The winter season is an excellent time of year for concentrated rest and rejuvenation. The cold means cozy nights in front of a fire and fluffy sweaters. We typically spend more time inside during the winter, which can be a good thing to support longer Yoga asana practices, slower mornings with abhyanga and soups and stews.
However, the winter season has less sunlight and more cold, dry air that can take a toll on the skin! Moisture leaves our skin every minute of the day. Winter brings with it the qualities of Vata: movement, cold, light and dry. So our skin and the rest of our body also takes on those qualities. Many of us notice a tendency for constipation, anxiety and insomnia during the winter. Our skin can become dry, rough, itchy and cracked (if we don't take of it with Ayurveda).
Winter is the time of the year to take special care of the skin, the largest and most sensitive organ. The skin gets the most exposure to the harshness of this season. Only applying lotion will not help. We also need to stay healthy, warm and moisturized on the inside.
As an Ayurvedic practitioner, when I work with my clients I help them keep Vata Dosha in balance and while at the same time, avoid aggravating Kapha Dosha. Kapha shares many of its features in a subtle way with Vata, so Kapha has a tendency to get be in excess in the winter time. We need to have a routine keeping both Doshas in mind, so that our skin glows with health and warmth.
Sneha is a Sanskrit word that means both “love” and “oil." Massaging your body with warm Ayurvedic oil is an expression of love that brings immense benefits as it balances Vata Dosha. Most commonly known as abhyanga, self-massage with warmed herbal oil is a calming practice that relaxes the mind, detoxes the skin and builds strength, lubrication and blood circulation to skin.
For optimum results, it's best to routinely massage yourself every day for 30 - 45 minutes, or longer if you have the time. Even practicing abhyanga two to three times a week is beneficial. When you take a hot shower after the massage, avoid using a lot of soap - it will wash off all of the oil and it's better to leave on a thin layer of it to continue moisturizing the skin throughout the day.
There are many different types of oil that are most beneficial depending on the recipient's state of balance or imbalance. Just live right now on our shop, we have 56 different oils to choose from! So how do you choose? Luckily, one of our affiliated Ayurvedic practitioners, Vandana Baranwal, put together a quick guide so you can choose an oil on your own.
- If your predominant Dosha is Vata, a warm oil massage in winter with Kshirabala Oil is an effective option. Kshirabala Oil contains Bala, milk and pure sesame oil. It is rich in Sattva Guna, the quality of compassion, happiness and harmony. Kshirabala is also strengthening for the body, as well as Vata-balancing.
- If your predominant Dosha is Pitta, Chandanadi Oil is the best choice. Chandanadi Oil has a base of sesame oil and has been infused with more than 20 different medicinal herbs. It is rich with the essence of sandal, lotus, licorice, Nalada, Indian Gooseberry and Sariva. Chandanadi Oil softens, detoxifies and soothes the skin. It helps relieve burning and itchy sensations.
- If your dominant Dosha is Kapha, there are several oils that could be equally beneficial: Triphaladi Oil, Prasarani Oil and Ayyappala Coconut Skin Oil. Triphaladi Oil is particularly calming for the nerves and is nourishing and rejuvenating.
- If you are prone to colds and congestion, chest and forehead massages with warmed Karpuradi Oil offers quick relief for those symptoms. It improves blood circulation and is warming for the body.
- To further balance Vata and relieve dandruff and prevent hair loss, a gentle scalp massage with Brahmi Oil, Nilibhringadi Oil or Triphaladi Oil is a powerful option. While massaging the head, it's especially beneficial to gently massage around and inside the ears.
- If you are experiencing insomnia and restlessness at night, a gentle foot massage just before bed with warm Prasarini or Murivenna Oil is relaxing and rejuvenating. It takes away the anxiety of the day and helps induce deep sleep. Wear a designated pair of oil socks over your feet to protect your sheets from the oil.
Choosing the right oil and daily routines for your body to protect the skin from the cold and dryness of the winter season is a great way to love and care for yourself, both mentally and physically.
The purpose of this article is to provide information about Ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have serious acute or chronic health problems, please consult a trained health professional or physician. If you are seeking the health advice of a certified Ayurvedic practitioner or doctor, please call us at (800) 215 – 9934 or email us. We will provide you with the contact information of our affiliated Ayurvedic professionals. Check with your physician before taking herbs or using essential oils when pregnant or nursing.