ends and break easily when combed, when tugged or when wet. Your skin will also start looking rough, dull and can also start becoming much darker than usual. When your vata is under control, you should be able to observe lustre in your skin, an evening of skin tone and your hair should get much stronger. The elasticity of your hair should be slowly restored which means you should be able to comb / pull it without it snapping and breaking.

5-storonger-hair

 

Why is sesame oil used in an Abhyanga despite it having a pitta nature? Will it suit everyone?

All Ayurvedic texts are unanimous in their opinion of Sesame oil. It is considered the best taila for pacifying vata aggravation. As vata aggravation is the most common cause of most diseases (50%), sesame oil is used as the base taila in almost all skin and hair formulations. In fact when the texts do not specify the exact taila to be used and simply mention the word “taila” we take it to mean Sesame Taila as the word “Taila” is itself used interchangeably with sesame Oil.

6-sesame

We have mentioned that external application of taila requires a small amount of heat. This heat improves the penetrative ability of the taila and helps it enter the skin much faster. This heat also makes the action of the oil “sookshma” or minute and helps deliver the herbs to the body much faster.

 

This is why Sesame oil is preferred over oils like Eranda (Castor) even in applications for the hair. Despite the fact that castor oil is much more “cool” oil compared to Sesame which is required for hair and scalp applications, Castor is dense and not as Sookshma compared to sesame because of its cold nature. This means that castor does not work as fast as Sesame and is not as effective as sesame to deliver herbs to the body.

 

Depending on the formulations used, we can balance the nature of oils. However, it is important to note here that while Sesame is considered pitta in nature, it is not as pitta in nature like Mustard oil for example. So the Ayurvedic formulators were wise in recommending Sesame as the base oil of choice for tackling all Dosha based disorders.

 

The Krya Abhyanga Oil, for example is designed to control excess vata which is a common complaint and also balance Pitta. We do this by formulating our base oil sesame with herbs like Bala (Sida cordifolia), Sucukrika (Tamarind leaf), Nirgundi (Vitex negundo). Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) which are revered vata balancing and pacifying Ayurvedic herbs. Along with this we also use Pitta pacifying herbs like Nimba (Azadirachta indica), Vacha (Acorus calamus), Manjishta (Rubia cordifolia).

7-krya-bhyanga-oil

While sesame oil remains the base oil, the Krya abhyanga oil also uses small amounts of Coconut oil and Kokum butter for their pitta and vata pacifying properties and many skin benefits.

 

When in doubt, and you do not have access to a specially prepared abhyanga oil, sesame oil is the best and safest bet for you and will work for all constitutions. Ensure it is prepared properly as described below.

 

The 4 step Oil preparation process for Abhyanga to suit all prakritis (individual constitutions)

Once you have chosen your base sesame oil, it is important to prepare it so that it helps your body, aids dosha balance and restores health back to you.

 

The rationale behind this is simple: all Tailas and Snehas are kapha promoting. By this, we mean that their consumption or application aids growth and strength. However, this also means that if they are applied unprepared, you can quickly accumulate mucous in your body as kapha is also responsible for accumulating mucous in the body (along with accumulating strength).

  1. Coarsely pound ¼ teaspoon of cumin seeds (jeera) and 1 pepper corn. The idea is not to make a fine powder but to simply bruise the spices so that they begin releasing their properties into the oil

8-jeera

 

  1. Warm your sesame oil in an iron vessel, preferably.
  1. Into the hot oil, add the coarsely pounded spices PLUS ¼ teaspoon of raw rice. The addition of the raw rice helps remove moisture if any from the oil and ensure it does not splutter or retain any traces of moisture when applied on skin. Ensure the spices do not char or burn in the oil. Once you see foam coming up in the oil and the jeera has become reddish and is swollen, it is time to filter out the oil.
  1. Filter out the rice and spices from the oil. To this hot oil add your Abhyanga oil of choice. Apply the oil mixture when bearably warm on your skin.

 

In Ayurveda, we do not reheat oil which has already gone through the Tila Paka process. This is why to apply warm oil we add a small quantity of plain warm base oil to our specially prepared Abhyanga oil and apply this mixture warm.

 

We recommend using pure Krya Abhyanga oil for your Abhyanga or sesame oil prepared as mentioned above. Please note that Sesame oil is a stop gap measure as it does not contain vata pacifying herbs.  A specially prepared Abhyanga Oil is much better in the long run for your Abhyanga as it does a much better job of dosha balance. 

 

Notes:

  1. If you are prone to severe kapha accumulation (frequents coughs and colds), you can also add a tiny piece of dried ginger to your coarse spice mixture.
  2. If you have any manner of skin allergy, psoriasis or eczema, skip the pepper and ginger and only add cumin (jeera) and raw rice to your oil.
  3. If you find this irritating, simply warm the oil with raw rice alone and use this as your Abhyanga base oil.

 

The difference between Keshya Abhyanga and the Abhyanga for the body

We have spoken before about the differences in the constitution of the head and the body. The head carries the brain and the eyes, both of which are organs made up of fatty tissues. Kapha dosha is an important dosha here which has helped create the fatty tissues that make up both the eyes and the brain.

 

Heat melts kapha, so Ayurveda believes that it is important to maintain coolness in the brain, scalp, head and eyes for the organs to function well. The activity of these organs by themselves increases Pitta or heat in the body. As we see, process information, think and use our intellect we use up vital nutrients and generate heat in the body. So Ayurveda says we should constantly cool this area and apply tailas which soothe the brain and eyes, and allow them to relax and rest.

9-eyes-cool

 

This is also the reason behind using only cool water to wash the eyes and lukewarm – body temperature water to wash the hair. Hot water should never be used above the neck area.

 

The taila designed for this area is therefore necessarily different. We use cooling, relaxing and soothing herbs like Bhringaraj, Brahmi, Nimba and Amla. All of these herbs balance pitta, help in the release of ushna (heat) from the scalp and cool and relax the brain and the eyes. In addition, as this area is high in kapha, we use sweet kapha promoting herbs that are useful in hair softness, and growth like Mulethi etc.

10-hair-oil

 

This is why Krya recommends a separate oil for the head and the body. The same cooling oil when applied to the body will aggravate vata dosha further and could also upset Kapha dosha. The warming, Vata reducing oil of the body when applied to the head can increase Pitta and heat in the body, which is the very thing we are trying to control in this area which is already very Pitta prone.

 

End notes:

We hope this post and our previous post on the Abhyanga have helped clear some basic doubts on the Abhyanga. As we have mentioned, the Abhyanga is a valuable tool to bring the body back to a state of balance and we have used it successfully as a tool in many seemingly unconnected disorders ranging from dry and flaky skin to post partum hair fall.

If you have any queries on how you can incorporate this Dinacharya into your life, please email us or call us on 075500-89090.

 

Krya products for Abhyanga:

  1. Krya products for Abhyanga:
    1. Babies
    a. Krya traditional baby massage oil with Bala & Ashwagandhab. Krya Ubtan for Baby girls with Rose & Himalayan Turmeric
    c. Krya Ubtan for Baby boys with Chamomile & Rosemary

11-baby-ubtan

  1. 2. Kids
    a. Krya traditional baby massage oil with Bala & Ashwagandha
    b. Krya Kids Ubtan with Gotu Kola & Cassia flower

12-kids-ubtan

  1. Men & Women
    a. Krya Abhyanga Oil with Vacha & Ashwagandha
    b. Krya Women’s Ubtan with Lotus Leaf & Lodhra
    c. Krya Men’s Ubtan with Vetiver & van Tulsi

abhyanga-system

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The quick crasher to an Ayurvedic Abhyanga: Krya tells you how you can incorporate this into your daily regimen

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Reading Time: 9 minutes

At the college where I spent 2 years learning about Business, we had an interesting term called “the crasher”. This was a quick, useful and practical download given by your classmates who attended every single class during the term. The crasher was essential if you had a) not attended too many classes and b) wanted to know just the right stuff to help you pass. At this point I am not going to discuss whether I was giving or receiving the crashers and we will move on to the subject at hand: the Abhyanga. If you have been reading our posts, you would have seen the importance Ayurveda gives to this practice.
The Abhyanga is an Ayurvedic Dinacharya – a practice that should be done Dhina (daily) for good health. An Abhyanga is advocated for almost everyone in Ayurveda – infants, young children, men and women.

2-abhyanga

An abhyanga is prohibited for the following groups of people:
1. Pregnant women
2. If you are running a temperature, have a digestive disorder or are acutely ill
3. If you are extremely tired, have had high sun exposure or a very heavy and depleting exercise practice (for example: immediately after running a marathon)
4. Immediately after a meal

A daily abhyanga should not be started cold turkey and may not even be possible for most people. Krya recommends a weekly or a bi-weekly abhyanga for adults and children and a daily abhyanga for infants under a year of age. If a daily abhyanga can be given for children upto 2 years this will greatly aid their muscle development.

Ayurveda prescribes Tuesdays and Fridays for Abhyangas for Women and Wednesdays and Saturdays for Abhyangas for Men.

The Ayurvedic secret to youthfulness and health – the Abhyanga
Here are some of the health benefits of a weekly / bi-weekly regular Abhyanga which accrue because the practice helps control excess vata and pitta dosha. Please note the use of the word “Accrue” – just like one swallow does not make a summer, one single abhyanga will not give you transformative health (although you will feed mighty good after even a single abhyanga). For true lasting, benefits you need to practice the Abhyanga week after week for atleast 2 – 3 months.

1. Reduction in muscle fatigue, tiredness, and daily exhaustion
2. Reduction in insomnia, inability to sleep
3. Improvement in digestive ability – reduced wind, reduced feeling of constipation, reduced feeling of incomplete bowel movements
4. Better mental sharpness and clarity – you can go on longer without feeling tired, fatigued or irritable
5. Better skin and hair health due to reduction in excess vata dosha – skin health improves almost immediately; hair health improves after a month of regular abhyangas (depending on extent of vata imbalance)

3-insomnia

What is the best oil for skin beauty and health? – Krya weighs in

Sesame oil is the base oil of choice for an Abhyanga. It can be used throughout the year and is beneficial for different dosha types in different ways. Because of its slightly warming nature, it helps bring down Vata dosha which is cold and rough. It is a very good “anupan” (medium) for many of the Vata reducing herbs Ayurveda recommends in an Abhyanga. It also helps liquefy Ama and dirt very easily from the body during the process of the Abhyanga – which ensures that these toxins leave your body quickly.

4-sesame-oil

Coconut oil is not the best choice of oil for an Abhyanga. It is kapha promoting and if not prepared properly can lead to mucous accumulation in the body. Mustard is not suitable for use in summer or for people with sensitive skin. Castor oil is too thick and cooling for the purpose of the Abhyanga. Olive oil, Argan Oil and other foreign oils have not been studied and classified as well as native oils in our Ayurvedic texts. So it is best to use these oils very sparingly for the Abhyanga as we do not completely understand the effect their use can have on your doshas.

5-local-oils
The Ayurvedic texts advise using oil which has been heated well and has naturally cooled to a warm temperature for an ideal Abhyanga. The warmth of the oil allows for better skin penetration and also helps in the trapping, liquefaction and expelling of toxins from the body.

It is best not to directly heat specially prepared Ayurvedic oils like the Krya Abhyanga Oil (as this could make these oils lose some of their nutritive properties). Instead, please heat plain sesame oil and add the specially prepared Ayurvedic oil to this hot oil. Apply the oil mixture when bearably warm on your body.

Ensure the Abhyanga is done as close as possible to Sunrise, ideally within the first hour of sunrise. This ensures that the body is given the whole day to release aggravated doshas, and that the temperature of the day does not make the process of abhyanga uncomfortable for you.
8-early-morning-abhyanga

Keep vata dosha at a minimum during the Abhyanga:
As the very purpose of the Abhyanga is to reduce excess Vata dosha, keep the influence of Vata dosha to a minimum while doing your Abhyanga. So switch off your fan or your air conditioner, close the windows and do the Abhyanga in a closed room where there is no draught or cold seeping in.
Do not talk too much at this time, or use electronic equipment like your laptop, phone, e-reader as all of these aggravate Vata dosha.

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A strong vigorous massage is the key to a good Abhyanga ,not a long soak

An Ayurvedic Abhyanga is not a gentle, relaxing massage. It is considered equivalent to physical exercise which is why you are not supposed to strain yourself after an Abhyanga with more exercise. The Ayurvedic abhyanga uses brisk, up-down movements to generate heat over the surface of the skin, relax the muscles and allow for deep and fast penetration of the Abhyanga oil.

Special attention is to be paid to all the seats of vata like the ears, waist, hips, lower back, legs and all the joints like the wrists, ankles, shoulders, fingers etc. These points should be well oiled and rotated well to release any excess vata immediately.

Small bones and organ systems like the fingers and toes often store tremendous amounts of vata, especially for those of us who use laptops and smart phones. These systems should be massaged well to remove fatigue and release excess vata dosha.

8-fingers-and-toes
The feet are also paid special attention in an Ayurvedic abhyanga. The feet store tremendous amounts of pain and excess vata dosha and are the key to managing insomnia and fatigue especially if you have been facing a lot of stress, poor eating and late nights. This is such an important part of the abhyanga that there is a special term for this: the pada abhyanga. For those with very high vata dosha, a daily pada abhyanga before sleeping every night can be extremely beneficial.

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The end point of an abhyanga is that your body should begin generating Sweda / Sweat – this is a sign of toxin elimination and removal of excess ama from the body which has been liquefied by the oil, the herbs and the strong massage.

You can aid Sweda generation by doing extremely light work after the abhyanga – like sweeping a small portion of your house, or doing any physical chore to aid the generation of heat and toxin removal. Do not do this light work if you generally exercise very regularly, are extremely tired physically or have been under severe stress.

An ideal oil soaking time after an Abhyanga is 10 – 15 minutes, especially for Abhyanga beginners.

Snana and skin cleansing after an abhyanga to ensure toxin removal – and the myth of the Ayurvedic soap
To completely cleanse the toxins that are flowing out of the body after the Abhyanga, Ayurveda recommends a Snana with a specific set of herbs, grains and lentils. The lentils and grains chosen are chosen for their granular and dirt dislodging capacity, to help literally wedge out the dead cells, debris and toxins that have arisen from the body after the abhyanga. The herbs chosen differ as per the season and the body type. Pitta reducing herbs like Chandana, Usheera (Vetiver) etc, are usually used in summer for example. A soap is not prescribed in Ayurveda for any manner of skin care, including post abhyanga . For post Abhyanga only an Ayurvedic ubtan is ideal as it is able to physically dislodge dirt, debris, dead cells and toxins from the body.
9-ubtan

Use the Ayurvedic ubtan by applying it in a circular cleansing motion on your body. The grains should not feel too gentle nor should they be too harsh or scratchy on skin. They should be able to remove excess oil from the abhyanga and the ama generated without making your skin too dry. Certain base grains are inappropriate in cold weather – for example besan and channa are not good cold weather grains and can make dry skin even drier if used inappropriately.

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Ayurveda recommends using warm water for a Snana post an abhyanga for the portion of the body below the neck. For the head and hair, water should be at the same temperature as the rest of your body (so it should not feel either cool or warm on your head). This is extremely important to ensure there is no damage to the brain, eyes or the nerves from the use of water at an inappropriate temperature.

Post Abhyanga care
It is important to remember that the Abhyanga is a dosha balancing, health giving practice. If your vata dosha or pitta dosha is aggravated, the Abhyanga is going to physically bring down this dosha excess. So the abhyanga can cause some amount of temporary strain on the body during the process of restoring the body to its state of health.
So it is important not to strain your body further on the day of Abhyanga.

1. Do not go into the hot sun
2. Do not eat very spicy or very sour meals
3. Do not over eat
4. Do not eat difficult to digest food
5. Do not eat any large and heavy meal
6. Do not go for a long drive
7. Do not do any form of extreme exercise
8. Do not stay up late
9. Do not over use your gadgets
10. Do not eat sweet, mucous producing food
11. Do NOT take an afternoon nap on Abhyanga day

Do NOT take an afternoon nap on the day of the Abhyanga even if you are severely tempted – one of the organs of releasing excess Pitta dosha is the eyes. Through tears and vapour, the eyes will release excess Pitta dosha through the day – if you close them and go to sleep in the day, this excess Pitta will stay within your body and could damage your body.
1-afternoon-nap

The food on the day of the Abhyanga should be freshly cooked, light, warm and easy to digest. Most importantly it should be eaten on time so that there is no strain on the digestive system.

End notes:
We hope this Abhyanga crasher has helped clear some basic doubts on the Abhyanga. As we have mentioned, the Abhyanga is a valuable tool to bring the body back to a state of balance and we have used it successfully as a tool in many seemingly unconnected disorders ranging from dry and flaky skin to post partum hair fall.

If you have any queries on how you can incorporate this Dinacharya into your life, please email us or call us on 075500-89090.

Krya products for Abhyanga:
1. Babies
a. Krya traditional baby massage oil with Bala & Ashwagandha

b. Krya Ubtan for Baby girls with Rose & Himalayan Turmeric
c. Krya Ubtan for Baby boys with Chamomile & Rosemary

11-baby-ubtan

2. Kids
a. Krya traditional baby massage oil with Bala & Ashwagandha
b. Krya Kids Ubtan with Gotu Kola & Cassia flower

12-kids-ubtan

3. Men & Women
a. Krya Abhyanga Oil with Vacha & Ashwagandha
b. Krya Women’s Ubtan with Lotus Leaf & Lodhra
c. Krya Men’s Ubtan with Vetiver & van Tulsi

abhyanga-system

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Ayurvedic post natal care to strengthen, nourish and care for a new mother and a new born baby. Krya shares a first person account.

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Reading Time: 20 minutes

The Krya blog has been speaking these last few days about different types of vata based disorders. The last few of our posts have been speaking in particular about post partum hair fall and related vata disorders and how the root cause of this can be traced to uncontrolled vata dosha because of a lack of proper post natal care that follows Ayurvedic principles.

As we have discussed earlier, Ayurveda opines that the birth of a child causes an imbalance in the body’s doshas as a large gap is created in the womb that was once occupied by the fetus and her placenta. The process of childbirth which is physically demanding and rigorous excites Vayu. Once Vayu is aroused, it is in its nature to rush in and occupy empty spaces and childbirth gives Vayu a large empty space to occupy.

blog-post-1-vata-and-pregnancy

Traditional post natal practices therefore centre around nourishing, oil and ghee based warm food and regimens like abhyangas to remove fatigue, provide strength back to the body and reduce the likelihood of vayu rushing in and upsetting the body’s dosha balance.

Our posts on post partum health have led to a lot of enquiries on how mothers should be looked after post child birth for good health. So we are fortunate today to carry a piece written by Seetha Anand Vaidyam on the traditional post natal practices that were followed in her home for both her pregnancies.

Seetha is a holistic educator, remedial therapist and an author (a longer bio follows at the end of her piece). Along with her piece, we have also included textual references to the practices described wherever relevant to clearly establish that these time honored practices flow from Ayurvedic first principles.


Old is Gold,

I was always told,

This advice I followed,

Especially when lo behold!

The most precious being in my hands I hold.”

Seetha Anand Vaidyam

 Good news! You are pregnant!” — My Gynecologist told me. I was 22 years, I had been married for 2 months, I had gone for my check up alone and I was nervous. “What should I do Doctor… In terms of how should I take care, what foods should I be eating…anything I should bear in mind… ? “, I asked her in part shyness, part embarrassment and even fear. I wanted to have children and had planned it, but now that I was pregnant, I was nervous, especially since I was in a new city away from my own relatives.

“Just act as normal as you are. You can do all what you did … just be normal.” my doctor said to me. And I did try. Surely a blanket “be normal” is not the soundest of advice and this is something I re-learned in my research and working with children of different needs in later years.

Pregnancy is the time to begin the nourishment of the baby in-utero. Seldom are first time mothers aware of the extent of influence their lifestyle can have on the baby. Stress, sadness during pregnancy can be especially detrimental. Sadness brings a kind of constriction in the abdominal region for most people, (we use terms like stomach churning feelings etc.) This constriction, tension can damage the tender nerves and muscles of the fetus in-utero. Nothing, nothing but the well being of the baby is paramount in that period and for this the pregnant mother’s wellness of body, mind and soul is imperative.

blog-post-2-pregnancy-special-period Ayurvedic first principles:  from the Putrakamiya chapter of Ashtanga Samgraha of Acharya Vagbhatta

“Sattvaviseshakarani Punarmathapithrasvadyoganatharvarthnyah:  Shruthyaschabhikshanam

Swopachintah cha karma bhavathi Poorvabhayschethi”

 This can be roughly translated as: “ The factors that influence the mental makeup of a child are the mental traits, purity , behavior of the family, cleanliness and purity of parents, the sounds that the fetus hears, the sounds and vibrations the pregnant women hears, and the karmic effects of the past lives of the fetus”.

 

It is to be noted here that Acharya Vagbhatta says that the collective set of emotions, thoughts, feelings and the sensory stimuli offered by the external environment shapes the mental makeup of your child. In this context , a pregnant woman and her caregiver must evaluate the television she watches, songs she listens to, people she meets and books and newspapers she reads and ask herself if each of these influences are positive and useful for the growing child.

Fast forward … 9 months later I was in another city, my home city and I was now a mother of a new born! This time, both my mother and me nervously asked the doctor, what I should be fed, if we could follow our traditional post natal care at home (especially since my first delivery was a Cesarean section and my mother had no experience of that, she was very confused as to what should be done), if we could give the traditional “orai marundhu” to the new born etc. My obstetrician said something similar to my gynecologist in the other city: “Just give her normal foods, no massages, use simple baby soap for the baby, and just stick to mother’s milk and if the baby is not satisfied top feed!!!” And what was worse, she said, “Don’t come running to me if an infection develops in the baby due to use of traditional oils and powders!”

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Being from and married into a traditional family, the words of the Doctors were ignored with contempt. My mother and mother in law consulted each other and a few other elderly aunts and grandmothers and the plan for my massage and diet and that of my baby were chalked out.

My pregnancies are not something I relish writing about since till date I wish I had taken better care of my babies when they were inside me! I was in a new city, unaware, helpless and overwhelmed by so many things in my new life! But like they say no point in getting negative with regret. The post natal care that my mother lovingly provided me and my babies hopefully made up for most of my earlier shortcomings. I will share details of traditional post natal care based on my own experiences and observations.

Post natal care is extremely elaborate and specific in South India. Even in today’s times of hospital deliveries, many of the customs are followed.

 

The design of the New Mother and new born baby’s Chamber

The room where the new mother and baby are housed, is kept spic and span and fumigated with sambrani over a ‘kumiti’ or iron stove with coals. It is a well lit room but not overly bright or close to noises, the windows were closed by dusk. The room is kept very warm and cozy. The room is protected from strong sensory stimuli such a smell, sound and light.

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Ayurvedic first principles:  from the Balopacaraniya (care of new born child) chapter of Ashtanga Samgraha of Acharya Vagbhatta

“The chamber that holds the new born baby and recovering Mother should be architecturally beautiful, equipped with all necessary materials, should not have too much wind, and should have only soft wind blowing from the east. The room should be entered only by a few elderly women and physicians and should be free from bedbugs, mice, mosquitoes and other vermin. The room should not be too dark, or too bright. The cradle, bed, and bed sheets should be clean, well washed, unwrinkled, soft and fumigated with rakshoghna drugs.

 

It is important to note again, that Acharya Vagbhatta specifies that the baby’s nursery should have restricted entry with good cleanliness and fumigation using certain drugs. This helps prevent infections as Ayurveda considers that both a new mother and the baby have low immunity and depleted strength. The mention of controlling wind in the nursery is also a point to be noted – this is because Vayu (air) is already considered high in the mother post delivery. So additional Vayu is not to be allowed in as a strong breeze. Ayurveda actually classifies wind as having different properties depending upon the direction from which it blows!

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Clothing

Both the mother and baby are given soft cottons, often used clothes. New clothes for the baby are actually discouraged. Often old cotton dhotis and saris are converted into “jablas” /tie string tops and diapers. The diapers from the first day of the baby made from old saris or dhotis are thrown away and not washed. Later they are rinsed and then soaked in hot water with herbal powders, brushed, washed and dried in the sun. Care is taken not to have them washed by unmarried, young persons who may have an aversion for tending to soiled clothes.

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Even the repulsive feelings that a person may have for the soiled clothes were considered strong enough to harm the tender baby. Such was the extent of sensitivity towards the new born! And of course the new mother was forbidden from wetting her hands or staying near moist areas. She was considered to be in a delicate physical state and vulnerable to colds and infections after the hard task of child birth. If the delivery happened during monsoons, the washed napkins were dried indoors but were further dried on top of sambrani fumes that were covered with a metal rice sieve.

Ayurvedic first principles:  from the Balopacaraniya (care of new born child) chapter of Ashtanga Samgraha of Acharya Vagbhatta

“Fumigation of the nursery and the linen and bedding of the mother and child should be done with guggulu and other rakshoghna resins which are mentioned in the prescribed texts. The child and mother should also be adorned with small bundles of herbs like Vacha, and other rakshoghna herbs to ward off the evil eye and deter krimi and germs”.

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Negative energy and the warding off this are addressed with a great deal of care across Ayurvedic texts including the Ashtanga Samgraha. The use of specific herbs, chanting of mantras and specific stotras, prayer, and restricted access to the new Mother and baby helps protect both and helps them conserve their spiritual energy.

 The mother and baby are kept warm, ears of the mother are covered with cotton, and the mother’s waist is bound by a folded sari tightly so that the sagging belly after delivery is held tightly. I went through this procedure after both my deliveries, the first being cesarean while my second was normal delivery. The baby’s head and ears are well covered, feet are protected with socks.blog-post-7-covered-ears

Ayurvedic first principles: the procedure described by Seetha above to cover the ears, feet and bind the stomach of the New mother all flow from the principle of correcting excess Vayu. The ears and feet are the seat of Vata dosha, so it is kept covered in both Mother and Baby to prevent entry of excess Vayu.  The space in the stomach is kept physically restrained in the Mother to restrict the space available for Vayu to rush in and fill the now empty womb.

 

Daily Rhythms of a post natal home

A post natal house functioned like clockwork. Sleep, wake, bath, meal, visitor timings were all strictly followed. It is considered healthy for babies to wake up early. Lactating mothers need as much rest as possible and new born babies sleep long hours and need frequent feeds. Child birth is considered to be a tiring effort sapping the mother of energy and certain essential nutrition.

Therefore apart from the special diet given, the daily rhythms or routines were sacrosanct since they also build up the etheric forces/ life forces of the mother which tend to get weak during the birthing process. The baby is tender and depends immensely on a precise rhythm to build its body clock and bio rhythms. Today modern medicine talks so much about the connection between health and bio rhythms, which traditional wisdom always believed was sacred.

 

Visitors and Outings for the Newborn and Mother

Visiting new borns and new mothers was highly restricted. Only certain inmates of the house entered the room. Relatives and friends from outside were allowed for one day on the 11th day after birth where the child is given a formal bath and placed on a cradle and the naming ceremony is carried out. After the completion of the function, restrictions continue and visitors are not encouraged.

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Ayurvedic first principles: from the Balopacaraniya (care of new born child) chapter of Ashtanga Samgraha of Acharya Vagbhatta

“Shoorairayodhibheergupathmadrashyam nagaram paraiha

Yatha shishovarpurathdhwagatho thaovirddhibhigrahaiha”

 

“Just like a city is protected from enemies by brave men with suitable weapons, similarly the body of a child must be protected from different kinds of invaders / evil spirits using appropriate methods”

 

This is the concluding verse in the Balopacaraniya chapter which brings together the point behind all of the prescriptions of newborn and maternal care in Ayurveda. Every single ritual prescribed is done with the view of protecting the health of the child and mother – the care given post child birth to the Mother and in the first year of the child are seen as critical for establishing the lifelong health patterns of the Mother and Child.

After 30 days, a visit is made by the new born and the new mother to a nearby temple. The child is brought outside the room to sit in a place where the evening sunlight falls. By the end of the second month the child is allowed to be placed in the other rooms of the house. The mother is still not very active and is confined to feeding the baby, in some cases bathing and changing diapers, folding clothes. Physically exerting activities are not carried out by the mother.

 

Massage and Bathing Rituals

Nothing is discussed, prepared for and spoken about as much as massage rituals in a post natal household!!! In some houses a masseur is appointed these days, but traditionally the mother or grandmothers who were usually in a fit condition bathed the new mother and the new born baby.

 

Cold pressed Sesame oil or Coconut oil was used for the massage. While the baby received a full body and head oil massage every day after the 11th day of birth, the mother received an oil massage for the body everyday and head oil massage every alternate day. After the 11th day of giving birth. The mother’s body oil was mixed with generous amounts of kasturi manjal and especially rubbed well on the waist, feet, elbows and face.

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This everyday oil massage of the body helped prevent dryness and itchiness that result after delivery. In case of girl babies too turmeric was added to the body oil. Massaging around the navel area for both mothers and babies was regarded important and also on the area on top of the head where there is a slight depression, considered to be the crown / sahasrara chakra.

Ayurvedic first principles: from the Balopacaraniya (care of new born child) chapter of Ashtanga Samgraha of Acharya Vagbhatta

“An abhyanga with a special herb infused oil should be done every day. Medicated oil prepared, with herbs like Bala, Chandana, Kushta, Ashwagandha, Eranda, Tila and other herbs is ideal for massage. “

 There is a special emphasis on muscle and dhatu nourishment and growth and vata reduction given in Ayurveda which percolates the philosophy behind formulating abhyanga oils for babies and new Mothers. As we have discussed before herbs like Bala are extremely useful in balancing excess pitta and vata and are extremely nourishing and helpful in building muscle mass and relieving fatigue and tiredness. Ashwagandha is excellent for skin and also helps with inflammatory conditions that the Mother could face.

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 Tila as mentioned as the oil of choice here and this is different from what has been practiced in Seetha’s home. We must be cognizant here of regional differences and modifications in Ayurvedic practices depending upon the geography and climate. Being hot and humid, Ayurvedic practices in Kerala have traditionally adopted coconut oil as the base oil of choice. However, to control the kapha promoting nature of coconut oil, the oil is usually prepared with certain warming herbs and spices to control any kapha based excesses.

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The oil for the baby was prepared at home by my mother. She would grate enormous amounts of coconut and then extract milk from it, this was gently heated till oil emerged from it. ‘Venda Velichennai’ or virgin coconut oil thus got was carefully stored in glass bottles or ceramic ‘baranis’/’jadis’. This oil smelled like ghee and was prepared in a kind of secrecy away from the eyes of all so as to avoid any feelings of greed or lust for the oil. It is amazing how the new born was protected even from negative thoughts and feelings. Such was the reverence for a new life in the olden days. This is now considered as discrimination and blind belief. Thoughts and feelings produce energies and babies are very sensitive to energies.

The entire bath water was heated and then allowed to cool down a wee bit before being used (cold water was never added to make the hot water tolerably warm) And of course in the days of yore, copper boilers or cauldrons were used to heat water over firewood and coal.

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Ayurvedic first principles:

 Acharya Vagbhatta and Acharya Charaka recommend bathing the baby and the mother with water which has been boiled with Jivaniya herbs (restorative and vitalizing herbs). Some of these herbs include Mahameda, Kakoli, etc.

 The purpose of using Jivaniya herbs is to restore Prana to the tissues, promote the longevity and health of all the dhatus and promote deep nourishment.

 

New born mothers and babies thus massaged and bathed glowed with soft and well moisturized skin. Especially mothers and girl babies looked golden due to the application of turmeric. Hair of new born mothers under such care generally became lustrous and thick and abundant. At least for the first three months when she gets maximum personal care pampering!!

Soaps were a strict no no! A Bath powder for babies was made with moong dal/ channa dal while for mothers vasanai podi or ubtans were made at home with various herbs and lentils. Hair wash powders for the mothers were also made at home with Shikakai, karsalanganni, ponnanganni, hibiscus flowers and leaves, lime peels, fenugreek, curry leaves, many other flowers, leaves, seeds, seed pods — which were all cover dried in the sun and powdered. These powders and oils were sent with the new mother when after a period of 3 months she returned to her in laws and husband.

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After bath babies and mothers were well dried and gently warmed with sambrani fumes. Kajal or kann mai was the only cosmetic item that was allowed. This was applied even to the eyes of boy babies and their forehead marked with a dot/bindi/tilakam. In order that the bindi/ tilakam/ pottu did not smudge, a bit of vibuthi that was again home made with cow dung ash was rubbed slightly over it. Thus there was no need for any chemicals in body care. This not only ensured glowing skin but also made sure that there was adequate probiotic microbial activity in the body which is the foundation of immunity and health.

The fragrance emanating from new born babies and mothers under such a personal care regimen has to be experienced to understand the value of such homemade, pure, chemical free personal care products. My mother’s sister sent me home made kann mai made from castor oil, pachcha kalpooram, nadyaravattai flower extracts. It smelled good and brought a refreshing tingling in the eyes when applied.

Ayurvedic first principles: the use of herb enhanced collyrium

Collyrium / Kajal is an Ayurvedic medicine and is so much more than a regular cosmetic product. It has been designed to protect the eyes which are an important secondary seat of Pitta by reducing excess Pitta. As the eyes are also made up of kapha based fatty substances, the use of herb infused Kajal helps the healthy removal of fat based toxins from the eyes .

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 Rasajnana is a famous Ayurvedic extract made from Daruharidra, which is used in Ayurvedic Kajal. Rasanjana when prepared properly helps promote the dislodging of kleshma (fat based toxins) by triggering a watering reaction in the eyes.

Diet

While babies were strictly only fed mother’s milk, they got just a dash of ‘orai marundhu’ which was a mixture of a set of seeds/herbs, gold etc which were rubbed on a stone along with a drop of mother’s milk and applied to the baby’s tongue. Babies were fed in a private area and a serene silence was maintained during the baby’s feeding time.

In case baby is taking very short feeds and falling asleep only to wake again very soon for another feed, the mother is advised to caress the ear lobes gently. I was given this advice too and I found that the baby sucked for longer when I did this!!! Babies were fed with solely mother’s milk for upto 10 months and were fed mother’s milk in addition to other foods even after the first year. Some scriptures and ancient texts indicate that mother’s milk was given till the fall of, milk teeth. With changing times, consciousness changed and priorities changed.

Children lost their dreaminess, unconscious behavior and innocence prematurely. So as a result, it was considered embarrassing to feed children with mother milk once they became conscious. Mother’s milk is loaded with microbes and lauric acid. This helps the growth of beneficial gut bacteria which are the essentials of a strong immunity system in the body.

The first thing a new mother is given to eat is a ‘legyam’ again home made with so many different heat inducing herbs, spices, lemon, ginger, ghee etc. A gooseberry sized ball of this is given in empty stomach. This is a decongestant, anti inflammatory and digestive. The beneficial properties of this is passed to the baby through the mother’s milk.

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Babies and mother’s are especially hungry after a laborious bath!! So usually the mother’s were fed while the baby is being bathed so that they are not hungry while feeding the baby. Bathing soon after a meal/feed for anyone was absolutely forbidden.

Ayurvedic first principles: from the Balopacaraniya (care of new born child) chapter of Ashtanga Samgraha of Acharya Vagbhatta

 “A child should not be fed with the breast milk of the women who is hungry, grief stricken, tired, exhausted, angry, whose tissues are diseased, who is pregnant, or who is indulging in unhealthy foods”.

 Ayurveda is very particular about the health of the mother as this science recognizes the deep spiritual, mental, emotional and physical connection between the Mother and her baby. By nurturing the Dauhridini (pregnant woman) from the stage of pregnancy, keeping in her in good spirits and providing her loving emotional and physical care post child birth, Ayurveda ensures the baby too is well looked after and has the chance to develop well.

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 Many of us have seen tired, exhausted and depressed or even hungry modern mothers tending to their children’s needs. This is not a healthy practice and you are not supposed to sacrifice your well being for that of your child. Ayurveda recognizes that only if you are nourished and healthy, can you give your child the right environment to be nourished and healthy as well.

Mother’s diet consisted of short frequent meals. Parboiled rice was given preference since it is easier to digest. Tuvar dal and channa dal were avoided since they induce vata or gas. Moong dal was given in limited quantities. Lots of iron rich curry leaves, drumstick leaves, bean varieties, perandai or bone setter thogayal that is rich in calcium, dried sundaikkai or thai brinjal, manathangalikkai which had properties of healing wounds and ulcers were included every day. Gourds were by and large avoided, so were brinjals, potatoes, sweet potatoes etc. In short gas producing foods were avoided. Pepper was the preferred spice and chilies were avoided or minimized.

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Betel leaves were given at the end of the meal and even in the evening to aid digestion and bring down acidity.  Ginger was another spice that was used every day. Coolants and cold foods were completely avoided. Ghee was served generously. Water was given in restricted amounts. The use of tamarind was restricted. Peanuts were avoided. Bananas especially the nendram variety was given to satiate odd time hungers. Par boiled rice gruel/ puzhungal arisi kanji with salted narthangai or salted lemon pickle were given. The baby’s stools were an indicator of whether the diet of the mother was suiting the baby. Greenish or whitish yellow stools were considered not healthy and immediately changes were made in the mother’s diet. Curds were not given.

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The practice of giving white bread, certain types of vegetables, etc might have crept in during the in-between period. What are truly traditional needs to be understood. After the entry of the Britishers in 1600 A.D., many traditional customs were modified. Cropping patterns were altered. Grains traditionally grown were discontinued and certain foreign ones introduced. Therefore even what has been practiced for 400 odd years may not be truly traditional!

 

Ayurvedic first principles – a healthy post partum diet

All the Ayurvedic texts that refer to kaumarabhrityam (gynecology, obstetrics and child care) have given special importance to the pathiyam diet that is given both to the pregnant woman and the recovering Mother.

 The purpose of the diet in each stage is different – in the pregnant woman the diet is meant to be nourishing, full of good fats and cooling. The diet is supposed to nurture the fetus at every stage of the development and not cause any ama or toxic residue in the body.

 The pathiyam post partum diet has a different purpose. The food is meant to nourish all the dhatus of the woman which may be depleted following child birth. It is also supposed to ensure that the breast milk is full of the nutrients required by the growing child. The food is sweet (madhura) and kapha promoting in nature to build the dhatus and nourish the tissues.

 The food is also cooked so that excess pitta and vata is controlled. So the vegetable and cereal selection is quite deliberate.

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The time immediately after delivery is usually an extremely restricted diet. It is high in nourishing liquids like milk cooked with galactologue herbs and ghee. Cleansing mixtures like panchakavya is also used to stimulate digestion, remove ama and toxins form the body as these may pass onto the baby through the breast milk.

 Post the first 15 days / month 1, the recovering Mother is put on a more solid diet. A very careful selection of lentils is given – if the Vaidya feels that vata is high, she may be advised a diet without any lentil except Mung dal and not lentil based vegetables like beans. Hard, difficult to digest lentils like peas, rajma, channa are usually restricted.

 Ghee is key to the pathiyam diet to promote adequate digestion, keep the body in a tridoshic state and reduce vata dosha. Warming spices like Maricha (black pepper), Sunthi (ginger) and Jiraka (Cumin) are also liberally used in the food to expel wind, promote digestion and cleanse the respiratory passages of mucous if present.

 

General atmosphere in a post-natal home

Care was taken to avoid overwhelming sensory stimuli. Noise levels were restricted. Loud noises which would startle a sleeping baby or disturb the deep sleep of a new mother whose sleep depended on her child’s sleep were consciously avoided. Very often grandmothers or elderly members of the house or the new mother would sing lullabies and other specific baby songs.

The entry of too many visitors as mentioned earlier was avoided. In some communities, the inmates of the house where a baby is born would also not go to other houses for a period of 30 days. This was like a quarantine that was observed. The close relatives of the new born could not even attend functions and festival celebrations for a period of 30 days after the birth of the child in their family.

Feeding time of the mother is considered sacrosanct. The mother is advised to be calm while feeding the baby since the babies are tender in every way and would be affected by any physical, emotional or mental disturbances around them.

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A post natal care household was full of busy activity — preparing bath oils, powders, fresh legyam, meals, fumigation, washing clothes etc. So there was no time for gossip or idleness. Today we hear so much about post natal depression and mood swings. In a traditional home, where so much activity is going on there is so much to observe and participate, to absorb and learn that one does not get the time to become depressed. Moreover the food given is so carefully chosen that it balances hormones and leads to emotional stability.

At the end of 3 months and in much earlier times after 5 months, the new mother left the luxurious pampering in her mother’s house and returned to her in-laws and husband.

Even then till the baby turned one year old, that is till the mother is lactating, she was not allowed to cook or go into the kitchen since the heat from the kitchen fires might interfere in the lactation. Mother’s milk was considered to be ‘oushadam’ or medicine and hence every measure was taken to safeguard it. New mothers were pampered, nourished and their motherhood and the baby’s childhood were cherished.

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The changing patterns of motherhood

In course of time life became fast paced and therefore roles changed and so have health and fitness. Stamina and stress do not go hand in hand. The elders in the family can no longer perform all the chores required of them during the birth of their grandchildren, mothers are not relaxed enough to lead life on a slow track for a certain period of time. Ambitiousness, restlessness, changed priorities have all resulted in the lack of reverence for the new born and the new mother.

The rise of full time working mothers with limited maternity holidays, emergence of packaged baby feeds, over exposure of children to excessive sensory stimuli prematurely — have all resulted in weakened bodies, minds and souls — of mothers and their babies!!

I hope this article helps in reviving the due reverence for the new born and the new mother. I hope at least some aspects of post natal care can be incorporated if not all.


seetha-anand-vaidyam-krya-blog-author-profileAbout the Author:

Seetha Anand Vaidyam, works through Ananda Foundation for Holistic and Healthy Learning & Living. Ananda, through its 3 wings — Learn to Move & Move to Learn; Plate to Planet and Art of the Hearts — offers hands on workshops, talks and one on one counseling sessions on Early Childhood, Remedial Therapy, Sustainable Living and Holistic Wellness across India and abroad. Seetha has authored ‘ “Good” Food — a guide to right cooking and eating’ which has 2 editions and 1 reprint to its credit. She can be reached at seethaanand@yahoo.com .

 


Krya would like to thank Seetha Anand Vaidyam for her generous, authentic and detailed piece on traditional post natal care today. This very important tradition of nourishing the mother and caring for her mental, emotional and physical well being which used be such an important part of Indian culture is fast disappearing today.

We hope that this post brought home the importance of these practices and you were able to appreciate the deep rooted Ayurvedic first principles behind these practices. Even if you are unable to recreate the exact set of rituals described by Seetha in this post, we hope you are able to incorporate atleast few parts of these rituals in your life or help out another young mother with knowledge about these practices.

 

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Ayurvedic Tejas – Krya Abhyanga Series

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Reading Time: 3 minutes

“Nothing can dim the light that shines from within” – Maya Angelou

As I was writing my to-do list for the day, I glanced at the bottom of the page to see the quote which I have put up here.

The inner light is referred to as “Tejas” in the Ayurvedic texts, and the English translations of this word are extremely inadequate. So when the Charaka Samhita refers to an abhyanga increasing the “Tejas” in the body due to nourishment of all dhatus, an English translation would read, “An abhyanga increases the lustre in the body / improve the complexion”.

However Tejas is much much more than the external appearance of skin. Tejas has to do with an inner light and a feeling of well being when all the 3 doshas are balanced, and when the dhatus are well nourished eternally by the copious application of oil regularly through the abhyanga.

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Different people report a different state of well being after an Abhyanga. People with a  predominantly vata based constitution report that their skin which is generally dry and itchy feels well moisturized, soft and nourished. Their joints feel supple and well oiled and they report feeling at peace, and able to bring in a strong amount of focus, and not as scattered as they usually would feel.

People with a predominantly pitta based constitution report feeling cooler as their eyes and skin release tremendous amounts of excess heat after an abhyanga. They feel less inclined to speak sharply or lose their temper and report feeling cool, calm and tranquil the whole day.

 

People with a predominantly kapha based constitution report feeling energetic and less sluggish and wide awake and focussed the whole day. They also report having a feeling of their internal blocks being cleared.

No matter what your dosha type is, what you will feel after a regular abhyanga is a feeling of well being. Your entre body feels light and strong – the texts describe this as the “vigour and energy of a lion in the forest”. Your skin flows with Tejas – one can only describe this as an inner light switched on in your body.

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The practice of an abhyanga followed by a Snana with herbs and grains is not supposed to be a once a year ritual. It is prescribed as a Dinacharya (daily ritual) that helps maintain good health. Even if it is not possible to follow an Abhyanga every single day, the texts prescribe 2 days every week to do an Abhyanga for Men and Women – these days are decided by their auspiciousness and the deities that govern these days. So Fridays, governed by Goddess Lakshmi are considered auspicious for an abhyanga and traditional Snana for Women. In addition Tuesdays are also considered auspicious for Women to take an Abhyanga and Snana.

Saturdays, the day governed by Lord Shani, is considered auspicious for Men to take an abhyanga and Snana. This is said to promote good health and longevity. In addition, Wednesdays are auspicious also for Men to do an abhyanga + Snana to promote the intellect.

In this way, the texts have ensured that we do an Abhyanga atleast twice a week to promote good health and well being.

If you have been looking at adopting good health giving routines , do start with the Abhyanga. Here are some Krya products / bath systems you could explore to make your Abhyanga special.

  1. Krya Abhyanga Oil with Vacha and Ashwagandha (for the bi-weekly abhyanga – dosha balancing, fatigue reducing oil)
  2. Krya Abhyanga Bath powders for Women & Men – classic, tradition-inspired Bath powder that is cleansing, toxin removing and refreshing on skin – perfect post Abhyanga
    1. Krya Abhyanga Bath powder for Women with Lotus Leaf & Lodhra
    2. Krya Abhyanga Bath powder for Men with Vetiver & Van Tulsi

 

 

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Krya Ayurveda series – The Abhyanga and skin moisture

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Reading Time: 6 minutes

The abhyanga is a central tenet of the Dinacharya prescribed in Ayurveda for the maintenance of good health. Apart from maintenance of good health, an abhyanga has also been used very successfully in the recuperation process of several wasting diseases like tuberculosis successfully in Ayurveda.

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Vayu / Air is predominantly governs the sense of touch which has its seat in skin. Therefore a regular abhyanga is the most beneficial Dinacharya for skin. Apart from keeping the skin in good health, Acharya Charaka, Acharya Sushruta and Acharya Vagbhatta are unanimous in their praise of the abhyanga for maintaining good health.

“Na Chabidhatabihatam  gaathrambhyadgasevinaha Vikaaram bhajatheythyayartham balakarmani va kvachitha

Suspashorpachithadagascha balavaan priyadarshanam Bhavathya bhayadga nithya twanrogalapajara eva cha”

“The body of one who does a regular abhyanga does not get affected by accidents or strenuous physical work. A daily abhyanga endows one with good skin, good physique and the body becomes strong, pleasant to look at, has good lustre and is not affected by old age”.

For most modern Indians, Diwali is the time they encounter the abhyanga / oil bath – tradition demands waking up at Brahma Muhurtham, and having an abhyanga with sesame oil followed by a grain based ubtan to cleanse skin. As we move towards Diwali, we thought it would be a perfect time to write more about the abhyanga and inspire you to make it much more frequent than once a year.

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So here is the start of the Krya Abhyanga series. With this series, which we will write upto Diwali, we will cover different aspects of the Abhyanga, how it is useful to skin and body health and also cover some of the practical aspects of how you can tailor an abhyanga to your body type.


 

“Dear Preethi,

As the cold weather has begun setting in here at Delhi, I am finding that my skin is feeling slightly dry, even when I bathe with a Krya body wash / ubtan. Do you think I should apply a cold pressed vegetable oil like coconut oil post bath? I really want to avoid using a synthetic moisturizer” –DP, Delhi

The Skin – a revered organ in Ayurveda

The Skin is treated with a great deal of respect and sensitivity in Ayurveda. The state of your complexion, moisture in your skin, its appearance and the kind of sensitivities it exhibits are all of great interest to a Vaidya. This is because the skin is the seat of 2 doshas – Pitta and Vata and their proper functioning gives the skin good health and vitality. This is also because along with “mutra” (urine and faeces, the skin is the 3rd largest excretory system in the body, producing “sveda” or sweat which is extremely important in removing toxins from the body and in regulating the body’s temperature and maintaining thermal equilibrium.

The Srota system in Ayurveda
The body also comprises of several srotas / channels according to Lord Atreya. These srotas help transport nourishing materials, or wastes all over the body. The srotas transport “prana” or breath, “udaka” water, “anna” or food, “rasa” (fluids), “rakta” (blood), “mamsa” (flesh, medas , asthi (bones), majja (marrow), sukra (semen), urine, faeces or sweat. Along with these dhatus, the srotas also transport vata, kapha and pitta dosha across the body. The srotas also carry the impulses of the sense organs to the brain and back to the sense organs, so the body responds with consciousness and intelligence to the external environment.

The skin is the seat of the Swedavaha srotas and these channels have their root in medas (fat) and Keshya (hair follicles). When these srotas are blocked they lose their functionality leading rise to several symptoms like a loss of perspiration, excessive sweating, coarseness of skin, excessive smoothness, burning sensation over the body, etc.

Keeping the Srotas clean – purpose of Abhyanga and Snana

One of the primary purpose of the daily abhyanga and bath is to keep the skin clean and ensure the minute srotas in the skin are clear, free from ama / toxins and can function properly.

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Therefore as a general rule, Ayurveda advises oil application / abhyanga before the bath. The abhyanga is done using warm oil and oil is applied vigorously and copiously all over the body, paying special attention to the seats of vayu which is the whole skin, joints, limbs, ears and soles of the feet.

A short bout of exercise is advised after the abhyanga – this could be a bout of yoga, a brisk walk or any form of exercise that is brisk, wakes up the body and helps production of sweat. As the sweat rises out of the skin, the pre-application of warm oil along with the heat generated by the exercise liquefies toxins and excess kapha and helps their passage out of the body through the sweat. The exercise is to be done only until ArdhaBala / half capacity – we stop when we reach about half our capacity to exercise, so that the body still has gas left in the tank for the rest of the day and does not go into a state of exhaustion.

After this exercise, the bath is a last step in cleaning the skin.

Cleaning the skin – the Ayurvedic snana

A grain based ubtan / body wash is suggested – the combination of fine grain and lentil power with the right set of herbs helps in micro exfoliation – this removes the excess oil from the skin and also helps the minute srotas open up so that the ama can be cleansed roughly form skin. The difference in this Ayurvedic bath is that we are treating the entire skin as a living organ and through our activities (abhyanga, exercise and bathing with a grain and herb based product) we are literally coaxing the toxins out of the skin and actively encouraging good elimination so the body is in a state of well being.

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In this scenario, where we are working to clean the srotas and leave them active and unblocked, the application of an external moisturiser post a bath goes against the very principle behind how Ayurveda recommends we care and look after our skin. Unless there are specific cases of infection of skin disease where there is s longer application of herbs required, Ayurveda does not advocate a post bath moisturiser.

In conclusion – to moisture or not to moisturise?

The pre-bath abhyanga is more than sufficient to ensure skin moisturisation. In fact skin moisturisation is one of the smallest benefits of an abhyanga. The improvement in vitality, improved digestion, clarity and focus that a good abhyanga gives you is so much more than just plain skin moisturisation.

So to conclude today’s post, if the onset of Winter is leaving your skin feeling dry, instead of reaching out for a chemical laden petrochemical moisturiser that will just block your srotas, try out an abhyanga instead. Even just 2 – 3 abhyangas a week can keep your skin extremely well moisturised and ready to take on the dry and cold weather. In addition, the abhyanga will ensure your digestion does not go sluggish and leave you feeling active and focused through the day.


Krya Products suggested for an abhyanga and a traditional snana:

  1. Skin Oils
    1. Krya Classic skin oil with carrot & Winter Cherry – a skin nourishing oil that can be used if your skin doesn’t go too dry and you would like to maintain its health –
    2. Krya Traditional baby massage oil with Bala & Ashwagandha – (my personal favourite) – a traditional abhyanga oil that should be used if your skin tends to go extremely dry and the cold weather gives you aches and pains in your lower back, neck and joints . This is a very good vata reducing oil
  2. Post abhyanga snana (wash-off) products – (range of grain and herb based ubtans for different skin needs) –
  3. Abhyanga systems – a combination pack of our classic skin oil and an ubtan
    1. Krya Women’s Abhyanga System – comes with the Classic Skin Oil and our ever popular Women’s ubtan –
    2. Krya Men’s abhyanga system – comes with the Classic Skin Oil and our Men’s ubtan
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Krya Ayurveda series: The effect of unbalanced vata on skin & hair

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Reading Time: 9 minutes

We had written yesterday about the pada abhyanga and how this dinacharya can go a long way in calming excess vata down. The proper balance of the doshas as per your individual constitution helps you maintain a sound mind and good health.

In our continuing education series on Ayurveda, you will find that we pay a lot of attention to the Vata dosha in your body. The proper functioning of the vata dosha hepls the functioning of all sense organs including the largest one in our body, the Sparsanendriya / our skin.

The fundamental quality of Rajas (cohesion) which ensure our hair grows deep rooted and strong is also governed by Vata dosha. So any discussion on skin and hair in ayurveda needs a deep rooted discussion on Vata dosha. We also focus on Vata dosha, as Krya focuses its work on city dwellers. City and city dwelling leans towards excess vata as the excitement, energy and constant stimulation of the city excites our vata dosha. It is therefore no surprise that more than 50% of dis-eases experienced by city dwellers has its roots in unbalanced vata.

We are happy to present today’s blog post by Dr.Anupama Santosh on how unbalanced vata affects skin and hair. We hope you find her post as insightful and practical as we did – we also hope that this post (and this series) inspires you to take a good look at your body and health and make the changes necessary to maintain its health and well being.


 

I often hear this at my practice at Shreshtha Ayurvedic Centre:  “Doctor,

  • I really take care of my hair. But still I have hair fall. I don’t understand this.
  • I eat lot of nuts and salads. But I still have dull skin and hair.
  • I exercise regularly and follow a great lifestyle; still I do not seem to feel healthy and energetic.
  • I oil my hair regularly, but I still have hair fall
  • I thought my hair fall is due to the water and I started using drinking water to wash my hair. But still my hair is thinning and becoming dry and rough
  • I make sure to moisturize my skin, but it still looks aged and lined.

WHY?”

 

My one answer to all these concerns is this: Hair and skin care is not skin-deep. It is much more than that. Your hair and skin is actually the mirror of your overall health.

For example, hair is considered as a byproduct/end product of the metabolism of the Asthi dhathu (the skeletal system). This means that only when the metabolism of various other systems of your body is working to their optimum, you can have good hair and skin. Only when there is abundant water in the river, the cascading waterfall looks beautiful, spectacular and full of vitality. To address a weak and poor waterfall, you have to address its root cause: the lack of water in the river.

Most often, a consultation for hair fall takes the longest time than any other, because the root of the issue is mostly deep within. Healthy hair does not grow on an unhealthy body. The health and luster of your hair and skin is an indicator of overall tissue health. The goal of great hair and skin can be achieved only when we start working from inward to outward. So, it is absolutely important to look deep in to other areas of life, which are seemingly not connected to hair and skin care. If we address these issues, some of which are a part of our constitution and some which are developed due to lifestyle unsuitable for us, we are automatically close to great hair and skin.

 

Is your state of health unbalanced, or in need of correction?

Answer a simple “yes” or no” to the following questions:

Say yes if this is the way you have felt consistently over a long period of time (I have always been/felt  like this)  OR if you have been feeling this way recently ( I never had/felt this before, but it is happening more often now)

Mind and moods:

  • I think and worry excessively
  • I think of the same thing over and over again
  • I feel a sense of nervousness, anxiety, panic and fear often
  • I am full of enthusiasm while starting something, which exhausts very quickly. Working in spurts and bursts than consistently
  • I am very active, sometimes restless, but I have low stamina
  • I am easily exhausted and irritable

Joints & tendons

  • My neck and other joints feel stiff, often
  • I often develop twitches and tics in the eyes and lips
  • I experience sudden spasms and pain in the muscles
  • My bones hurt and I can hear a creaking sound in the joints

 Skin:

  • My skin has darkened
  • My skin feels dry and rough patchy skin
  • My skin is dry or chapped
  • I am seeing skin wrinkles showing up prematurely
  • My skin is dry and lustreless
  • I have dark circles under the eyes and general darkening of complexion

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Sleep

  • My sleep is light and often interrupted

 Appetite and Digestion

  • I have constipation, gas, bloating, dry, hard stools
  • I have low body weight or varying body weight
  • My appetite and digestion is irregular/variable: I feel extremely hungry on one day and loss of appetite on another

 Nails and Hair

  • My nails are hard, brittle, rough and cracked
  • My hair is dry, rough and coarse and tangles easily
  • My eyes become dull very quickly

 Climate , environment and reaction to it:

  • I dislike the cold and the wind
  • I am unable to tolerate loud noises
  • I love the heat and feel ‘active’ after getting sun
  • React quickly to climatic change

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 Periods

  • My periods are irregular
  • I experience scanty blood flow in my periods

 Teeth and gums

  • I often have teeth and gum problems
  • My teeth are sensitive to cold

 Lifestye

  • Excessive use of gadgets for work or entertainment
  • Long commutes, late nights, eating out often

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If your answer is yes for most of the above, some of the following changes may help you towards better health and well being for your body and mind.

 

Prescribed dietary modifications :

  1. Food should be well cooked and warm
  2. Food should be consumed on time
  3. Cooked food is better than raw. Too much raw food like cold salads, should be avoided especially in the morning and evening

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  1. Choose fruits which are naturally sweet and sour like banana, avocado, melons, mangoes, coconut, oranges, plums, cherries, grapes, lemons, figs, dates etc.,
  2. Though fruits are good for you, a fruit-only diet is not suitable
  3. Natural sour foods like lemon and oranges are suitable, but avoid sour curd, vinegar, pickles and overly fermented food like old dosa/idli batter/ alcohol. Sweet wines in small quantities are better for you than beer or hard liquor.

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  1. Spices like fresh ginger, cumin, ajwain, cinnamon, clove, black pepper, garlic are useful. Avoid green chillies.
  2. Over eating or heavy foods will quickly lead to digestive problems
  3. Though salt is good for you, use it in cooked food moderately, do not consume fried salty foods

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  1. Vegetables like green beans, okra, radish, turnip, sweet potatoes, onion
  2. Whole grains like rice, wheat are suitable more than oats and millets. The grains should be well cooked with butter/ghee/oil.
  3. Bread and processed food like noodles, canned food and food items made with maida/all purpose flour are not suitable. Drying foods like biscuits, chips, khakra, popcorn, crackers should be avoided.

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  1. Dairy products are suitable, but not in cold form. Warm milk can be consumed with cinnamon, nutmeg or turmeric and unrefined sugar
  2. Moong dal is better than Tuvar dal, Rajma and Chana. When other dals are used, cook with turmeric, cumin, pepper, hing or coriander
  3. Almond is the best nut for you. Soak them overnight and remove the skin and eat in the morning. Pumpkin seeds are good too. All other nuts should be consumed moderately.

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  1. Fats and oils should be a part of your regular diet. Choose the oil which you are habituated to, as your family diet, than choosing new oils like olive oil. (They may be a healthy option in themselves, but your body may not be able to digest). Take cow’s ghee with rice, wheat and pulses. Moderate use of oil and ghee in all forms except deep fried is beneficial to you.
  2. Well cooked chicken, goat meat, fresh fish and eggs are suitable
  3. Frozen items like ice cream should be consumed rarely
  4. Choose nourishing drinks and warm drinks over aerated drinks
  5. Stimulant drinks like coffee, tea are not suitable and should be taken rarely and always with milk.

 

Lifestyle modifications

  1. Avoid multitasking, bring in more routine and consistency
  2. Spend time to organize your day at home and work
  3. Choose warmth over cold wherever and whenever possible
  4. Choose calmness and serene over loud and harsh. (Eg. While listening to music)

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  1. Room temperature is better than AC environment
  2. Develop a habit of applying oil on head and body at least twice a week, if not more. Seasame oil based oils are best suited for you.
  3. Learn relaxation techniques and meditate regularly even if it is for 5 mins.
  4. Remember to replenish your energy with at least 7-8 hours of sleep

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  1. Bring in discipline in food, exercise, sleep and work
  2. Smoking is best avoided
  3. Avoid frequent changes in work, routine, place and timings. Favour stability vs excitement.
  4. Avoid rigorous and excessive exercise. Choose light, slow but regular exercise like short strolls, yogic stretches, and learn breathing techniques

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  1. An afternoon nap of 10-15 minutes will help you avoid exhaustion
  2. Take deep breaths in between tasks and avoid rush
  3. Accept and begin to love the complexion, colour, texture, nature of your hair and skin. Take loving care of it rather than build anxiety trying to change it with curlers, straighteners, hair dryers, chemical peeling, and bleaching. Indulge rarely and replenish and nourish without fail. Healthy and nourished skin and hair will always glow.
  4. Avoid chemical shampoos, perpetual use of hair gels, hair dyes and hair sprays.

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  1. Make your house and work place soothing with gentle, soothing music, colours, art and fragrant smells
  2. Avoid excessive partying, late nights and if you indulge, compensate with soothing and relaxing activities
  3. A gentle pace with less hurry and more awareness is the recipe

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Last, but not the least, in spite of our knowledge of good and bad, we will indulge sometimes (this is called pragnaparadha in Ayurveda). Have a good time, but do not feel guilty and depressed. Quickly take remedial measures

As some of you may have guessed, we mostly discussed about Vata related symptoms, constitution, food and lifestyle today. Vata is the driving force of the other doshas and is mostly responsible for all aspects of health and disease. So, by balancing Vata through some small, but powerful changes, we have taken a big step towards a healthy mind and body. Great hair and skin is a given in a healthy body.

A note of caution: These are general suggestions to suit people with the above mentioned symptoms. Adopt these guidelines suitably after contemplation. You know your body better than anyone. If needed, take the help of your Ayurvedic doctor to customize the most suitable diet and lifestyle for you to enjoy a healthy mind and body. Your Vaidya may also suggest some herbs to balance the doshas. Be rest assured, that your hair and skin care regimen begins here.

 

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Dr.Anupama is an Ayurvedic consultant at Shreshtha Ayurvedic Center based in Bangalore. She believes that the Ayurvedic way of living is more relevant today than ever before. Her success in treating infertility cases has earned her immense love and gratitude from her patients. She is also a medical consultant for some Ayurvedic Pharmaceutical companies and advises them on product formulation and development of proprietary Ayurvedic medicines.

 

About Shreshtha Ayrvedic Centre, Bangalore

Shreshtha Ayurvedic Center, founded in 1997, is run by leading Ayurvedic consultants Dr.Santosh and Dr.Anupama. Though the center is located in Koramangala, Bangalore, patients from various parts of the country visit, owing to the genuine Ayurvedic treatment made available here. Apart from the consultation services, the center is equipped with a good pharmacy stocking Kottakkal medicines and organic lifestyle products. A Panchakarma center is also maintained at the center, which offers none of the spa kind of massages ( which is often confused for Panchakarma), but authentic, classical chikitsa with curative effect. To reach out to the growing demand of patients outside Bangalore, Shreshtha Ayurvedic Center started their Online consultation portal and also shipping facilty for prescribed medicines, which has had an overwhelming response. More details on www.ayursambhasha.com and Shreshtha’s facebook page.


This is a part of Krya’s continuing education series on Ayurveda for the benefit of Krya’s consumers and our blog readers. This is imperative as knowledge and belief in Ayurveda is fast falling and there is a rise in unscrupulous elements who are exploiting people’s inherent belief in Ayurveda with sub standard products / advice.
More articles in the Krya Ayurveda series:

  1. The Science behind hair oiling for healthy hair and basic health
  2. Making friends with Ayurveda – a guest post by Dr.Anupama Santosh, Shrestha Ayurveda
  3. The search for safety in the products we use on ourselves
  4. Ayurvedic Skin care in hot and humid India 
  5. The connection between your feet and your hair – pada abhyanga for health

 

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Ancient bathing rituals to suit Sharath Ritu (Autumn season)

romantic luscious bath
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Reading Time: 7 minutes

We discussed Mahatma Gandhi’s concept of Swadeshi yesterday on the Krya facebook page. We also discussed how this concept of Swadeshi is present in Ayurvedic texts where the acharyas tell us to use native herbs and grains both for eating and for cleansing and caring for skin and hair.

The Acharyas tell us that this practice is better for us, and native and indigenous herbs suit our body’s requirements much better.

Yet, if you take a quick poll of our neighbourhood, very few of us actually use a herb and grain based ubtan to cleanse skin or hair. Most of us instead use a cake of synthetic soap. In this post, we look at why it would be much better for us to choose a Swadeshi ubtan instead of this cake of soap.

Ancient bathing rituals:

Throughout history, ancient societies created elaborate rituals around the act of bathing . The plumbing lines in ancient cities were well thought through to ensure water was brought to where people lived.

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The Vedic texts, the “Grihya Sutras” contain information about Vedic domestic rites and rituals meant for householders like conception, birth, initiation (upanayanam), marriage, death, etc. These texts carry more than 79 references to bathing ritual and stipulate a schedule of 3 baths a day, along with ritualized washing.

 Ancient Greece reveled in bathing, both in private and in fresh water and seas. Not to know how to read or swim, in ancient Greece, were the marks of an Ignoramus. Athens had a swimming bath at the time or Plato. Warm springs were referred to by Poets as ideal for bathing.  An artificial warm bath was taken in a specially constructed wooden or marble vessel and the ancient Greece had foot baths, urns and specially constructed wash basins besides bath tubs.

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Greek mythology said that natural springs and certain pools were blessed by the gods and contained healing water. So healing bathing facilities were often established around these healing waters.

After bathing, especially in warm water, both sexes anointed themselves with oil, so that the skin was not left rough and harsh.

The Romans took the idea of bathing and cleansing rituals to the next level. A bather in a Roman bath induced progressive sweating by going to a progressively hotter room. The final “hot room”, called the caldarium, was heated by a brazier underneath a hollow room. The bather would then go to the cooler “tepidarium” for an oil massage, and scrape out dirt and dead cells with a blunt metal implement

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Where’s the soap? And why is no one bathing with it?

Did you notice the importance plaid in ancient cultures to massaging skin with oil, inducing sweating and elaborately cleaning out dead cells and toxins form the body? Please note that at the time of even the Ancient Grecian Bathing Ritual, the idea of a soap was well known.

Soap production is atleast 5000 years old. Babylonians are said the have mastered the art of soap making , and archeological evidence dates Babylonian soap making to atleast 2800 BC. The Babylonian soap was made from rendered animal fat boiled with alkaline ashes. This soap was used to clean wool and cotton fabric.

The Ebers papyrus, dated to 1500 BS in the egyptoan civilization talks about ancient Egyptian soap – made with animal, vegetable oils and alkaline substances like natron to produce a gooey soap.

The Celts called their soap “saipo” and made it from rendered animal fat and plant ashes.

The Ancient world used Soap exclusively to clean textiles and render it fit for dyeing. Soap was never used for personal cleansing as it was considered both harsh and ineffective in removing dirt and dead cells.

 

Ayurvedic method of cleansing skin – Mala removal

The Ayurvedic texts list out the large and small orifices in the body in great detail and also enumerate the mala (impurities) that accumulate as a part of normal wear and tear from the dhatus in these orifices. Moisture of the tongue, eyes, mouth, excretions of the eyes, ears tongue, teeth, axilla, genitals, pimples, greasiness of facial skin, sweda (sweat) , sebum secretions of kesha (hair) are all mala from the dhatus (tissues).

If this mala is not removed periodically, especially in seasons where the mala can increase, the body loses its health and appearance of well being.It is only by thorough cleaning these minute pores , and removing debris and dead cells that could clog these channels, can the body be thoroughly clean.

To thoroughly scrub skin clean and remove Mala from deep within, the texts advice the twin Abhyanga- Snana method – a through oil massage followed by a deep cleansing Snana using an ubtan – herb, grain and lentil based cleanser.

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The Abhyanga reduces aches and pains and helps balance all 3 doshas. It also stimulates circulation, increases warmth and acts as a conduit to move toxins to the surface of the skin.

The Snana then follows , with the herbs and lentils scrubbing and opening the minor pores of the skin, and “vacuuming” out the toxins and Malas which have been released through the Abhyanga.
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How a soap cleans skin:

Synthetic products have a strong artificial fragrance that lull you into feeling that you are much more cleaner than you actually are. A soap dissolves oil present on the skin. Its lyophilic end surrounds the oil molecule and moves it away from skin as you pour water on it. This is an excellent property if you are cleaning an inanimate object like your car, but not if you are cleaning living tissue like your skin.

If you use a soap on your skin, it will dissolve the sebum layer which is required to keep your skin moisturized and keep your barrier layer strong. This cleansing method is also quite superficial. A soap works on the outer layer of skin and dissolve oil and remove surface level sweat and dirt using a typical detergent action. But the sweat that emanates from the body in a few hours time continues to smell stale and unclean.

How an Ayurvedic bodywash powder / ubtan cleans skin

A well researched and well made Ayurvedic bodywash / ubtan is on the other hand, a real deep cleanser and a treat for skin. It is very subtle in its action – it combines exfoliant, temperature altering, scrubbing, micro polishing and surfactant benefits all into one.

This is in direct contrast to a synthetic soap – the Ayurvedic bodywash / ubtan works by actually opening up and removing mala from the minutest of pores in your skin – so the instant difference after a bath is a feeling of lightness and refreshment. If you smell yourself a few hours later, your skin will not stink, even if you have been sweating profusely.

What we put into the Krya herb based bodywashes and ubtans for skin

We have researched, designed and formulated Krya’s range of ayurvedic bodywashes and ubtans based on the Classical Indian Medicine texts and have used specific herbs and grains for different kinds of skin.

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The grains and lentils and herbs Krya uses are mildly acidic. They work by a process of adsorption and by forming a homogenous mixture with the excess oil, dead cells and dirt on your skin. The grains and lentils also contain small amounts of oil and other nutrients which coat your skin as you rub the mixture.

Because the Krya bodywashes and ubtans are mildly acidic, aromatic and contain properties that keep down the growth of invasive fungi and bacteria, your skin is left intact after washing. As your skin’s acid mantle is left intact and its pH level is not altered, your skin is able to defend better against invasive micro organisms.

Ayurvedic cleansing for Sharad Rtu (Autumn season)

At Krya, our formulations change as per the season to suit skin through the year. Ayurveda defines 6 seasons and accurately predicts the effect of climate and atmospheric changes on skin and the body.

The season we are currently experiencing is called the Sharad Rtu (autumn season) which extends upto mid November. The Ashtanga Hridyam describes this season as being very high in Pitta which accumulates in the previous season of Varsha Ritu (rainy season). In practice, this period is often described as the Little Summer in India as we face hot and humid conditions which are similar to but milder than peak Summer.

Similar precautions must be taken as we do in summer. Foods must be chosen to be slightly bitter and astringent to cope with heat. The foods must be light and easily digestible. Exposure to strong sunlight, eating excessive amounts of curd, etc which are Summer season precautions must be taken.

In this season, the Krya Bodywashes and Ubtans are formulated with bitter and pitta balancing to help reduce agni buildup., help remove excessive oiliness and toxins from skin, and also cool and soothe skin leaving it feeling pleasant and deodorised.

Specifically due to the addition of natural deodorizing herbs and cleansing herbs like Nutgrass, Shikakai, Katsura and Cassia auriculata, the Krya bodywashes and ubtans help remove sweat and odour much more efficiently and you will not feel as malodorous / sweaty as you would after using a soap .

So in this Season, do try a proper, swadeshi bath with a Krya ubtan / bodywash.

Krya’s post Abhyanga Ubtans for a thorough Snana can be explored here.

 

 

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