Slow Food. Slow Fashion. Slow Beauty? The ancient Indian science of Ayurveda teaches that practicing a slow beauty approach is the best path to a more beautiful you.
The most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen is Bollywood actress Karenna Kapoor. I was at the airport ticket counter in Mumbai and turned to my left to see a face so so symmetrical and finely boned that her nose, lips and eyes appeared to hover in place above her flawless skin’s surface. Like looking at the Taj Mahal at sunrise—your eyes can’t quite take it in all at once—she was surreally beautiful.
But while all Bollywood actresses will undoubtedly be familiar with the following beauty practices, this isn’t about a handful of gorgeous film actresses singing and dancing on a soundstage in the western Mumbai suburb of Goregaon. Across the country, you will see women everywhere with soft skin, thick hair and sparkling eyes thanks to the culture’s widespread practice of the healing tradition of Ayurveda. Using a range of holistic treatments including yoga, massage and plant medicines, the ancient system encourages health and restores radiance. Here are 5 essential ayurvedic practices that go beyond cosmetics and surface treatments and promote the kind of beauty that comes from having a healthy and relaxed body.
1. Hair Oiling. Ever wondered why Indian women have such thick, glossy locks? It starts with a warm oil massage of the scalp. Before you wash your hair, warm some coconut oil and gently massage it into your scalp. The massaging motion helps to increase circulation and speed the turnover of dead skin cells, and the oils condition the hair for a healthy shine.
2. Abhyanga. The practice of abhyanga—a daily full body self-massage with oil—is one of the best anti-aging strategies there is. Not only are you moisturizing your skin, but also the technique is said to detoxify and tone your body on a deep cellular level.
3. Eye Palming. Our eyes were not meant to stare at computer screens all day. If yours are red and fatigued, Ayurvedic science has a simple solution that is surprisingly effective—eye palming. Take your palms and rub them together for 10 seconds until the friction creates a mild heat. Then place your palms over each eye and gently rest them there. Repeat 2-3 times for instant relief.
4. Neti Pot. You may have heard of using a neti pot to clear stuffed up sinuses and ease allergies, but according to Ayurvedic wisdom, daily cleansing of the upper respiratory tract using a neti pot of warm salt water can help achieve so much more. A clear, relaxed sense of breathing that results from daily use is said to also diminish under eye circles, eliminate gray hair and ease wrinkling of the skin.
5. Dosha Specific Aromatherapy. Ayurveda teaches that each human possesses a unique combination of the doshas: three subtle energies, known as Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. Ill health occurs when any of these doshas is out of balance. Once you determine which dosha is most prominent for you, essential oils can be used to bring these forces into harmony to promote physical, emotional and spiritual growth.
Interested in learning more? Absolute Beauty: Radiant Skin and Inner Harmony Through the Ancient Secrets of Ayurveda by Pratima Raichur is a great resource full of in-depth information (that inspired this post) about the doshas, how to perform the beauty practices, and ayurvedic philosophy.
Top Image: Kareena Kapoor