Once upon a time, a long time ago, in a place far, far away... a brilliant Yoga Therapist by the name of Mukunda Stiles offered the world this simple and effective template for joint movement. I try to share this series with all of my students on a regular basis, because I believe in the concept of use it or lose it. Our bodies are designed to move. And to achieve optimal results, we need to move our bodies often, with care, in a healthy range of motion, to optimize function.
Do you dry brush? Do you know what it is? It's become a lot more popular in the last 10 years or so... probably along the same lines as the Neti pot and tongue scraping, Dry Brushing is an Ayurvedic practice that belongs in the maintenance category of our healthy habits. It's literally the practice of brushing your whole body with a natural, soft-bristled brush.
I've been dry brushing my skin since 2006. I had never heard of it before then, but for many years after learning the technique, I dry brushed daily. It doesn't take long. It doesn't cost much. It has numerous health benefits, that include lymphatic drainage; improved skin health & appearance; stress reduction; and increased energy levels.
Around this time of year, when my skin starts to look slightly more reptilian... I'm reminded to get my brush & oil out and give my skin some TLC.
As part of your morning rituals, before you hop into the shower, take your natural, soft-bristled dry brush and start brushing your skin in small, vigorous circles. Start at your feet and work your way up your whole leg, towards your hips. Don't forget your glutes! Big circles around the glutes and into your low back... then big, clock-wise circles around your belly. Smaller, gentler circles around your collar-bones and upper chest... then from your hands, along your forearms and upper arms, to your shoulders. You can do the back of your neck, from the base of your skull, downwards. (If your brush has a long handle, you can more easily brush your back... otherwise, you've gotta have pretty open shoulders to reach behind your back! Thank goodness for yoga!)
The goal is to move towards the heart... or armpit area... thus increasing the movement and drainage of the close circuit lymphatic system.
I like to make circles around the joints (ankles, knees, hips, wrists, elbows, shoulders) and longer, more sweeping strokes up & down the longer bones (legs, thighs, arms). Gentle circles where the skin is more sensitive and more vigorous movement as you gradually become accustomed to the technique.
Now... as my teacher explained to me when I was first learning how to dry brush... you don't need to brush any areas of your body that would naturally have hair on it... or any area that is naturally more sensitive. Do not brush skin that is cut, bruised or burnt.
The brushing should take no more than a few minutes. After which time, you can either hop right into your shower... OR... follow up with a generous amount of oil all over your skin. I highly recommend sesame seed oil or sweet almond oil... but you might have a preference for a different oil, like coconut or jojoba oil. (Heads up, if you're using sesame seed oil... it's not the cooking oil, it's the massage oil. Learned that the hard way!)
If you do choose to oil your skin, start at your feet and work your way up, following the same pattern used to brush your skin. Ideally, once you've applied the oil, you give yourself 10 - 20 minutes of rest, to let the oil sink into the skin. This might be a good time for you to meditate. Or catch up on emails... or have a big glass of water while you wait.
When you're ready to hop into the shower, feel free to lather your hair with shampoo and wash what needs washing with soap... but instead of soaping up your whole body, only soap the hairy bits, as my teacher told me. I always think, unless my arms and legs are covered in mud, why should I dehydrate them with soap after I've hydrated them with oil?
When it's time to get out of the shower and towel off, gently pat your skin dry. Notice how soft and smooth it feels. You don't have to do this every day... start with once or twice a week and see how you do.
We all know there's more to Yoga than the poses. But how much more? And what more? And where do we get it? Do we really need more? Why?