Ayurvedic dry-brushing, called garshana (pronounced gar-shun-uh), promotes lymphatic cleansing and is a powerful way to support the removal of ama (cellular waste products) from the body. Garshana is traditionally done using raw silk or linen gloves, though many prefer to use a natural bristle body brush. This technique is recommended for people who have signs of ama, which may include fatigue, sluggishness, feeling physical or mental dullness, constipation, and a taxed immune system.
Dry brushing is also an excellent practice for the kapha time of year, the season of spring. During the spring months, snow is melting, water has saturated the earth, and flower pollen is carried on the breeze. This is the time of year when kapha can begin to accumulate in the lymph or the sinuses and create stagnation or respiratory congestion. Dry brushing helps to stimulate kapha in the body and encourage movement and drainage of excess mucus.
Because garshana is stimulating, people who are predominantly kapha in their constitution will benefit from practicing garshana daily. Those who are predominantly pitta can do this practice 4–5 times per week. And those with more vata would best benefit from doing this practice 2–4 times per week. (To find out which dosha is most predominate for you, take this quiz). If your skin is on the dryer side or you are prone to experience mental anxiety (indications of increased vata), it is important to do abhyanga (Ayurvedic self-massage) with warm oil after dry brushing to lubricate the skin. This helps to bring vata dosha back into balance by calming the nervous system.
Guidelines for Garshana—The Traditional Ayurvedic Dry Massage
- Skin brushing is best done in the morning before bathing, with dry skin that is free from lotion or oil
- Make sure the room where the massage will be done is a comfortable temperature
- Stand in the bathtub/shower or on a towel to avoid getting flaky skin on the floor
- Using gloves or a brush, massage vigorously to stimulate the skin and lymph
- Keep the direction of the stroke always toward the heart
- Use circular strokes on the stomach and joints (shoulders, elbows, knees, wrists, hips, and ankles), and long sweeping strokes on the arms and legs (toward the heart)
- Massage from the feet upward, continuing to the torso and on to the neck
- Massage from the hands to the shoulders
- Massage the stomach and buttocks in circular clockwise motions
- Apply light pressure where the skin is thin or sensitive and firm pressure on thicker areas like the bottoms of the feet
- Increases muscle tone
- Improves skin texture (luminosity and suppleness)
- Reduces the effects of stress on the body
- Promotes weight management by supporting healthy metabolism
- Supports natural detoxification
- Improves lymphatic circulation
- Enhances circulation
- Stimulates areas that accumulate cellulite
Avoid garshana if you have:
- very sensitive skin
- a skin condition, such as psoriasis or eczema
- an open wound (skip the area)
- inflamed skin due to sunburn or an allergy
- an illness
This natural detoxification practice gently flushes out toxins without disturbing the body’s balance, and it will help you feel energetic and vital! It’s an exhilarating breath of fresh air and anything but boring and dry!