Monday, June 4, 2012

Give Your Skin the Brush Off

Several Christmases ago a friend gave me a “dry skin brushing” kit, complete with a long-handled natural bristle brush, instructions for use downloaded from the web, and a long list of benefits. While I am often an early adopter of such things, I wasn’t sure about adding another “step” to my morning routine.  

But now I’m singing the praises of this simple skin cleansing technique. Dry brushing feels great, improves blood flow helping to clear the lymphatic system, and leaves you with glowing skin. It also helps slough off sluggishness in the mind—bringing a sense of calm and well being.   

What is dry brushing?

It’s essentially a detox therapy for the skin, the body’s largest organ, which eliminates a pound of waste daily (yikes). This explains why it’s sometimes called the “3rd kidney.” As a sense organ, the skin relates to the air element and is exposed to many external forces and environmental toxins. Because the skin is permeable, both taking in and releasing, it is closely connected to the immune system.

Your skin, then, is often the first to show signs of any imbalance or disruption in the body, manifesting as rashes/irritation and itching, dryness, acne, body odor, eruptions, sores that don’t heal, etc. Skin is the last to receive nutrients, so it’s the first to show signs of “dis-ease.” Attending to the skin’s subtle changes is essential to health—and beauty.  

In Ayurveda, this type of therapy is called garshana.  Rather than a dry brush, raw silk gloves are used which are said to have properties that energetically charge the lymphatic system and increase prana, the vital energy or life force. Garshana is typically followed by abhyanga as the exfoliated skin is prepped to drink in the warm, natural oils. Abhyanga is simply a self-massage for the entire body. A practice I heartily recommend.

A few of the many benefits:
  • Removes dead skin cells. This shedding is part of the detoxification process, so it’s vital for cell renewal, improving overall health and skin texture.
  • Boosts immune function. Waking up the lymphatic system, the body’s means for drainage, and the lymph ducts located all over the body during dry brushing helps to support and strengthen the body’s immune system.
  • Lessens the appearance of cellulite. Yes, it’s apparently true (individual results may vary). Some experts believe cellulite is a combination of fat, water, and toxins stored in the skin’s tissue. Dry brushing helps break up these fatty deposits and tighten the skin.
  • Provides emotional nourishment. It just feels good. Give yourself the gift of paying attention in this way. You’ll feel grounded, and cared for.
Tips to get started:
  • Use a soft, natural bristle brush with a long handle for reaching hard-to-reach places (some have a detachable handle). I also use a small loofah for more vigorous scrubbing on feet, elbows, and other places that can take a harsher hand. You may also want to try a silk glove.
  • Brush preferably in the morning before a shower or bath to wash off the impurities that result from brushing. Consider a cool shower for a real wake up.
  • Brush in the direction of the heart to support enhanced function of the lymphatic system, which filters and maintains the body fluid balance and returns fluids to the heart (see guide below).
  • Start at the soles of the feet, move up the legs, then hands and arms brushing in a circular motion. Back and abdomen last. Brush the entire body using long sweeping strokes. As different areas of the body can be sensitive, adjust the amount of pressure accordingly.
  • For those interested in play-by-play directions for use, try these two online sources: Healing Lifestyles or Natural Health Techniques.

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