A blissful Ayurvedic massage at Ayurveda Pura

ayurveda pura spa greenwich abhyanga massage

The feeling of hot oil being trickled all over your body is like no other. The only comparison I can make is that of a chunk of Galaxy caramel slowly melting in your mouth. Mmm.

It is in an ayurveda abhyanga (sorry for throwing these two words at you so soon – I’ll explain in a second) massage that you are smothered in heated oil – and it is what makes the experience so very luxurious and relaxing.

I had no idea what ayurveda was or what an abhyanga massage would involve until minutes before I was about to settle in for one, but it turns out that it is actually really interesting stuff. Here’s why:

Ayurveda is an ancient Indian medical system that believes everyone has a different mind/body constitution, made up of three different types of energies: Vata (air), Kapha (fire) and Pitta (earth), which are determined by your genetics, diet and lifestyle.

What’s your type?

People who tend to be slim, light, enthusiastic, creative, friendly and energetic generally have a dominant Vata. If people have smooth, oily and warm skin, are intelligent, ambitious, fiery and goal-orientated, they have a strong Pitta. People who have a dominant Kapha are easy-going, calm, truthful, loyal, patient and nurturing.

Although each of us has all three forces or “doshas”, most people have one or two that predominate. But as conditions such as diet, weather, lifestyle, stress and emotion change, so does the balance of the doshas. If they become imbalanced, then illness or disease can result in the body and/or mind.

The goal of Ayurveda is to identify a person’s ideal state of balance, determine where they are out of balance and offer natural interventions such as meditation, diet, aromatherapy and massage to rebalance the doshas.

The Abhyanga massage

After arriving at Ayurveda Pura, a treatment centre in North Greenwich owned by award-winning Ayurvedic Doctor Deepa Apte, I was greeted by the soft-spoken entrepreneur herself, as she took time away from her busy training academy to give me a quick one-on-one “dosha” consultation. After quizzing me on my sleeping habits, diet, and illness history, she took a feel of my pulse and a look at my tongue before classifying my basic constitution as majority Kapha-Pitta. She diagnosed an imbalance in my Vata. Symptoms of a Vata imbalance, she explained, can include anxiety, insomnia, dry skin (tick), constipation (tick) and difficulty focusing (tick). She also said something that freaked me out a little: if there was ever to be a problem or disease in my body, it would likely be on the left hand side of my body (time will tell, I suppose!).

I bid the soft-spoken Dr Apte farewell before being left in the soothing hands of spa manager Colette. She told me to strip off and put on those weird paper pants, (they were surprisingly comfortable), before she returned to commence my Abhyanga massage.

First she slathered my whole body in heated herbal oil (the oil is specific to your dosha imbalance) before beginning the body massage, which involves long, sweeping strokes. It was incredibly relaxing and gentle – whereas sports, deep tissue and Swedish massages are more intense, involving cracking and de-knotting – this is much smoother and you don’t feel any pain the morning after.

Your whole body tends to be exposed throughout the treatment rather than under a towel. It was the first time I had my chest and breast bone massaged, too, which I wasn’t expecting. It was one of the most relaxing massages I’ve ever had though, and I’m tempted to sign up for another already.

An Abhyanga massage has a host of benefits too: it nourishes the body, increases circulation, calms the nerves, promotes better sleep and gives you softer and smoother skin.

You’re absolutely soaking in oil after the treatment – and it feels really nice, strangely – so you take a shower, before being welcomed back to real life with a herbal tea. You feel lighter emerging back into the Ayurveda Pura reception and Café, which serves a host of Indian curries and snacks, and the weight of the world isn’t as large as it was before you entered the treatment room. Bliss.

 

Ayurveda Pura offers a host of ayurveda treatments, products and teas designed by Dr Apte and her team. Find out more at ayurvedapura.com.

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Crazy for cleansing balm

While I was working at a women’s magazine about 4 years ago, I was recommended by the beauty editor to invest in a skin cleansing balm. I didn’t quite get the idea of cleansing balms at the time, but after work that same day I picked up the Eve Lom cleanser (the beauty editor had suggested the Eve Lom, Emma Hardie or Liz Earle one) from Space NK, and went to the till to pay. I was flummoxed when the shop assistant told me the price. ‘Why would such a little pot cost so much?’ I thought. Nevertheless, I went ahead with the purchase it was recommended by a beauty expert, after all and excitedly rushed home to give it a try.

For someone who was used to removing her make up with wipes or Johnson’s Baby Lotion and cotton wool, the cleansing balm ritual was a revelation  the first time I learned to properly wash my face  and it was then that I banished those wipes to the bin.

Cleansing balms are basically oil-based cleansers that effectively remove make up, as well as grime and impurities, without drying the skin. They usually come in a solid form (although some are liquid), and are designed to be massaged on to clean dry skin (on top of make up), and removed with a hot muslin cloth or flannel for best results. The outcome is that all traces of make up are removed, and the skin is left soft, conditioned and hydrated.

There are so many cleansing balms on the market that it can be difficult to choose which one to get and considering the prices of some of them, you don’t really want to get this wrong.

merumaya cleansing balm beautyWhen the Merumaya Melting Cleansing Balm (£14.50 for 100ml, available at John Lewis) landed in my hands earlier this month, I was unsure of it, as I hadn’t heard of the brand (it’s a bit of a newbie, having been around for two years this October, while Eve Lom has been around for over 25 years). But considering that beauty guru Caroline Hirons had recommended it as a much more affordable alternative to the much-loved Emma Hardie cleansing balm, it had to be good, right?

From the off , I wasn’t too drawn to the simple, somewhat boring packaging. Yet the squeezy tube was really convenient, and more hygienic than other cleansers which come in a pot, such as Eve Lom, and result in you sticking your fingers inside to get at the product. I was pleased to discover that appearances can be deceptive: the packaging gave way to a really lovely, gentle and effective product. The balm glides onto skin (and literally does melt in, as the name suggests), and it has the beautiful trademark Merumaya scent, which induces a feeling of relaxation and luxury, and creates an essence of a spa in your bathroom.

The cleanser contains RevitElix, a source of Omega 3, 6 and 9, that’s proven to regenerate the skin, reduce lines and wrinkles and make skin smoother and softer, and it really does the latter. It removes make up properly, and leaves you feeling clean-faced after use, without any greasiness. Skin also feels really comfortable after use, not at all dry or tight. The balm can be removed with either splashes of water or a flannel (I prefer to use a flannel as it offers a deeper cleanse), but both work really well. I also seem to prefer this cleansing balm to my usual Eve Lom, which costs almost double the price, and feels a little bit more grainier than Merumaya (but perhaps offers more exfoliation).merumaya-cleansing-balm

How to use: At the end of the day, massage the silky product over dry skin in circular movements, including eye lids and lashes. Add a touch of water to turn it into a milky consistency, and either remove with splashes of water or warm a muslin cloth or flannel under warm water and use it to remove product from the skin in circular movements.

Once you move to cleansing balms, you won’t look back…

 

Other cleansers worth considering for sensitive skin:

moa-green-cleansing-balmMóa The Green Balm: Made with 100% natural ingredients, this little pot of green goo does everything, from healing bites and soothing dry skin, to giving it a good clean. It works just as well as a cleanser and moisturiser – would you believe – on the hair, face, skin… you can even gurgle it as a sore throat remedy, although I haven’t tried that yet! (£4.99 for 15ml)cetaphil cleanser

Cetaphil Cleanser: Soap and fragrance-free, it’s made for people with conditions such as eczema and acne. It has a medical appearance, and offers a squeaky-clean finish. Comes in a handy pump form, so is hygienic too. (£8.99 for 236ml)

eve lom cleanserEve Lom Cleanser: This gentle cleanser contains Clove Oil that encourages clear skin as well as Eucalyptus Oil, which helps drain away toxins. The little beads in the balm provide mild exfoliation too. Although it’s a little pricey, it lasts a really long time as you don’t need much every time you cleanse. The signature massage technique renewing rose cleanser aromatherapy assocites reviewis a good one to learn, to apply whenever you use any other cleanser. (£55 for 100ml)

Aromatherapy Associates Renewing Rose Cleanser: Smells heavenly (key ingredients are damask rose, jojoba and geranium), and has a creamy consistency. Leaves your face feeling fresh, hydrated and fragrant. Occasionally tingles a little bit when you’re massaging it in. (£25 for 200ml)

Roger & Gallet: gorgeously-scented luxury every day

It’s not often that I have a new beauty brand crush, but after discovering Roger & Gallet, a Parisian brand, earlier this year, I have become a little bit obsessed.

The main reasons why I’m digging Roger & Gallet is because its products feel luxurious, and each carries its own exquisitely rich scent, which lingers on your skin after use.

My favourite product so far is the Roger & Gallet Fleur d’Osmanthus perfumed body oil (£24.50 for 100ml, but definitely worth the money). A little goes a long way with this ultra-nourishing, multi-purpose formula, which is dermatologically tested and contains apricot, sesame and almond oils. Used after a bath or shower, it leaves skin feeling sumptuously smooth and soft. It comes in a handy pump formula, so you can either pump straight onto your body or into your palm. To increase absorption, pump into your palm and warm the oil in your hands first. A couple of drops of the oil in a bath would be pleasant as well, and because of its lovely texture, it would also make perfect massage oil. You can even apply the oil to your hair – spray it directly into your hairbrush before you run it through your tips.

To leave your skin feeling sleek after a shower, the Roger & Gallet Fleur de Figuier gentle shower cream (£9.50 for 200ml) is a must. It’s enriched with shea butter and also soap- and sulphate-free, so it leaves you feeling moisturised, and it is kind to sensitive skin – it hasn’t upset my eczema. It has a divine fragrance, with notes of fig leaves and fig milk, and leaves the bathroom smelling lovely!

A nice-to-have is the handbag-friendly Roger & Gallet Fleur d’Osmanthus hand and nail cream (£6 for 30ml), which is paraben-free and contains apricot oil. It is non-greasy, absorbs fast and keeps your hands feeling smooth. I use it two or three times a day, and it leaves a scent of mandarin and grapefruit that lasts for an hour or so afterwards.

Finally there’s the Roger & Gallet Gingembre Rouge natural spray (£16 for 30ml). Although it’s not as long lasting as I’d hope – the fragrance stays with you for just over an hour – it smells so fresh and a little bit exotic: not quite fruity and not quite floral, somewhere in the middle. I think it’s a great every day, refreshing perfume, as it isn’t too in-your-face.

Those are all the products I’ve tried so far – let me know if there are any other star Roger & Gallet products that I should be hunting out, and I’ll make it my next mission…

Roger & Gallet is currently available at Marks & Spencer, John Lewis, escentual.com  and feelunique.com.

 

What to do with old MAC Cosmetics make-up containers: recycle them

If you’ve got empty (or full) MAC Cosmetics make-up tubs or containers that you no longer need, don’t throw them away.

MAC Cosmetics has a great environmentally-friendly campaign, called ‘Back to MAC’, which kindly recycles your full or empty make-up containers, and rewards you with a free MAC lipstick (worth about £13), in return.

So, collect six used MAC plastic make-up containers and take them to your local MAC Counter, and you’ll get to pick a lipstick to take home, for free!

Spread the word to friends and family – and if they’re not planning to take advantage of the Back to MAC campaign, you might want to ask (cheeky!) if you can collect their empty containers, too.

I realise that this campaign has been around for a while, but after I brought it up in conversation today, I discovered that everybody isn’t actually aware of it – and considering how much ladies tend to splash out on MAC makeup, it seems silly not to take advantage of it.

For more information about Back to MAC, click here.