Monday, February 28, 2011
The Beauty of Dry Brushing
After writing my last article on cellulitis, I felt the need to elaborate on the beauty of dry brushing the skin. Using a natural vegetable brush on dry skin is one of the best ways to exfoliate, detoxify, and stimulate the body.
Dry brushing isn't a new fad. Dry brush treatments have been in vogue for centuries in countries like Russia, Turkey, and Scandinavia where natural cures have been favored from generation to generation. The Finnish doctor, Paavo Airola, proscribed dry brushing techniques for health improvements starting in the 1960’s, bringing the technique to a broader public with his many books on heath and fitness.
As the body’s largest organ, the skin is responsible for eliminating approximately one pound of waste every day. This means the skin is responsible for up to a quarter of the body’s ability to detoxify by getting rid of toxins through the sweat glands and pores. Receiving 1/3 of the body’s blood circulation, the skin is the first place we see signs of illness, dis-ease, and lack of care when it is not stimulated properly.
Dry brushing the skin is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to awaken blood flow, get rid of dead skin cells, massage the organs, stimulate nerve endings, mobilize fat that contributes to cellulitis, tone muscles, avoid water retention, and much more.
Detoxifying the Skin
When we apply a dry brush to the body, we are stimulating the lymph gland, which is responsible for white blood cells known as lymphocytes. These cells carry nutrients throughout the body while also removing waste. Detoxification occurs through the lymph gland by cleaning out the intestines and healing areas that need attention. Large proteins that are not easily transported by the blood are carried by the lymphatic system, which pumps this material out of the interstitial spaces in the body. When we dry brush, we speed up this process, helping to avoid fluid build-up, which can lead to edema.
Stimulating the Organs
Through gentle strokes of the dry brush towards the heart, we are actually stimulating all of the internal organs as well as the skin by massaging connective tissue and delivering blood flow to these areas.
Strengthening the Immune System
As toxins are cleared due to greater blood flow and stimulation of the organs, the immune system gains strength as there is less debris left to impede its function. This means that any type of discomfort including chronic illnesses can be dealt with in a more efficient manner by the body’s natural healing processes. As the lymphatic system drains toxic mucoid substances from the body, our entire system becomes purer.
Activating Hormones and Glands
If the skin isn’t cleansed properly, the pores begin to suffocate. Dead cells and hardened oil keep uric acid and other impurities trapped inside, making it difficult for hormones and glands to do their jobs. This puts greater stress on the liver and kidneys as they must work overtime to try to cover for what the skin is not able to do. When we dry brush, we can then cleanse the skin on a deeper level by removing surface debris and allowing a good cleanser to sweep away deeply seated wastes.
Improving Skin Texture
By sloughing off dead skin, the pores are able to take in nutrients and skin cells are able to renew themselves. What results is glowing, soft skin that becomes finer in texture. As the skin texture improves, the skin itself finds it easier to breathe, which is a boon to all internal functions, including digestion and neurological function.
Because of the increase of circulation, dry brushing can help to soften hardened fatty deposits, or cellulitis. In this regard, muscles also begin to become more toned as the muscle fibers are positively affected by daily brushing. Many homeopathic doctors proscribe a dry brush regimen to patients who cannot exercise as the brushing is a passive yet effective way to create better body tone over time.
Dry Brushing, Diet, and Exercise
Dry brushing accompanied by a good diet that is high in alkaline foods is a powerful way to keep yourself young, vibrant, and glowing. Adding a good exercise protocol is also key. Meditation and other similar relaxation techniques help to quiet the nerves and reduce tension, which also helps us stay healthy on the physical as well as mental level.
When to Dry Brush
Dry brushing should be done just before you are about to take a bath or shower. Take your time to cover your entire naked body with a natural vegetable fiber brush or a loofah. The brush should have a long, detachable handle for reaching your back. The brush head itself should have a strap for easy manipulation on other areas. Bathing or showering after brushing washes away the dead cells you have loosened. If you are showering, an additional lift to circulation is to alternate hot water with cold water three times consecutively. Then, after your bath or shower, dry off carefully and moisturize your invigorated skin with plant oils like coconut, apricot, avocado, sesame, or olive. If you have arthritis, you can mix any of these with a bit of caster or peanut oil to help reduce inflammation.
Note: Clean your brush once a week with soap and water. Dry thoroughly in a sunny area to avoid mold.
Applying the Technique
I generally brush from toes to head, working my way up from the soles of my feet as I brush towards the heart. Once I reach my hands, I brush up towards the chest and shoulders. Above the heart, the strokes should go downward towards this area.
It is best to brush in long, firm strokes or in circular strokes that cover the entire area that you are concentrating on. Use lighter pressure on sensitive areas, firmer pressure on areas such as the soles of the feet. As you get used to the sensation, you will be able to tolerate stronger strokes as time goes on. Make sure you stroke each area seven times before moving to the next.
Word to the wise: never brush on infected areas, rashes, cuts, or wounds.
Dry brush every single day and you will begin to see the results of your patience and care after about a month . Make it a beautiful ritual before your bath or shower where you take time for yourself, honoring your body and staying cognizant of your breathing as you concentrate on each healthful stroke.
Here is a great dry brushing guide (long but worth reading) as per the site, Natural Health Techniques:
1. Using your right hand, gently slide the brush along your right jaw line starting from your earlobe to the underside of your chin 7 times.
2. Place the brush at the hairline on your neck and gently pull around the right side of your neck to the Adam's apple 7 times.
3. Hold the brush with your right hand at the bottom of your neck (where it joins the top of your back) and bring it around your neck to the right and down along your right collar bone and end up between your collarbones 7 times.
4. Stroke your breastbone in a circular fashion to stimulate the thymus gland 7 times.
5. Carefully brush the breast in a circular motion 7 times.
6. Repeat the above steps for your left side holding the brush with your left hand.
7. To stimulate the pituitary gland, hold the brush on the back of your head near the base of your neck and rock the brush up and down, then side to side, both sides 14 times.
8. Hold the brush in your left armpit with your right hand and rotate it counter clockwise 7 times, then clockwise 7 times.
9. Repeat on your right armpit with your left hand.
10. Brush upward 7 times from your upper right thigh to your right armpit.
11. Repeat process on your left side. Women may need to hold their breast out of the way with their free hand.
12. Brush back and forth over your belly button and around your waistline 14 times (like passing a basketball behind your back).
13. Brush in a circular motion over your belly button, counter-clockwise 7 times then clockwise 7 times.
14. Finish brushing the front of your body in any direction starting at the bottom and brushing all the way up 14 times. Very little pressure needs to be applied to the genitals and women's breasts because the skin is sensitive and will redden if irritated.
15. Brush up and down your spine from the base of your neck and down as far as you can 14 times.
16. Finish your upper back by stroking it around toward your sides.
17. Brush your spine from tailbone up as high as you can reach 14 times, holding the brush with two hands or with the detachable wooden handle.
18. Finish your lower back by stroking it around toward your sides.
19. Brush up from right ankle to right knee and work all the way around your leg, brushing up towards your heart.
20. Hold the brush in the right groin with both hands and rotate it 7 times counter-clockwise, then 7 times clockwise.
21. Repeat with the left groin.
22. Brush from right knee to right hip 7 times.
23. Work all the way around your leg continuing to brush upwards (towards the heart).
24. Brush up from right ankle to right knee and work all the way around your leg, brushing up towards your heart.
25. Brush around your right ankle 7 times.
26. Brush back and forth over the top of your right foot from toes to ankle.
27. Brush across your right toes on top and underneath 7 times.
28. Brush the bottom of your right foot heel to toe 7 times.
29. Now do the same with for the left foot, leg and thigh.
30. Brush upward from right elbow to your armpit and shoulder 7 times.
31. Brush from your right wrist to the elbow in the same manner 7 times.
32. Repeat steps on your left arm.
33. Lightly brush the webbing (or junction) between your left thumb and index or pointer finger on the palm side 14 times, then on the non-palm side 14 times.
34. Brush your left palm from wrist to fingertips and back 7 times.
35. Brush the back of your left hand the same way 7 times.
36. Brush each left hand finger individually back and forth 7 times on the areas that have not been brushed yet. Then repeat with right.