Anti-aging isn’t a dirty word anymore, for looking the best you can at all ages should come naturally to us. And if it comes via Ayurveda, that’s the best possible scenario.
So what does Ayurveda say about anti-aging? It says Rasayana Chakra, in Sanskrit. This loosely translates to a holistic rejuvenation of mind and body to retain youthfulness and vitality. So that’s where Ayurveda or the science of life’s anti-aging begins—in the mind and within the body.
Anti-aging cannot just be external; it has to start from the inside, moving out. If you are not age resistant from the inside, you cannot be age resistant from the outside. So the very first thing that Ayurveda prescribes when embarking on an anti-aging journey is to start from within, and the first step to that is what we eat. The Ayurvedic approach to a Rasayana or an anti-aging diet is via doshas and ojas. Ojas is the body’s inner vitality and the more vital the body is from the inside, the better the process of cellular regeneration for youthful skin.
Ojas is our body’s inner vitality. When we have enough ojas, our skin glows and we feel happy and energetic. Foods that build ojas in us include dates, almonds, ghee, saffron, cow’s milk, honey, and whole grains, as well as turmeric. More foods to include would be avocados, bananas, figs, sweet potatoes, leafy greens and all sorts of nuts and seeds. All in-season fruits and lentils are also great. To increase ojas, it's best to stay clear of overly processed, refined, and sugary foods. Brightly colored fruits and vegetables will also increase antioxidant levels and give a lustrous complexion. And you can try these “ojas balls” as well.
The vata dosha imbalance leads to sluggish and dry skin that also ages faster. Skin with vata dosha is unable to regenerate on a cellular level on a speed to match damage and so shows age a lot faster because blood and nutrients do not reach it well. To combat vata dosha, one should eat starchy vegetables, ripe fruits, and cereal like rice and wheat, and keep to the milder side of spices like cumin, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, fennel, coriander, salt, cloves, mustard, and black pepper. Lemon, ginger, and chamomile are good teas to be had, as are warm soups in winters. Lentils and dried bean stews are a good idea as well.
Skin that is prone to breakouts, rashes, redness and is overly oily or dry can be the result of a pitta dosha imbalance. To eat for a pitta dosha, look out for steamed and raw vegetables, sweet fruits, and moderate dairy. Cereals like rice, wheat, barley, and oats are good as are cooling spices like coriander, cardamom, cloves, turmeric, cumin, curry leaves, and mint. Minty and chamomile teas are also good.
Skin with kapha dosha has a moisture retention problem and is usually pretty dry. To eat for kapha dosha you need to consume lots of vegetables and ripe fruits (except banana). Dairy should be reduced to yogurt while cereals like corn, millet, rye, oats, barley, and wheat bran are best. You need to go for strong spices like pepper, paprika, salt, garlic, basil, cloves, allspice, fennel, mustard, turmeric, cumin, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, and black pepper. Switching to honey or unprocessed sugar would also be a good idea as would cinnamon and raspberry teas.
Ayurveda stresses self-treatment, self-care, and self-massage. You are of course welcome to go and get treatments at your favorite Ayurvedic centers, but for an everyday basis, Ayurveda does set a few guidelines for skin care.
The Ayurvedic art of Abhyangam is basically the art of an oil massage, and you can do this for your skin on a daily basis. What abhyangam does is drain the skin of all its cellular, emotional and physical stress. It relaxes all the seven dhatus (tissues) of the skin and helps in increasing the pace of cellular regeneration that’s so important for mature skin. If you infuse carrier oil (like sesame, jojoba, grape-seed or almond) with anti-aging essential oils, you give your skin a healthy boost. For aging skin, the best essential oils are rose, lavender, and frankincense.
To practice abhyangam, simply warm the carrier oil of your choice and mix in essential oil—a 3% dilution is best which translates to 20 drops of essential oil in 6 teaspoons of carrier oil. Now massage your whole body for 5-20 minutes, depending on the time at hand. If you have the time, relax for another 10 minutes. If not, step into a warm shower and wash off the excess oil. If you can avoid soap, do, and just briskly rub the oil off your skin with a towel as you dry off.
Abhyangam extends to the hair, or rather the scalp as well, which is why most of us in India still oil our scalps 10-30 minutes before we shampoo the oil off. You can use any carrier oil for the scalp like olive, sweet almond, or coconut, and essential oils like lemongrass, thyme, rosemary, and peppermint work great for the hair. Give your scalp a good 5-10 minute massage and then brush your hair to spread the oil to the roots. Shampoo and condition as usual.
Ubtan & Lepam
Another great Ayurvedic skin treatment is the ubtan or the lepam—AKA the scrub-cum-body wash and the body wraps or masks. Remember everything in Ayurveda, including the ingredients used in body treatments, is derived from nature. So you will see a lot of leaves, fruits, vegetables, lentils, nuts, seeds, and oils being used here. You can choose an ubtan based on your dosha, or try one of these awesome anti-aging recipes that you can use on the face alone or on the whole body.
The premise is simple; you simply blitz the ingredients into a paste and massage them onto your skin. Relax for 10-20 minutes and shower off with warm water for skin that feels refreshed and youthful…
- 1 teaspoon turmeric powder, 1/2 cup powdered oatmeal or besan (gram flour), 2 teaspoons honey, 2 teaspoons sesame oil and milk (for dry skin) or rose water (for oily skin) to turn into a paste.
- 2 tablespoons powdered almonds, 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder, 2 tablespoons honey and 1 banana or a handful of deseeded cherries or strawberries. Add rose water or milk to dilute into a paste.
- 1/2 cup boiled and pureed papaya or mango, 2 tablespoons honey, 2 tablespoons fresh cream (for dry skin) or yogurt (for oily skin), 1 teaspoon sandalwood powder
- 1 cup freshly plucked moringa leaves, 2 tablespoons honey, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and 1 teaspoon sandalwood powder
- 1 cup coconut milk, 2 tablespoons powdered oats or besan (gram flour), a handful of freshly plucked organic rose or marigold petals
The only difference between an ubtan and a lepam are that ubtans when massaged also scrub your body. To turn any lepam into an ubtan, you can add in coarse sugar, salt, or coarsely ground mung dal to the mix—and you’ll have both the properties of a scrub as well as a mask.
Finally, The Mind
Finally, this is why they say that age is all but a number in your head. We all come with an expiry date, and we will all look more prune than grapes as we age. But when the eyes twinkle and the lips smile, the steps bounce and the heart sings – the joy is what people will perceive as youthfulness. So live life as beautifully as you can, and you too will be beautiful to the world. Smile more, work more, travel a lot, get good exercise, keep your brain young, and indulge your senses—and the world will be a brighter and more beautiful place to be in.
Do write to us in the comments section below with your anti-aging secrets, tips, and tricks…If you feel young, you will stay young too—never mind the birthdays that have gone by!