What Is Ayurvedic Dry Massage and Why You Should Try It
Ready to try dry brushing? This traditional Ayurvedic practice, also called garshana (pronounced gar-shun-uh), promotes lymphatic cleansing and is a powerful way to support the natural process of detoxification in 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 especially for people who have signs of ama, which may include lethargy, 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, from late winter into spring. 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 throughout the body.
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.
If your skin is on the drier side or you are prone to vata imbalance, 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.
The Benefits of Ayurvedic Dry Brushing
According to Ayurveda, the lymphatic system (rasa dhatu) is directly connected to the health and harmony of every other dhatu (tissue layer) in the body. The practice of dry massage is one of the most effective ways to support the proper health and flow of the lymph, which in turn offers immense benefit throughout the body.
Here are some of the main benefits of practicing garshana1:
- 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 and healthy blood flow
- Stimulates areas that accumulate cellulite
Garshana Guidelines: How to Dry Brush the Ayurvedic Way
If you are new to the practice of dry massage, welcome! This self-care ritual is easy to learn and incorporate into your daily routine. The main objective is simply to create some movement and stimulation throughout your body. It’s hard to go wrong, but there are a few simple guidelines to keep in mind.
For starters, skin brushing is best done in the morning before bathing, with dry skin that is free from lotion or oil. You’ll also want to make sure the room where your massage will be done is a warm, comfortable temperature so that you can fully relax and enjoy it. Then, follow these simple steps:
- 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 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.
Contraindications and When to Avoid Garshana
Dry brushing is generally considered very safe and beneficial. However, you may want to avoid garshana if you have any of the following conditions2:
- very sensitive skin
- a skin condition, such as psoriasis or eczema
- an open wound (skip the area)
- irritated skin, including sunburn
- an acute illness
This natural detoxification practice gently flushes out toxins without disturbing the body’s balance, and it will help you feel energetic and revitalized. It’s an exhilarating breath of fresh air and anything but boring and dry!