Let me tell you a story about how Ayurveda saved my life.
It was early December about 10 years ago. I live near Boston, so winter usually starts early and the transition can be tough. For me that meant dry hands, but this year, it was was particularly bad. Not only were they cracked, they were bleeding. And nothing at the drug store helped. I tried all the creams that promised to heal dry, cracking skin. Sometimes it felt like they were making it worse. It burned!
As a yoga educator, I had heard about Ayurveda, the sister science to yoga. I had heard that Ayurveda could help someone with overall lifestyle shifts and dietary changes, and that it was mostly based on the seasons. But I didn't know much.
I was desperate, so I thought I had nothing to lose, and everything. I booked my one-on-one consultation with Kate O'Donnell, and found her in a room off of a small yoga studio in Boston's South End.
I learned many things in that hour with Kate, but the biggest thing she told me about was a self-massage with oil, called Abhyanga. Kate said that Abhyanga was a great way to nourish not only my skin, but my entire body, from the tissues to the nervous system. She suggested I used sesame oil, for its warming and grounding properties. She also gave me permission to nap - which is generally not recommended unless sleep is hard to come by. Check out my blog post on how to Abhyanga here.
I went home and was so determined to try this that I used the toasted sesame oil I had in my kitchen for the Abhyanga. I smelled like an egg roll, but I slept like a baby. (Please don't try this at home. You can easily find the untoasted stuff at your natural grocer or online.)
And the next day when I woke up, my hands were silky smooth. I couldn't believe it. Overnight they had gone from bleeding to beautiful. Several days later, when they started to feel dry again, I tried rubbing sesame oil on them. It didn't work. I had to do my whole body. And it was magic. I haven't had cracked hands since. I continue to practice Abhyanga about once a week, and have incorporated many of Ayurveda's other principles into my life and diet.
Several years after my consultation with Kate, she wrote a book. She's written two actually. This one is her first. It's a wonderful introduction to life and the kitchen through the lens of Ayurveda, the daily rituals that can nourish us, and seasonal recipes that can help keep us in rhythm with nature.
You can buy the book AND support independent booksellers, including borealis here: https://bookshop.org/lists/march-2020-booklist
Kate O'Donnell is a New England-based Ayurvedic practitioner. You can find out more about her here on her website.
P.S. Abhyanga is a wonderful practice. However, unless you're completely burnt out, Spring may not be the best time for it. Or you may need to use a lighter oil, like sunflower oil, instead of the richer, heavier sesame oil. In the summer, you may want to switch to coconut oil, since it's light and cooling - which is exactly why you can't use it all year round.
Reviewed by Emilie Reid