Touch is the sense of our skin. Whenever we are touched our skin will react in a certain way. If the touch is too heavy, it may bruise,too cold and we get goose bumps, too hot, it will turn red and even blister. When we have a self-massage we are aware of the degree of touch our skin requires and will respond to it positively. While this is adequate for most of us most of the time, sometimes we may need a professional massage. Not only can a massage relax our muscles, it also increases blood circulation and helps to cleanse the skin by removing impurities. Our skin is part of our digestive system. The health of the skin is connected to the health of the digestive tract. If bodily wastes are not excreted efficiently through normal channels, then the skin will become clogged with toxins and need extra cleansing. A good massage not only relaxes our body but it will also improve digestive function.
According to Ayurveda, each dosha reacts differently to a massage. Knowing your personal constitution will help you to decide which kind of massage is right for you. (If you don’t know your dominant dosha, see my earlier post Introduction to Ayurveda, July 6, 2012.)
Touch is the dominant sense of the vata dosha, so Vata people need massage more than other types. A good massage will help ground them and reduce vata’s cold, light, erractic, dry and rough qualities. However, the wrong touch can easily become painful for a Vata person, so it is important to find a masseur who is sensitive to using a therapeutic touch. Vata needs routine to keep in balance. Having a massage at the same time and on the same day at regular intervals will help achieve this. Vata people are more prone to damage by radiation than other types, so it is particularly beneficial for them to use vegetable oils in massage to help protect them. All oils are suitable for Vatas, but the best are almond, and the heating oils – sesame and castor (both better in drier climates), and mustard oil. Sandalwood oil can be added for fragrance. For those Vata types with poor circulation in hands and feet, add a little eucalyptus or wintergreen oil.
Pitta people need variety in the type of massage they receive. To keep the mind focused they can try acupressure, shiatsu, tui na, and other techniques. To avoid pitta’s irritability they should choose a masseur who will manipulate them with extra care. The best oils to use are olive and coconut, and cocoa butter. Lavender or sandalwood oil may be added for fragrance.
Kapha people do best with a heavy massage. Kneading, and a technique bordering on roughness will stimulate their sluggish circulation and help eliminate cellular wastes. Oils should be applied very lightly, or not at all. A dry massage is ideal for them. However, if some lubrication is required, Kapha people can apply sunflower, safflower or (in winter) mustard oil. Adding a little sandalwood oil will help reduce any kapha causing properties of other oils.
Dual constitutions should select massages according to the season of the year and their own individual conditions.
Remember that, whatever dominant dosha you are, what you put on your skin is what you eat. Never use anything you would not put in your mouth, such as mineral oil, petroleum jelly and any oil perfumed or colored with chemicals.
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