Do you know that ancient ayurvedic texts like the Ashtanga Hridayam celebrate the benefits of body baths, including improved sleep, sexual vigor, and spiritual purification. And Indian royalty once bathed in milk and honey to give their skin a celestial glow. Try the following recipe for the “Five Nectar Bath,” from ayurvedic beauty expert Pratima Raichur, the founder of Pratima Ayurvedic Skincare in Manhattan. According to Raichur, the “five nectars” are ojas-rich ingredients known in ayurveda as “the five perfect foods”. According to ayurvedic theory, they balance the five elements—earth, water, air, fire, and ether—in the body.
Combine the following ingredients:
pulp of 1 banana
2 tablespoons of milk
1 teaspoon of ghee (clarified butter)
1 teaspoon of yogurt
1 teaspoon of honey
Massage the mixture into your skin, from head to toe. Soak for 10 to 20 minutes in a warm bath “to nourish, soften, soothe, and revitalize” any type of skin in any season, Raichur says.
According to Beauty Secrets from India author Monisha Bharadwaj, Indian literature and lore have celebrated long lustrous locks for thousands of years. Here are a few tips you can try for a head of healthy, shiny hair.
In Indian households, lovers, parents, and children give each other scalp massages to reduce stress, induce sound sleep, and stimulate hair growth. According to Raichur, many major marma points (sites of vital energy) are located at the scalp; the pituitary and pineal glands are located underneath it. The massage “helps secrete serotonin and melatonin, creating a calming effect on the body and mind.” She recommends the following treatments:
For dry or sensitive skin Massage 1 teaspoon of warm oil (in hot weather, coconut oil; in the colder months, sesame) into your scalp for 10 minutes at bedtime. Wrap your head in a hot towel and leave on for 5 to 10 minutes. If you have sensitive “pitta” skin, do this practice once a week; for dry “vata” skin and dandruff, do it twice a week.
For oily skin With your head down, dry-brush “kapha” hair 50 times from the roots to the ends to evenly distribute the natural oils.
In Vedic times, as Bharadwaj writes in Beauty Secrets of India, women “oiled their hair with coconut oil scented with jasmine, rose, or sandalwood.” Sounds lovely, doesn’t it? Here’s a conditioning recipe you can try at home, with flowers you can find locally. (If you’re short on time, just warm up coconut oil—it’s cooling and hydrating in the summertime.)
Heat 17 ounces of coconut oil in a wok until it is hot, but not smoking.
Remove from the stove and add a handful each of dried hibiscus, holy basil, and marigold petals, along with 1 teaspoon of black tea leaves.
Steep for one day, straining into a glass jar.
Apply to your hair once a week, letting the oil soak in for at least 15 minutes before lathering several times with regular shampoo to wash it out.
Bharadwaj says that to develop alluring sparkling eyes, we must first reduce eyestrain—which is characterized by redness, puffiness, and often crow’s feet.
For eyestrain She recommends soaking cotton pads in rose water (which is cooling) and placing them on the eyelids for 10 minutes.
For dark circles Place a slice of apple on each eyelid for 10 minutes. Apples, she says, “are rich in assimilable minerals such as potassium, vitamins B and C, and tannin, all of which assist in eliminating dark circles.”
For puffy eyes Apply a compress made with a weak solution of sea salt and water for several minutes. Keeping the eyes closed, rinse them with cool water to wash away the salt before it stings. “The salt draws water away from the tissues and leaves the eyes looking fresh.”
For wrinkles Apply a light coating of almond or olive oil 20 minutes before bedtime to soften the skin. Wipe off gently with a wet cotton ball before going to sleep.
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