When the dry winter air comes rolling in, sometimes drinking more water isn’t enough to stay hydrated. If you’re like me and lack a humidifier, these simple therapies can make a big difference in making the winter months more enjoyable. Here are a few easy ideas to soothe the senses and stay supple this season, inside and out.
1. Coconut Oil Eye Treatment
Oiling the eyes is a soothing, time-honored treatment for dry, tired, or inflamed eyes. It also happens to be great for wrinkles! Before sleep, lie on your back and put a dab of coconut oil in the inner corner of each eye. Blink several times to spread the oil around. Gently massage any excess oil into the eyelids and surrounding area. For best results (and better sleep, for some), cover your eyes with a breathable cloth or eye mask when you sleep to retain the moisture.
Ghee is very good for the eyes and can be used as a substitute for coconut oil. You can also make medicated oils and ghees with eye-friendly herbs such as triphala, eyebright, and chamomile.
2. Sesame Oil Nasya
Nasya is the Ayurvedic therapy of placing oil in the nose to lubricate the nasal passages and allow herbal constituents to pass close to the brain. It soothes the nerves and is very therapeutic for mental fatigue. Regular nasya helps improve mental and emotional balance. There are wonderful medicated nasya oils out there, many of which are infused with brain-boosting herbs such as Gotu Kola. But plain oil works well and has excellent benefits for a calmer, happier nose and throat.
Keep a dropper bottle of sesame oil by the bed. Lie on your back and put a 5-10 drops in each nostril. Gently massage the sides of your nose for a few minutes to increase retention and absorption. Nasya can be done any time, though when done before sleep it helps greatly for overnight nose-dryness. If you are more of a pitta type, you may prefer to use sunflower oil instead of sesame.
Nasya tip: If you have a cold or feel a cold coming on, Mahanarayan oil is an excellent substitute for the plain sesame oil.
3. After-Shower Oil Massage
The Ayurvedic therapy of abhyanga involves massaging the body with warm oil. It nourishes the skin, soothes the nerves, improves circulation, lubricates the joints, detoxifies the body, encourages deep sleep and supports healthy energy levels during the day. When done regularly, it improves overall vitality to a wonderful extent, and keeping the skin moisturized and supple goes a long way toward improving overall hydration.
Abhyanga is traditionally performed after the morning shower, though many enjoy a warm oil massage before bed for restful sleep. After bathing, run your container of oil under a hot tap to warm it up. Spread the oil over your skin and wait a few minutes. Gently massage into the skin using circular motions and working from the extremities toward the heart. Relax afterward to let the oil soak in and the body relax and detoxify.
If you don’t have time for a full massage, simply step out of the shower and oil your skin before drying off. You can air dry or pat dry with a towel afterward.
4. Hot Oil Hair Treatment
Massaging oil into the scalp is a great and simple way to nourish the hair, improve circulation, and relieve a dry, itchy winter scalp. A hot oil treatment is even more enjoyable and beneficial, especially in the winter. Heat up your oil in a double boiler, or run your container under a hot tap. Massage 1-2 teaspoons into the scalp with your fingertips. Cover your hair with a plastic bag and put a wool cap on over that. Lie back, relax, and enjoy the sensation of warm oil conditioning your hair and scalp.
Adding essential oils to your carrier oil is an easy way to personalize and increase the effects of a hot oil treatment. Lavender and cedar oils are classic for general cleansing and conditioning. Rosemary stimulates hair growth and invigorates the mind.
5. Coconut Oil/Ghee Beverage
One of the simplest ways to moisturize in the winter is to add coconut oil or ghee to a daily hot beverage. The easiest way is to add a tablespoon of coconut oil to hot water and sip it in the morning and evening. Moisturizing the body’s inner tissues goes a long way toward improving long-term winter hydration, and it produces the lovely side effects of lustrous skin and hair. Drinking warm oil hydrates the digestive tissues, lubricates the joints, improves brain function and memory, protects the gut, encourages healthy digestion and detoxification, boosts immunity, and this simple therapy is excellent for soothing the nerves as well.
Coconut oil is a delicious addition to hot cocoa or Pero, and ghee is best when added to a hot milk infusion.