What is real beauty and who is the judge? Have you ever asked yourself these questions? Our society has placed more of an emphasis on external beauty, and has defined this by a limited scope of characteristics and qualities—which many of us don’t fit into. This view of beauty is false and has been destructive and disempowering for women. Each of us is unique and beautiful in our own right and it’s only by embracing our authenticity and nourishing ourselves from within that we truly radiate inner, outer, and lasting beauty.
What I’m about to share with you regarding my Ayurvedic beauty routine is probably not what you’re expecting…it’s not your typical beauty routine because it encompasses much more than the external application of creams and serums. While these may have some benefit to outer beauty, and may work synergistically with healthy lifestyle choices, they will never result in lasting beauty because inner beauty is the true source.
Inner & Outer Beauty
Starting the Day
To cultivate inner beauty, it’s essential that we begin our day with the energy of gratitude—this will set the tone for the entire day. In Ayurveda, the science of life, it’s recommended to wake before sunrise, and to say a gratitude prayer upon rising—before stepping out of bed. I like to think of each day as a bonus because each day is a gift and we’re never guaranteed the next. The prayer that I use from my tradition is the Karadarshana, however you can say any prayer or affirmation that you feel aligned with. Upon waking, I sit-up, open the palms of my hands, and looking into them, say this prayer:
Karagre Vasate Lakshmi
Karamule sthite Gauri
Prabhate Kara Darshanam
This auspicious wake-up prayer invokes the energy of the Goddesses of wealth and wisdom, and connects you to higher states of consciousness. The method of looking into your palms sets the intention to do good work with your hands throughout the day. Your fingers, destiny lines, and planetary marks on your palms align you with the cosmic plan which makes you capable of spreading the goodness of service and gratitude through your actions.
Afterwards I wash my face with cool water, brush my teeth with a neem-based toothpaste, use a tongue scraper to remove built-up toxins, and practice oil pulling to maintain healthy gums and overall oral health. Neem has been used traditionally in Ayurveda to promote the elimination of bacteria that can cause cavities and inflammation of the gums and to promote white teeth. Following this, I ceremoniously make my Indian chai tea with fresh ginger, cardamom, and cinnamon. Bringing full awareness to the enlivening aroma of the spices simmering in water becomes my morning meditation as I mindfully sip while watching the sunrise and listening to the sweet mantra of the birds. I set the intention to carry this attitude of gratitude and mindfulness throughout my day. Starting the day in this way will help you to feel positive, and therefore have a positive impact on those you interact with throughout the day. If I do wake up with stress or pain, I do my best to transform this, and if it’s not possible, I remember to be grateful and smile anyway. Growing up, my parents taught me to only share what’s positive. For instance, if you wake up not feeling well and want to feel better, telling everyone that you don’t feel good will only perpetuate this, whereas if you say “I am well,” then you send that message to your cells, and eventually your mind and body will respond accordingly. It’s like a positive affirmation—you can start feeling better by affirming it with your speech. Word is vibration, and what we vibrate we attract.
After my tea, it’s time to tend to my physical body. Most days, I exercise before breakfast. Three times a week I practice yoga and twice I go to the gym. When I come home, I treat myself to a nourishing abhyanga, Ayurvedic oil massage, which is not only an act of self-love, but also a way to promote soft and supple skin, and the oil is absorbed into the skin to provide internal lubrication as well. I follow this by a warm shower to open the pores and encourage the oil deeper into the tissues.
For this reason, I only use products with natural, edible ingredients. To keep my hair healthy and strong, I use shikakai herbal powder and soap nut powder as my shampoo and olive oil as my conditioner. For my facial care, I use an organic blend of cold-pressed oils and essential oils for my skin-type. In addition, I use a traditional Ayurvedic eyeliner called kajal made from a variety of healing components that may include camphor, castor oil, almond oil, rose, and triphala—a well known herbal eye tonic. This blend helps to cool and protect the eyes, keeping them hydrated and stress free. It also supports long, thick lashes and is anti-aging for the eyelids.
Preparing Food & Getting Ready to Work
Finally, it’s time to cook for the day. The food we eat, and proper digestion, is an essential part of our health and beauty since the result of this process forms our tissues! For this reason, a healthy diet that’s suited to your mind-body type is a priority for inner, outer, and lasting beauty. Taking care of others is also very important, so I always make sure my family has freshly prepared food, made with love. We are blessed to have access to fresh, organic produce and always favor seasonal varieties of fruit and vegetables accompanied by whole grains and legumes. When food is freshly harvested and freshly cooked, it has more prana—life force energy, and therefore is more nutritious and easier to digest. The energy that goes into the preparation also influences the energetic qualities of the food, which is why it’s always better to have food that was prepared by someone who loves you, or at least by someone who has the awareness to put this intention into the cooking. For general maintenance, once a month I observe a one-day liquid fast of teas and juices to give my digestion a rest and reset.
Now, I’m ready to work. Throughout my day I sip on hot water to improve digestion, hydrate and cleanse, and take time to refresh myself in between seeing patients at our busy Ayurvedic clinic by going outside to breathe in the fresh air and soak up some sunshine, or by doing a short pranayama breathing practice. My favorite is Nadi Shodhana (alternate nostril breathing) which helps to balance the left and right hemispheres of the brain and centers and refreshes my energy. During the summer months or on warm days, I practice Sheetali Pranayama which has a cooling effect.
Ending the Day
At the end of the day, I return home and transition into my evening routine by washing my face and feet with cool water—this helps to dispel any negative energy from the day, and then I sit and practice meditation. Afterwards, I sing uplifting songs or mantras while cooking dinner for my family and perform a prayer offering. After dinner, I spend time with family and may read or take care of household needs. For my evening beauty care routine, I practice karna purana, Ayurvedic ear oiling, with medicinal herbal oil, at least once a week to protect and maintain hearing and cognitive function, which has been shown to decline with age-related hearing loss. Nightly, I apply ghee to my lower eye-lids. Ghee is prized in Ayurveda both for internal and external use. It is an excellent moisturizer and has a soothing effect on dry, tired, or strained eyes.
Before bed, I ask myself these questions:
- What did I do today for physical health?
- What did I do today for mental health?
- What did I do today for emotional health?
I reflect on these by asking myself “Did I hurt anyone’s feelings? Did I use any negative language?” This helps to see what worked and where improvements can be made.
When you feel good about yourself and you use right thought, speech, and action, it shows in your outer appearance. It’s an ongoing process and should always be approached with gentleness and compassion. What is most important to remember is that when we live in harmony with the Self, we support the smooth flow of our energetic prana (primal life force), tejas (inner radiance) and ojas (primal vigor). Together these three components of our health modulate our vitality, strength, and longevity, and thus, beauty. To expound upon this, Ayurveda has provided us with an all-encompassing description of beauty that in a few simple words expresses the essence. It sums up the three levels of beauty: inner, outer and lasting and how to achieve them when it says, “Shubhanga Karanam Sundaram.”
Combined, these words express that true beauty involves the transformation of all aspects of body and mind to the most auspicious level. To put it another way, Ayurveda says that the secret to true beauty lies within our ability to attain harmony within the Self. A life that is lived as a reflection of our highest Self, is a life filled with lasting beauty.