November 07, 2020 11 min read
I love skin care. And the fact that I couldn't find a truly nontoxic, reasonably priced brand is why I created our own skin care line. I believe that intelligently formulated skincare can work wonders. But I also know that topical products are not the whole picture. There's more you can do for your skin other than using good skincare products.
Taking care of your skin the holistic way means that you're caring for your external organ AND nurturing gut health, your lymphatic system, and your circulation.
Today I'm sharing some practical, concrete steps you can take to truly nurture your skin from the inside out, according to the ancient and enduring wisdom of Ayurveda (India's system of traditional and holistic medicine).
While it's tempting to skip over our introduction information, reading these sections will help you better understand the recommendations we make.
Short on time? Skip ahead to what Ayurveda says about balancing the skin from the inside out in these sections below:
Ayurveda is India’s system of traditional medicine that developed in parallel to yoga over 5000 years ago in the Indus River Valley (modern day India and Pakistan). It was India’s primary form of medicine until the period of British colonialization. In true colonial fashion, the British severely repressed and restricted both the teaching and practice of Ayurveda.
Since India’s liberation from British rule in 1947, Ayurveda has seen a slow but steady comeback, and nowadays it is back to its rightful place in Indian society and culture.
I was first introduced to Ayurveda from studying yoga. In my 500 hour yoga teacher training program I learned about Ayurveda from Katie Silcox, a NYT bestselling author of a modern Ayurveda book and a student of one of the most prominent Ayurvedic physicians – Dr. Vasant Lad. After learning from Katie I went on to take an Ayurvedic counselor training from Arpita Shah, also a student of Dr. Lad. Most recently I completed an Ayurvedic Herbology class with Arpita.
The #1 thing to know about Ayurveda is that everything is energy! Rather than talking about specific cellular processes, Ayurveda talks about energetics and qualities throughout our bodily systems. Ayurveda believes that the body's natural state is balance and seeks to help us restore balance in mind, body, and spirit. In Ayurveda, like increases like and opposites balance, so balance is restored by cultivating the qualities opposite to your imbalance.
Something else important to know about Ayurveda? Rarely do treatment protocols involve treating just one thing - Ayurveda treats the body as a whole unit, so rather than covering up symptoms it is focused on addressing the root cause.
Like all good Ayurvedic practitioners, I believe that Ayurvedic lifestyle changes should happen gradually and incrementally. If you try to change everything in your life at once, you will (a) not succeed, (b) become frustrated or despondent, and (c) abandon it altogether. Rather than setting yourself up for failure, focus on changing just a few things at a time. Give it 90 days or so to become habit, then add on some more changes. Slow and steady wins the race.
That said, I've encountered my fair share of holistic wellness practitioners who shame people for needing and using allopathic/Western medicine. They make you feel like you just haven't done enough or tried hard enough to be able to abandon Western medicine. F*ck that.
While a commitment to lifestyle changes is absolutely crucial to enjoy the benefits of Ayurveda, there are many times when people truly NEED allopathic therapy. As someone who lives with three chronic illnesses - 2 genetic, 1 tickborne - I can tell you firsthand that allopathic medicine saved my life even as I implemented every possible lifestyle change to support my body. Needing allopathic medicine is NOT an indication of a personal failure. At the same time, I'm the first person to admit that allopathic medicine is nowhere near perfect.
I have a lot of things to say on this topic, but suffice it to say that I profoundly understand and respect the benefits and purpose of both Ayurveda and Western medicine. It is frankly a very privileged view to say that everyone "should" be able to only use holistic methodologies - typically those are people who (a) have never had serious health problems and/or (2) have always had access to great holistic care. That's all I'll say on that for now.
My approach to Ayurveda is always rooted in the WHY. I'll never give someone advice without explaining the mechanism behind it. I'd never recommend something if I don't understand it or wouldn't do it if I were in their shoes. Client education is an integral part of how I do my Ayurvedic Health Consultations.
And while I always make a point to explain the why, ultimately all my advice is rooted in concrete, practical, and implementable strategies that you can easily incorporate into your life.
Ayurveda believes that skin health begins on the inside (there's that focus on root cause), supported externally by well-formulated nontoxic products and home remedies. Today we're focusing primarily on internal skincare, but I want to give you a quick crash course on what Ayurveda says about skincare:
In Ayurveda, most imbalance begins in the gut. If it doesn’t begin there, it will always make itself known in the gut, it’s just a matter of whether we’re paying attention. I can't tell you how many times people have told me, “my digestion is normal"but when I ask them more specific questions about appetite and bowel movements, it becomes clear it is anything but "normal," or in Ayurvedic terms, balanced. The problem? We get so used to being imbalanced that it becomes our "normal." Normal is not the same as balanced.In both allopathic and Ayurvedic terms, we know that we get all of the building blocks for our bodily tissues through our food. So, our overall health, including skin health, depends on good digestion + lymphatic system health + circulatory system health.
Follow these universal recommendations for a happy belly + happy skin, too.
In Ayurveda, there are 7 bodily tissues, created in sequence, each giving rise to the next. The 1st tissue is rasa dhatu – the primary waters of the body. In allopathic terms, this translates the lymph/lymphatic system. Without healthy lymph and lymph circulation, none of the other tissues can be their healthiest.
Imbalanced lymph (rasa dhatu) can show up in the skin as:
Blood (rakta dhatu) is the 2nd tissue developed after digestion, and is the tissue developed after lymph (rasa dhatu). Here we’re not just talking about whether you have blood or not, but also nutrient content, lack of pathogens, oxygen, quality of circulation, and more. A lack of healthy blood with good circulation leads to a whole host of problems for the body as a whole, including the skin.
For healthy blood, healthy circulation, and happy skin, see all of the aforementioned recommendations - remember, it's all connected!
For balanced digestion (agni), healthy lymph (rasa dhatu), and healthy blood (rakta dhatu), consider herbs taken internally, but only as appropriate. I’m not going to go into recommendations here because herbs should be treated with respect and I never make general recommendations about herbs to take without understanding the whole picture of someone’s innate constitution, imbalance, and digestive type. It's endlessly frustrating to see Ayurvedic herbs touted as a panacea for everyone's problems without considering whether the herb is appropriate for the person (here’s looking at you, Ashwagandha).
However, just know that there are many Ayurvedic herbs with a special affinity for lymph and blood as well as the digestive system. If you want to learn more about herbs you can take for your unique body, you can sign up for an Ayurvedic consult.
At this point, you might be wondering: but what about hormones? You’re absolutely right, hormones are part of the picture for healthy skin. However, in Ayurveda they are addressed holistically, not in isolation. Every single one of the above recommendations also works wonders to balance your hormones.
Other key lifestyle interventions to balance hormones include:
Looking for more guidance on what to do for your unique skin and body, specifically? Read more about our Ayurvedic Health Consultations and schedule a 15 minute discovery call.
I realize you might be thinking: but does this stuff really affect my skin? Yes, it will. Is any of this a quick fix? Absolutely not. But incorporating these routines into your lifestyle will address many of the root causes of skin issues!
To learn more about Ayurveda, check out these blogs next:
If you're looking for more personalized guidance on balancing your skin, learn more about our Personalized Ayurvedic Health Consultations here.
Until next time,
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