Garshana (pronounced gar-shun-uh) is a traditional Ayurvedic dry brushing massage done before bathing that exfoliates the skin and stimulates the lymphatic system, enhancing blood circulation and the release of accumulated toxins. It’s become popular to perform garshana using a brush with rough bristles, but that might be too harsh for some, especially if you have sensitive skin. I recommend the traditional Ayurvedic method of using raw silk gloves because they’re gentler on your skin and more efficient at moving lymphatic fluid.
Benefits of Dry Brushing Massage
Dry brushing accomplishes two primary goals. It supports proper drainage of the lymphatic system, which is one of the major waste disposal methods of the body. Plus, it removes dead layers of skin so the body can efficiently excrete toxins. Layers of dead skin cells can clog or reduce the efficiency of our sweat glands.
The lymphatic system transports lymph, which is fluid containing infection-fighting white blood cells and waste products, throughout the body. These toxins are known as ama in Ayurveda. The lymphatic system doesn’t have a pump to help it move on its own so it can easily become sluggish. For proper function, it needs daily movement such as deep breathing, cardio exercise, yoga and dry brushing massage.
Dry brushing helps direct the biochemical sewage through the lymphatic channels and into the lymph nodes, where it can be eliminated. Lymph accumulation can cause inflammatory problems in the joints, including arthritis.
Cellulite is also a condition that’s exacerbated by a sluggish lymphatic system. Any place you have cellulite should be an area of focus when you are dry brushing. Once you get the lymph moving, the fluid content of the fat cells decreases, reducing the dimpled appearance of cellulite.
The many benefits of dry brushing:
- Detoxifies the lymphatic system
- Expels ama (toxins)
- Stimulates blood flow
- Increases circulation
- Warms the body
- Improves energy
- Promotes mental alertness
- Exfoliates the skin
- Encourages cellular renewal
- Revives skin tone + texture
- Combats cellulite
How to Practice Garshana (Ayurvedic Dry Brushing Massage)
You’ll need natural silk gloves or a dry, natural bristle brush. I recommend doing dry brushing in the morning because it is stimulating which tends to increase Vata and doing it too late in the day can interrupt sleep.
There are two directions you can do dry brushing—either from upper body to lower body or from lower body to upper body. The steps above are in the direction of the upper body to the lower body. It’s often recommended in the morning to dry brush from the lower body upwards to create more stimulation and in the evening from the upper body to the lower body to create more grounding.
I’ve always recommended dry brushing from the upper body to the lower body in the mornings only, because our modern lifestyle is already so ungrounding and most people struggle to pull their energy downwards, whether it’s day or night. Plus, based on the anatomy of the lymphatic system, it’s more efficient to drain the upper lymphatic channels before draining the lower channels. For both reasons, I only do garshana from the upper body to the lower body in the morning. The strokes themselves should always be moving towards the heart.
How Often You Should Dry Brush
If your primary dosha is Kapha you can dry brush five to ten minutes daily before you shower. If you’re primarily Vata or Pitta, I recommend one to three times a week since dry brushing tends to be stimulating, which can be too much for these two doshas every day. During Vata season, Vatas may want to skip dry brushing and opt for the more Vata-friendly oil massage. But during a cleanse, all doshas are encouraged to do dry brushing daily to help move lymph.
Dry brushing is considered safe and beneficial, but you may want to avoid it if you have very sensitive skin or a skin condition. And be sure to avoid the area of an open wound or irritated skin.
Seeds of Wisdom
Healthy lymphatic flow is critical to good health—far more than we understood in modern medicine. Having a backed up lymphatic system is akin to having a backed-up sewage pipe in your home. Lymphatic massage is a simple, inexpensive and effective way to keep your lymphatic system flowing and draining into the proper channels. When the lymphatic system is working efficiently, it makes detoxification programs, like The Prime Method, easier and more effective. I highly encourage you to practice this ayurvedic tradition of garshana. It’s one of the more effortless and beneficial self-care practices you can do for detoxification, overall health and gorgeous skin.