by Monica Bloom
Individually focused on achieving optimal health in body, mind and spirit based on who we are and what we’re made of, Ayurveda (“eye-your-vay-duh”) addresses the root cause of imbalance and heals the individual person, instead of just treating the disease.
Based on a system of energies called doshas (take this dosha quiz to discover yours), Ayurveda says that just as no two people are alike, based on no two treatments for health are alike either.
Once we know what doshas are dominant in us, we know what our balanced state should be.
This is extremely important because, with this knowledge, we can notice when the body goes out of balance, AND we know how to bring it back to balance. Since we are little beings of nature and are made of the same five elements, we can use the opposite elements to bring us back to balance.
Fall and early winter are focused on Vata, the energy of movement. During Vata season, the Vata energy in all of us will likely increase, so whether you are a Vata person, live a Vata lifestyle or just feel the effects of dryness, you should know the importance of using oils.
Used inside and out in Ayurveda, oils are more than just a moisturizer; they are an essential ingredient to keep the body nourished, rejuvenated, toned, supple, and keep all channels flowing in the right direction.
Oil soaks in the skin to reach all our bodily tissues and helps relieve a variety of Vata imbalances like constipation, dry skin, anxiety, mood swings, joint pain, worry, depression, and even jet lag!
You wouldn’t put water on your skin if it’s dry, right? No, because your skin would only get drier. Yet in most lotions, the first ingredient is water, followed closely by alcohol! Bah! Your plan to moisturize is instantly foiled.
The skin eats (it’s an organ, after all), and the body absorbs anything on the skin. A general rule is that if we can’t eat it, it should not go on our skin. But we can eat oils!
Similarly, we can drink a lot of water, but that doesn’t mean we are necessarily “moisturized.” Oil is unctuous, which softens our outsides and penetrates deep into our tissues to keep Vata emotional, mental and physical energy balanced.
Here are some ways you can use various oils internally and externally.
Ghee (clarified butter)
Eat as you would butter. Melt on pasta, bread, oatmeal, mashed potatoes, veggies, and baked apples. Increases Agni (digestive fire), reduces Vata and Pitta, nourishes all tissues, relieves constipation and stabilizes moods.
Use internal and external. Great for abhyanga for vatas and vata season. Use the “cold-pressed” kind, not the “toasted” kind, or you’ll smell like Asian food.
Great for Pitta as it has a cooling effect. Especially splendid in warm, dry weather.
Good for Vata and Pitta externally. Light enough to use before bed near the eyes to reduce crow’s feet. Great for full body and will not irritate Pitta’s sensitive skin.
Good for internal oleation and helps with constipation if you are ghee shy. Don’t heat it. Drizzle on veggies and rice bowls.
Not talked about much in Ayurveda because Indians don’t have olive trees…but Greeks and Italians use it liberally (on food and the skin)!
Author of In Your Elements: A Blooming Ayurvedic Guide to Creating Your Best Life, Monica Bloom grew up in Wisconsin on beer, cheese, and football games on Sundays. An expert at fitting Ayurveda neatly into a busy modern life, she left her corporate job in 2017 to pursue her dream of bringing Ayurveda to those who crave it.
“My dharma is to lift people to their highest graces by making Ayurveda simple, beautiful and accessible in our busy world.“