Understanding Ayurvedic treatments for the face
The skin is the largest organ in the body, acting as first line of defense from the outside world. It functions as a physical indicator of the subtlest mechanisms of our body and mind. It is a mirror of the internal state of an individual, revealing the condition of the physical body, as well as the emotional state. The complexion and appearance of the skin is influenced by the nervous system, and of the many emotions such as fear, rage, anger, grief, joy, excitement, etc., will show a red, flushed, pale, and pasty color on the skin.
How does the body become imbalanced? What disrupts its normal functioning, and how does this effect show up on the skin? Mind-body medicine, both ancient and modern, mention that the fundamental cause of imbalance is stress and the hormonal alterations it produces. In Ayurveda, stress may be anything that overburdens your natural balance of energies with too many “like” energies. In other words, it is anything that disturbs nature’s rhythms. Stress factors may be physical, psychological, or spiritual.
Physical stress may include any overload of the senses, poor habits, wrong diet and exercise, physical strain, excess work, lack of rest, excessive travel, incorrect breathing, excessive use of stimulants including alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, and chemical overloads from environmental pollutants, food additives and preservatives, synthetic cosmetics and lotions.
Psychological stress includes emotional traumas, personal conflicts, unsatisfying relationships, and negative behaviors. Psychological stress is nothing more than our perception and like any other negative thought which is created in the mind. Events occur in our lives, and the brain decides which ones are stressful based upon our subjective interpretation. No event is inherently stressful, but it becomes so because of our previous registered experiences.
Spiritual stressors include lack of purpose, uncertainty, desolation, disbelief, confusion, as well as lack of direct understanding of consciousness, that is, lack of inner harmony and peace of mind.
Everyone wants to be beautiful and the desire for physical beauty and the ability to recognize it, seems deeply rooted in the human psyche. A common indicator of beauty is harmony or proportion. Developmental scientists believe that our natural ability to perceive symmetry of the human face is a mechanism for survival. A distorted face provides an intrinsic signal of potential danger.
Beauty is said to have three aspects: an outer, inner, and secret aspect. When the inner and outer aspects are in balance, one has accomplished the secret aspect of beauty. In Ayurveda, the ancient Science of Longevity and Rejuvenation, it is said that the more we nurture ourselves, the more radiant we become physically and expressively regardless of our outer aspect. It focuses on the idea that health is a balance of the three energies found in nature as well as within us called Tridosha (Vata, Pitta, and Kapha). Each person contains a certain ratio of these three energies, and the treatments are designed to be tailored to the specific characteristics of that individual.
Outer beauty is that which we most commonly associate within the field of esthetics. It is that which is beautiful and attractive, pertaining to an individual sense of perception. This includes the obvious qualities such as texture and complexion of the skin, contours of the body, the quality of hair, nails, etc. In Ayurveda, it also includes the subtle qualities of vitality, brightness, joyfulness, and charming brilliance of the individual. Ayurveda has always understood beauty to be a result of positive habits and daily routines that literally will bring out the best in us. It teaches how to identify one’s individual Dosha and how to maintain balance by proper diet and a daily lifestyle routine. Thus, external beauty is an actual reflection of the overall health of the body.
Inner beauty relates to the qualities of the self, including our emotional states and mental capacities. Like physical qualities, they are largely determined at birth and are considered to be the result of our actions from previous lives. According to Ayurveda, the physical body can be shaped by diet and lifestyle, as well as being able to train our minds to develop positive states of being. Just as the body can be cleansed and purified to make it outwardly more attractive, so the mind is said to be strengthened by daily exercise. The first step would be to take some time from our busy lives to nurture and cultivate healthy practices. In training the mind, the ability to focus on the present moment, in full awareness of our bodies and of the feelings associated with each particular action. This is accomplished with the daily practice of conscious behavior to begin developing emotional stability and peace of mind.
The combination of outer and inner beauty is that which provides rejuvenation and longevity and thus leads to what is considered to be the secret aspect of beauty. The secret to beauty refers to the energy, awareness, and inspiration it takes to balance both inner and outer aspects of ourselves. In Ayurveda, skin health is considered to be the expression of health of the whole body and that is why its approach contemplates balance and harmony at the physical, mental, and spiritual level. A balanced diet according to Tridosha is important for maintaining healthy skin. However, mental and spiritual care is developed from the practice of awareness. The awareness to calm the mind and invigorate the body, enables the proper functioning of the body systems and elimination of toxins, and by consequence, healthy skin. Awareness that comes from living in the present moment and allowing ourselves to connect with our environment. That which forms the basis of Ayurvedic philosophy, teaching us how to live in balance and harmony with our environment.