This last Saturday, June 11 2016, was a scorching hot pre-summer day here in Minnesota, hitting 90 degrees Fahrenheit with a heat index of over 100 for the second day in a row. Ninety degree days are not unheard of in Minnesota, and common towards the end of July or beginning of August, though this is a huge adjustment for our systems as just a few weeks ago we were still hitting in the lows the 30’s and 40’s overnight, and averaging temperatures in the mid-60’s for daytime.
When Pitta is out-of-balance
When Pitta is in-balance
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So, Saturday morning knowing that the day was going to be a blistering hot day, and not having central air in our home, it gave me the opportunity to think of some of my Ayurveda training and knowledge, attempting to convert it to wisdom while trying ways to help reduce the effects of heat in my own mind and body naturally. One of these things is utilizing Coconut Abhyanga, or self-oil massage. Coconut is very cooling in Ayurveda (they actually refer to it as a refrigerant), and is great in situations of High Pitta (fire element mostly). It also helps to nourish and soften the skin, which was important that day as I would be spending a good amount of time outside under the hot sun, inflammatory skin issues (sunburn is a type of inflammation), eczema, and other pitta related issues. Additionally, it helps to firm up the skin, and after a little bit doesn’t leave that oily feeling residue on the skin.
To do an Abhyanga, you want to give yourself 10-20 minutes before the shower to rub and massage the oil into the skin, paying attention to sore areas and making sure to touch everywhere on the body, showing it love. If you know Reiki or other forms of energy work, this is a fantastic time to utilize those forms of energy medicine on yourself. Note: do Abhyanga and showering before eating, or give yourself a good amount of time after eating before showering as the process of showering and bathing pulls heat from your digestive fire, making it harder to digest what you have eaten.
Ayurveda Benefits of Sandalwood
Ayurveda Benefits of Rose
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To start, I normally start by pouring some of the coconut oil into a small glass dish as it makes it easier to dip my fingers into it. If you’re not sure how to do Abhyanga, Banyan Botanicals has a fantastic video on how to do this correctly. Make sure to also do the scalp and the face, ear canals and nostrils (I just put the oil on my pinky and spread some oil in there when I’m in a rush)! Additionally, my shower that day I used lukewarm and slowly went down to cooler water while showering, which helps to increase the cooling benefits. Also note, you don’t really need to use soap when doing Abhyanga, or only use soap in “strategic” areas like the arm pits, anal crack, anus and genital areas. Another note, in Ayurveda, anything you put on your skin you need to be able to put inside your body. The oil is meant to soak into the skin and it will pull out the dirt and odor causing things, so soap for the most part is not needed. If you don’t really care for the smell of coconut oil, or want to add some other scents to it, adding a drop or two of sandalwood (chandan) oil, and/or rose is fantastic and also cooling. Additionally, you could also use a rosewater spray after the shower, as well as through the day.
Now, what I noticed after doing this on that Saturday, as well as eating various cooling foods like Blackberries (strawberries are also great), and using Cardamom spice, was that while we were walking around outside is that when I would sweat just a bit, it felt as if a small sliver of ice had just touched the skin and melted. I felt amazingly cool and comfortable, and I wasn’t feeling overwhelmed by the heat. The sweat seemed to evaporate almost instantly!
So, give a Coconut Oil Abhyanga a try if the summer heat gets to you. I have a feeling you’ll love it!