The Flowing Miracle of Ayurveda Oils
You are at the office; its 4 pm, and it seems your work isn't going to end until late tonight. You're task is to complete five hours of work in one hour; you're stressed and need to find an escape valve. Going out for a walk to clear your mind is out of the question. What do you do? Pick up a vile of your favorite Ayurvedic dosha aromatherapy oil and dab a few drops on your wrists, inhale deeply, and you are instantly transformed...aaahhh. Ok, this is not exactly a one-hour Ayurvedic spa treatment, but it breaks the tension and takes the mind to a better place, if even for a few minutes, and no one was the wiser.
Here's another scenario. Your shoulder aches, maybe it is arthritis or bursitis, or just too much weight-lifting. You don't want to take pain killers or oils with NSAID that may cause side effects. You pick up a bottle of an Ayurvedic herbal oil, a 5,000 year-old formula developed in India, specifically blended to remove pain for several hours at a time, and without emitting any strong odors. You rub a few drops of this Ayurvedic oil into the pain and within a few minutes, the pain resolves.
If you haven't yet tried any of the vast Ayurveda panoply of herbal oils, it may be difficult to believe that mind and body healing can occur in such an instantaneous manner from Ayurvedic medicated oils and aromatherapy oils. In fact, there is a vast body of scientific research showing how aromatherapy oils assist the healing process, such as reducing hopelessness in a patient with colon cancer.1; how certain oils reduce the need for opiates and NSAID drugs in pain conditions.2; and how the use of aromatherapy massage reduces work stress and anxiety3.
Simply put, Ayurvedic oils deliver on these bold claims. Whether you choose oils for aromatherapy, for pain, cleansing, or even Ayurveda esthetique (ie, beauty/skin care), Ayurveda oil therapies nurture the mind and body because they are specifically targeted for an individual's personal needs by offering specific oils for a person's specific constitution or dosha.
Let's look at the uses of Ayurvedic oils. Broadly speaking, there are oils that address externally-caused issues like sprains, broken bones, and dry skin; and oils that address physical imbalances such as congestion, headache, ear and eye disorders, and lower back pain; and mental imbalances such as stress, worry, anger, lethargy, and paralysis. The third general category of Ayurvedic oils address beauty care, such as dandruff, balding, premature graying, acne, and other skin care issues.
1. Ayurveda Aromatherapy Oils
Ayurveda offers therapies that appeal to each of the five senses, and oils compliment two of those senses – smell and touch (when oils are massaged into the body). Oils are at once soothing and healing. For example, in the winter season, when children bring home flu and virus bugs, aromas may be used to purify the air to prevent germs from spreading, and may be placed in humidifiers to reach the lungs to clear any germs or, if the child is already sick, they can clear out the mucus. At the same time, the pleasantness of the aromas bring a sense of joy and peace. The following chart gives an example of how Ayurvedic oils are used and personally applied to individual constitutions (doshas).
||air purifier (heals colds, virus, fever)
||enhances intuition and devotion
||Vayu and Kapha
||opens lungs, removes phlegm
||negative thoughts (eg, depression)
||Vayu and Kapha
||cleanses the blood, liver, and lymph; infections
||jealousy, anger, envy, hate
||eye tonic, female reproductive tonic
||enhances love and compassion
||heart/lung tonic, fevers
||anger, irritability, calms
||All doshas (Kapha in moderation)
Ayurveda also views oils from a health-issue standpoint. Below are a list of common situations, and a few oils that help each condition:
- Colds and flu: camphor, basil, eucalyptus, frankincense
- Anger: rose, gardenia, lotus
- Anxiety: lavender, sandalwood, lotus
- Depression: jasmine, ylang ylang, patchouli
- Aches & Pains: myrrh, cinnamon, mahanarayan oil (not an aroma oil)
- Headaches: sandalwood, lavender, lily
- Insect repellant/bites: eucalyptus, cedar, lemon
2. Ayurvedic Body Oil Massage Therapies
These therapies generally employ massage (abhyanga), nurturing the sense of touch, whereas aromatherapy also enriches the sense of smell in its healing method. Oil (herbs cooked in the oils) applied to the body are used for are severe physical issues such as arthritis, gout, diabetes, frozen shoulder, low immunity, and neurological disorders like paralysis, MS, and Parkinson's. These therapies also provide the benefit of enhancing skin luster, slowing of the aging process including wrinkles, and premature graying and balding. Most of these oil-massage therapies come from the Ayurvedic traditions originating in the area of India known as Kerala. Many of these therapies require a person to visit a day spa or stay at an Ayurveda spa, resort, or hotel. To get the most authentic spa experience for the least amount of money, you’ll want to go to India. After the plane fare, the prices for local travel and spa are considerably less than in North America and Europe.
Since 2005, Ayurvedic spas have become prevalent throughout all major cities in India, often found in hotels, from the most luxurious, to the inexpensive, safe, and clean YMCAs. There are also special Ayurveda spas and resorts dedicated solely to the full Ayurveda experience, including serving meals that suit your Ayurveda diet, meditation, yoga, and philosophical discussions. In some Ayurveda resorts, even the lodgings are designed with Vedic healing properties (Vastu Shastra - Indian Feng Shui). You can stay in a straw or pyramid hut, overlooking breathtaking vistas – a healing experience in itself. There are additional cultural accouterments to experience such as local folk music and dance, nature sanctuary trips, and houseboat trips along beautiful rivers.
Alternatively, you can find Ayurveda spas in the most sacred regions of India, such as in the Himalayas, overlooking the holy Ganga river. There you are also offered Ayurveda herb walks in the mountains where the ancient seers walked and meditated. The energy there is quite profound, and the views of nature are awe-inspiring, making any trip to an Ayurvedic spa resort in India a full sensory-healing, cultural, nature-laden, and mystical experience of a lifetime. You can choose a package deal through Indian tourism, check the sites on the internet yourself, or ask for word of mouth referrals, the latter is advised.
If you wish to stay at home, in the US or Europe, Ayurvedic spas are cropping up all over. There are low-, moderate-, and high-end day spas offering a smattering of Western and Ayurveda spa treatments. Depending on the training of the practitioners and the spa’s focus, you will find varying degrees of authentic Ayurveda spa oil therapies.
Here is a short list of the more profound and enjoyable Kerala Ayurveda Spa therapies and some of their benefits. There are dozens of Ayurveda oil therapies, but these three are body-mind-spirit transforming experiences.
A) Kaya Seka (Pizhichil):
Method: Four practitioners (two for the upper torso, two for the lower body) pour warm medicated Ayurvedic herbal oil blends onto the body parts and massage the oil into the skin, synchronized in stroke and pressure. A truly unique experience.
Benefits: Promotes luster of the complexion, boosts immunity, heals neurological, muscular, and degenerative disorders.
B) Pinda Sweda (Navarakizhi)
Method: Again, four practitioners work on one person at a time. Here special cloth sacks filled with medicated herbs and grains are dipped in medicated Ayurveda oils and rubbed on the body in a synchronized manner.
Benefits: This is considered the most important of the Kerala Ayurveda spa therapies. Pinda sweda promotes suppleness, removing join stiffness and swelling, addresses all Vayu (Vata) dosha disorders, improves blood circulation, sleep, addresses neuro-muscular conditions like facial paralysis, and MS. It also offers anti-aging or age reversal longevity benefits, helps with gout, high blood pressure, diabetes, skin disorders, and balding/gray hair issues.
C) Shiro Dhara
This is the most widely known and offered Ayurveda oil spa therapy in the west, because it is easiest of the three to offer; it requires only one practitioner. However, it is the most profound and heavenly experience; rising at the end of a one-hour session, clients look and report feeling 20 years younger. It is a ‘1-hour vacation’ without the stress of booking travel and hotel accommodations.
Method: Clients lay on a massage or specially designed Ayurvedic table. Warm medicated oil flows from above onto the client's forehead for 45 minutes to an hour.
Benefits: Ayurveda says the area between the eyebrows (ajna chakra) is where all the nerves in the body meet, so the entire nervous system is massaged as the oil caresses this area. As the nervous system relaxes, so does the immune system, and deep-seated stresses, even those from childhood, are released. People report going into deep meditation, feeling inner alertness (while their body slept and snored), and profound rest. At the end of the session, client's eyes shine, their cheeks are radiant, and generally report they operate in a 'stress-free zone' for a week or more after the session.
3. Ayurveda Beauty/Skin Care Oils
There is a saying, 'you cannot have your cake and eat it too'; but Ayurvedic beauty care disproves this maxim. Ayurveda says that the real cause of beauty is a spiritually-oriented life outlook, ethical behavior, eating healthy foods, following natural lifestyles, and a purpose and love of life and people. When such a life is lived, automatically complexion is naturally radiant. Additionally, Ayurveda offers additional natural beauty care measures to enhance the beauty from the outside in.
Ayurvedic oils applied to the skin, (eg, cleansing bars), promotes skin and hair beauty, as well as nourishes the internal body tissues and organs, thus enhancing and nurturing the whole body. Further, depending on the aroma oils used, they can also promote mental peace, clarity, compassion, and joy. Ayurveda beauty care is an entire education in itself; there are Ayurveda beauty care schools in India and in the West, and more Western beauticians are enrolling in Ayurvedic beauty care training. As with the other Ayurveda oil therapies, each person's personal constitution (dosha) is considered when choosing beauty care oils. Additionally, oils are chosen according to the current season. There are other beauty care treatments involving herb powders may be applied to the face as a paste, and to the hair to prevent premature graying and balding.
Here is an example of three common beauty care issues and herb oils that address each situation. These therapies also require a person eat according to their Ayurvedic constitution diet and live their dosha lifestyle (ie, living in tune with nature). As with all Ayurveda therapies, there is no quick fix without sincerely aiming to harmonize all areas of one's life with nature and spirit.
- Dandruff: neem, durba oils
- Balding/premature graying: bhringaraj, amla, tulsi (holy basil) oils
- Acne: sandalwood, manjishta, turmeric cream
So the next time you know you’re going to have to work late, plan ahead, make an appointment at an Ayurveda day spa and take a ‘1-hour vacation’, and experience a most heavenly miracle, and go with the ‘flow’.
Ayurveda & Aromatherapy
Ayurveda Holistic Community - http://ayurvedahc.com: Free educational website offering articles from Ayurvedic doctors from India.
Swami Narayan Tirtha Math - http://swaminarayantirtha.org: ashram website discussing spirituality, peace, and living your highest spiritual dreams.
International Vedic Institute - http://vedicschool.com: Online certification courses in Ayurveda, Spirituality, Vastu, & Jyotish Astrology.
International Spiritual Holistic Thinking Ayurveda Assn (ISHTAA) - http://ishtaa.org/: a free site for people interested in promoting and preserving spiritual ayurveda.
Sat Yuga Press - http://satyuga.com: Publishing books on Ayurveda and universal spirituality, promoting the vision of World Peace & Paradise.