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The Beauty Benefits of Ayurvedic Bodywork


These restorative treatments have been used for centuries to heal the body and ease the mind—but they can improve your appearance, too
Written by 
Meghan Rabbitt
Canyon Ranch Reviewer: 

Spa treatments—say, a facial or a pedicure—can certainly help you maintain a healthy look. But certain treatments take their benefits a step further, restoring more than just what’s on the outside. Ayurvedic bodywork is a classic example.

In Ayurveda—a holistic approach to health based on the belief that wellness and beauty depend on finding a balance between mind, body and spirit—bodywork treatments combine herbology with massage, steam therapy and other modalities to engage your senses, promote a relaxed, peaceful state and improve how you look and feel overall. Practitioners use carefully selected creams, pastes and oils that combine various herbs, like holy basil and turmeric, to address numerous issues, from dull skin to dry scalp (and some that go beyond beauty, like sinus or joint pain) while calming your thoughts and allowing you to connect internally.

Choose from these seven popular Ayurvedic bodywork treatments for a deeper experience that fulfills your beauty needs and more.
 

For a radiant complexion and healthy hair and scalp, try…

  • Bindi-Shirodhara

    This relaxing, healing treatment includes a powerful combination of herbs and oils that cleanses, detoxifies and nourishes the skin. It begins with an application of a warm exfoliating herbal mask, followed by a light, brisk facial massage with herb-infused oils selected for your dosha (the Ayurvedic term for your body type). After this, your practitioner pours warm oil in a gentle, steady stream over your “third-eye point,” located in the middle of your forehead; according to Ayurveda, this synchronizes brain waves, creating a calming effect that can last for days. Bindi-Shirodhara concludes with a light massage of the scalp and face, which enhances blood circulation, helping hair grow longer and healthier. This soothing rub is also a powerful way to boost the immune system and reduce stress.

 

For clearer skin, try…

  • Abhyanga-Garshana

    At the start of this treatment, your practitioner dry-brushes your skin using a silk glove, which increases circulation, as well as exfoliates and cleanses your skin. This preps your skin for the following herbal oil application, which deeply nourishes the skin, removes impurities and stimulates both arterial and lymphatic circulation. The combination of these two steps enhances the ability of nutrients to reach starved cells, promoting healthier, blemish-free skin.
     
  • Shiro-Abhyanga-Nasya

    While this is mostly known as an Ayurvedic sinus treatment that helps to clear head impurities and congestion, Shiro-Abhyanga-Nasya also promotes a clearer complexion. It involves the application of oil to the head, neck and shoulders, followed by deep inhalation of aromatic steam, which opens the sinuses and stimulates the proper flow of air and energy. Warm towels are then placed on your face, opening your pores and allowing them to breathe while the heat helps eliminate bacteria. Herbalized nose drops (nasya) are also used to lubricate your nasal passages.

 

For smoother-looking skin, try…

  • Swedana

    Also referred to as Ayurvedic steam therapy, Swedana nourishes the skin and helps remove impurities from your body by stimulating lymphatic circulation and drainage. At the start of this treatment, your practitioner applies a dosha-specific herbal oil all over your body (except your face). After the oil has been applied, a light tent is placed over your body while you lay on a massage table. Steam infused with herbal oils start to flow into the tent. To prevent overheating, your practitioner places cool cloths on your chest, lower abdomen and forehead. This helps keep your vital organs cool while the rest of your body sweats. At the end of the treatment, you’ll be given some time to rest while your body returns to a normal temperature.
     
  • Udvartina

    This deeply penetrating treatment is particularly effective in prompting lymphatic drainage, which helps rid the body of impurities. Your practitioner scrubs an herbal paste all over your body, which exfoliates and thoroughly cleanses the skin, releasing stagnant lymphatic toxins. Some of the paste will absorb into your skin, and your practitioner will use a hot towel to wipe off any excess, but you’ll want to shower when you get home for a full rinse. As a result, puffiness disappears and, in some cases, the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and cellulite decreases. Keep in mind that the herbal paste is made using a gluten-based flour, so let your practitioner know if you have a gluten allergy before your appointment.

 

To look and feel relaxed, try…

  • Pindasveda

    Known as one of the most rejuvenating Ayurvedic body treatments, Pindasveda (Rice Pudding Massage) involves your practitioner rubbing herb-infused oil into your skin with Navara—a variety of rice that’s cooked with milk to form a pudding that gets shaped into balls that are used to massage your skin. This treatment is particularly useful if you suffer from sore joints and tight muscles, helping you not only loosen up physically but also appear calm, content and refreshed as well.
     
  • Marma Balancing

    In Ayurveda, marma points are similar to acupressure points: They are areas of vital energy that, when blocked, prevent you from feeling your best. Marma Balancing is a full-body treatment that focuses on opening the marma points to balance energy flow in your muscles, joints, organs and mind. As you calm your thoughts and your body, including the muscles in your face and neck, tension is released, helping you feel and look more relaxed. Your practitioner stimulates your marma points through massage using circular motions and herbal oils specific to your dosha.
About the author 
Meghan Rabbitt is an editor and writer whose work has been published in Women’s Health, Fitness, Shape, Runner’s World, Prevention, Parents and Weight Watchers.