5 Zero-Waste Self-Care Takeaways from the Ancient Indian Beauty Practice of Abhyanga

This article is part of a series of posts on @mnmlgrlblog on Instagram & mnmlgrl.com related to #minimaliststyle & #lowwastebeauty



The ancient practice of Abhyanga teaches us is that:

1. Self-care should be the norm. Abhyanga is a rejuvenating & restorative bath & beauty ritual practiced in India since ancient times. It is a slow, self-massage (for us, mere mortals lol!) full of medicinal herbs, relaxing oils and other skin nourishing ingredients. Abhyanga is best practiced daily for supple skin & to restore the body to factory settings (like when you were chubby, a stress-free baby, haha!). Ayurveda recommends making self-care priority number one and therefore suggests that Abhyanga be practiced daily even if it is for a few minutes.


2. Minimalism & self-care go hand in hand. A minimal life focuses on removing all that distracts us from living our best life. One such distraction is having a sluggish body and a stressed mind. The practice of Abhyanga takes a disciplined approach to hardwire self-care into the daily routine of everyone, especially women. Another way hardwiring self-care into the daily routines is by bundling it with our cultural calendar. Many ancient rituals include a note of self-care threaded into them, whether it is the therapeutic application of aromatic oils, cleansing powders, calming fragrance of incense, the lifting sound of bright bells, twinkling oil lamps and the most importantly – singing, meditation & quite reflection. Similar rituals are observed in every culture around the world in one capacity or the other.


3. Simple is best. Abhyanga recommends sticking to the basics and turning to the kitchen for making body and face-care products. These DIY products are chock-full of natural goodness have therapeutic and medicinal value. DIY skin & body care products allow you to have full control over the ingredients used and keeps your body free of the thousands of unpronounceable ingredients in store-bought products! Keep things simple and begin by using the ingredients you know best and are locally available.


4. Self-care and beauty (should) cost nothing. ‘Dadi-ma ke nuskhe’ and ancient Ayurvedic body care recipes direct us to using what is available in our kitchens and gardens. Most of these ingredients are also edible and locally available. These ingredients pack the potency essential to keep your body in ship-shape without breaking the bank! However, as with all beauty products, you should perform an allergy test if you have concerns about sensitivity.


5. Small, daily practices make a habit. Habits require (daily) practice to become part of our lives. This includes removing noise from our lives. This noise could be habits that hold us back from living a genuine life & might manifest themselves in lack of self-esteem or toxic or lopsided relationships. There is no quick fix, there is no easy answer. Habits, however unhealthy, are established over decades of conditioning & drone-like living & they require an intentional, mindful & disciplined approach to change. Good habits are hard to develop but easy to live with. Abhyanga aims to be the practice you turn to when you want to relax and calm your body and mind. This bath & beauty ritual also holds special significance when practiced at certain days & times based on the Hindu holy calendar.


Here is how you too can practice the Abhyanga beauty ritual from the comfort of your home! There is a lot to Abhyanga, to learn more details of the Abhyanga practice based on your body & skin type, please Google!


You will need:

One cup of an body oil blend of your choice. You can use any natural, skin-safe oil, even a vegetable oil. I prefer creating my own blends based on a whim. Here are a few of my favorite blends.

Calming oil blend: 1 cup almond oil with 2 drops Sandalwood essential oil, 5 Ylang Ylang essential oil and 3 drops Neroli or jasmine essential oil.

Energizing oil blend: 1 cup almond oil with 5 drops patchouli essential oil, 3 drops lemon essential oil and 2 drops jasmine essential oil.

When in doubt blend some rose & sandalwood essential oil in any skin-safe carrier oil.

My everyday skin oil blend is a few drops each of lavender, sweet orange & tea tree oil in coconut oil. I apply a few dropper full of this oil in place of moisturizer at night and on my dry spots in the day. Watch the highlight "Skin Oil" on @mnmlgrlblog on Instagram for the DIY.


One or two cups cleansing powder blend of your choice. Here are my favorite blends. Basic Ubtan or Cleansing Powder blend: ½ cup besan, ½ cup rice powder, ¼ cup neem powder, ¼ cup sandalwood powder, ¼ cup manjistha powder, ¼ cup almond flour, ¼ tsp turmeric powder, 5 tsp orange or lemon peel powder, 5 tsp rose powder. Toss the dry ingredients and add some essential oils of your choice, I love rose & lavender for a calming feeling or patchouli for its heady fragrance.


Enough of one of the following to make a thick paste with the Ubtan: Rosewater, Homemade plain yogurt, Raw milk, Fresh aloe gel


Soap & shampoo of your choice (Optional). You can choose a locally made, natural soap/shampoo or even a strained solution of boiled soap nuts.


Face & body Moisturizer/conditioner/hair rinse of your choice. I apply rosehip oil with some lemon essential oil on my body and my DIY moisturizer for my face. For hair rinse I use diluted ACV with some rosemary & tea tree essential oils.


A fresh pair of clothes (soft natural fabrics such as silk, cotton or linen are always preferred)


NOTE: As with any skin or body care product, please perform a patch test if your skin is prone to sensitivity or if you are unsure how your skin might react to a new herb or oil.



Set the scene:

Light some earthen lamps, have some rose petals or cucumber slices handy, play some soothing spa music and ensure your room is cozy & not drafty. Place a few towels around you for later use and a towel under you as the oil might stain furniture. Warm the medicinal aroma oil to your desired temperature ensuring it doesn’t burn off any therapeutic properties. You might also want to keep a candle warmer handy to re-warm the oil during application. I like to sip on some warm herbal tea after my massage – usually it’s a warm tea of fennel, cardamom & jaggery. You could drink any warm herbal tea of your choice. (Herbal tea recipes here!). Set the intention to do your Abhyanga with love & patience.


The Abhyanga:

Abhyanga Massage: Spend as much or as little time performing the massage on yourself. Concentrate on areas that bring most relaxation to you or have been giving you some problems.

Apply the oil blend to the top of your head and slowly work your way down in firm strokes. Spend several minutes massaging your scalp.

Massage your face in gentle, upward circular strokes using only your fingertips. Pay special attention to the area surrounding your eyes and ears.

Next, massage your neck, shoulders and arms in long & swift upward and downward motions.

With no pressure at all, massage your chest & belly area in circular clockwise movements around the navel and up & down movements around the trunk.

Massage your legs with as much pressure as you can enjoy in upwards & downwards strokes. Finally massage your feet with your thumb and fingers with as much pressure as you can tolerate. Focus for a few minutes on each part of the body as before your move on the next. Go slow and mindfully, attending to the little aches & pains that often go unnoticed.


Be still: Optional

Do not wipe or wash off the oil just yet. Sit still, be in your space and sip your warm team. Allow your body to relax and your mind to wander as the music and ambience calms you down. Do not try and control your mind, simply observe.

NOTE: Wipe your feet before you move about or go for your bath since your feet will be slippery from the oil blend.


Cleansing:

Blend the cleansing powder with some rosewater to make a thick paste and apply on your skin in circular motions concentrating on areas where you have dry and dehydrated skin. Apply thickly on your face as a face mask.

Wash off with natural soap, shampoo and pat dry. Follow up with conditioner/ACV rinse/ moisturizer if preferred. Take a quick cat nap of a few minutes before changing into a fresh set of clothes.


Express gratitude for this self-care opportunity & seize the fucking day! Namaste!


Hope you enjoyed this article. Do share your beauty and self-care routine tips with our encouraging minimal & sustainable community by tagging @mnmlgrlblog on Instagram. You can also email mnmlgrlblog@gmail.com. You may even be highlighted via Instagram stories!


For more on Minimal Style & Beauty, please check out:

Zero Waste Recipes for the Ultimate at-home Facial Spa!

A note on Fast-Fashion

Investment piece - what is it really?

The nail polish purge

What is a Wear Count & Why you should Try it!

Guide: Minimizing Closets


Follow @mnmlgrlblog on Instagram for more minimalism, sustainability & zero waste! I post fresh content & a ton of stories daily!


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