Just what is an Ayurvedic facial massage?

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How often do you spend time really nurturing your face? London's air, tube and traffic pollution, central heating and aircon, stuffy offices, computer glare, sitting at a desk for hours, stress, tension, indoor living and absorption of negative energy – all these factors can make your skin dull, congested, tired-looking or blotchy. Beauty and skincare products can go some way towards helping prevent and deal with the damage (and don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of some beauty products) but the Ayurvedic approach is to improve the functioning of the skin itself. 

The skin is one of our body's two protectors against outside invaders (skin protecting the body from air-borne and chemical irritants, for example, and the digestion preventing damaging foods entering our system). So it's wise to keep skin functioning optimally, with the underlying muscles strong and resilient, the circulation doing its job of bringing nutrients from digested food into the cells and tissues and removing wastes, and prana flowing freely through the nadis (subtle energy channels, or meridiens) around the face.

Eating the right foods for your doshic balance, drinking sufficient fluids and getting enough deep sleep all help. But we can give skin a big helping hand with Mukkabhyanga, rejuvenating Ayurvedic face massage.

The gentle, rhythmic movements of this method promote the flow of the blood circulation and lymphatic systems, nourishing and detoxing the skin. This in turn helps improve spots, blotchiness, rashes, tired skin, bumps under the skin and more serious problems such as pigmentation and eczema. The techniques improve facial muscle tone and release tension held in the face, to lift and lighten your appearance. Clients often say afterwards that they hadn't realised how much tension they were holding in their face!

Then, working on a subtle pranic level, I use gentle acupressure on specific points (called marma points) on the face. These are where the nadis cross, and are like junctions where energy gets stuck. Freeing it re-balances the flow of prana in the head and facial area. Each marma point has different effects, such as soothing tired eyes, toning the skin, reducing stress and anxiety, calming an agitated or overactive mind, relieving mental fatigue, or activating specific areas of the brain such as the pituitary. It can help to release creative and emotional blockages.  

Energetically, the facial pacifies Vata dosha, the cold, drying 'air' energy that causes wrinkles, dryness and dullness in the skin. So done regularly, it may give healthier, more youthful skin. This Vata-reducing benefit is why you'll sometimes see it referred to as the "anti-ageing" facial (with repeated, regular treatments). However, since I am definitely not "anti" ageing, I don't call it that! But I am pro ageing as healthily and beautifully as we can, with self care, treating ourselves with kindness and respect, and treatments such as this, which I give with love and the intention for you to feel nurtured and cared for.

Jacqui Gibbons is an experenced Ayurvedic health coach, currently training as a yoga teacher, and will be offering yoga and Ayurveda workshops in 2019