We love our products, but this routine is almost entirely free of them and somehow that feels… blissful and exquisite. We can thank the resourceful Gayatri and her grandmother’s Ayurvedic wisdom for this one!

Name: Gayatri

Age: 23 years

City: New Delhi

Weather: Delhi has two extremes – steaming summers and woeful winters. Currently, winter is rearing its chilly head.

Skin: Stubborn and flighty. My skin changes with seasons. I’m Vata and my skin is mostly dry, flaky and prone to premature ageing. During summers, it becomes quite oily for some days. It chills during monsoons in its usual dry state but winters, oh dear lord. My skin hates me during winters. My skin can also become extremely dull, and this happens in all seasons. It’s sallow, sad, miserable looking and more lackluster than the Joey-Rachel romance angle in Friends. But I still love my skin. When it wants to glow, it is luminescent. I don’t have blemishes, acne marks, nada. When I’m happy, it’s happy too.

Hair: Limp, fine and thin. Like my skin, when I’m happy, hair is happy but when I’m sad my hair is very very sad.

Star from the past: Maharani Gayatri Devi. Exquisite, just exquisite. And she was into heritage conservation.

Why did I go clean? Because I was tired. I was tired of wasting tons of money on products that didn’t work. I’m a consultant for a non-profit and earn quite well, but I can’t afford to either buy international brands or glitzy Ayurvedic brands like Forest Essentials for all my beauty products—mostly because I would rather use that money to buy books or be cheated at handicraft saree exhibitions. Very few Indian brands are completely clean. So, what could I do? I went back to my grandmother’s Ayurvedic secrets. I mostly put food on my face. It works brilliantly and is free (because I steal all my beauty supplies from when I visit my parents every weekend. I work for a non-profit. Stealing is allowed.) But I’m not a super-duper DIY-er. If I can’t put it in one jar and shake it up, I’m not making it.

In the morning…

I cleanse my face with raw milk and brush with a tooth powder from a brand called Nirvaaha. Actually, a twig from a Neem tree is supposed to be really good for cleaning teeth, but I’m too chicken for that. I’m mustering up the courage for oil pulling.

In the shower…

Sometimes, when I wake up early and have time, I do Abhyangha with either sesame or almond oil. During winters, I do it almost every day. I wash my body with an ubtan consisting of chickpea flour, wild turmeric, sandalwood, orange peel powder, mint powder, rice powder, neem powder, fuller’s earth and almond powder. This is an extremely gentle bath powder. Even natural soaps dry out my skin a lot and ubtan is super moisturizing when you mix it with milk. I wash my face with a mixture of oatmeal, neem powder, and almond powder. When I’m in the mood, I mix cane sugar, lemon juice, olive oil and exfoliate. On my lucky weekends, my mom gives me grated coconut. I eat half on my way back and the rest I use in a scrub.

My hair turns oily and limp very fast but I don’t want to shampoo it every morning so I clean it with an age-old recipe using amla, ritha and shikakai. If my hair feels dry, I mix in a little Vitamin E oil but otherwise I don’t really need to condition. I use boiled neem water as a hair rinse.  I oil my hair at least twice a week and here’s where I have a problem. I can’t find a clean shampoo that lathers enough to remove the oil. I currently use Soultree’s Triphala shampoo but I need to wash my hair thrice to remove the oil. I really need recommendations for nice shampoos that lather. I don’t mind if it’s an expensive international brand because I save more than enough on beauty products. Sometimes I make a hair mask with hibiscus powder, brahmi, neem powder and mix it with yoghurt or egg. The egg stinks so make sure you don’t have a date that night.

Outside the shower…

I use rice water as a toner. During summer, I use coconut milk as a face and body moisturizer. In winters, I use milk cream on my face. It smells funny but it is the only thing that makes my skin fall back in love with me. And it gives an amazing glow. On my body, I use a mixture of oils—apricot kernel oil, rosehip seed oil and vitamin E oil. When I’m out, I use Forest Essentials Absolute Rose face mist. It’s my one indulgence. Did I tell you how puurtty the bottle is?

If my hair is frizzy, I use aloe vera gel to smooth it down. I buy Rustic Art’s Aloe Vera Gel which has green tea extracts and the packaging is so fancy. For my lips and eyes, I use ghee (clarified butter). It really has smoothed down the fine wrinkles I had and my lips are so soft. For dark circles, I dip cotton wool in rose water, cucumber juice and potato juice and use that as an eye mask. A traditional Ayurvedic mask I use includes saffron, majistha, lodhra, red sandalwood and licorice. I use egg white and tamarind pulp often. You may think that I’m smell like an Indian sweet shop but I don’t. I mix rose or lavender EO with all my concoctions so I smell more like a flowerbed. That’s what I think.

I don’t use a deodorant. I don’t sweat or stink much. Honestly. The EOs are more than well enough. But I do use a hair perfume. In a corner of one of Delhi’s prettiest markets, I found a lady who makes these cones with charcoal, myrhh, and essential oils of your choice. You light one of these cones and hold it under your hair and the smell is intoxicating. For sunscreen, I use Aroma Magic’s Sunblock SPF 30 PA+++.

Finishing touches…

I don’t use much makeup. I use Soultree’s kajal. I use beetroot juice as lip treatment so they’re a nice pink shade.

Thanks for sharing this inspiring routine, Gayatri! Have any of you tried similar Ayurvedic treatments? What are your favorites?

Have you ever looked up from your life and wondered at your own resilience?

Do you associate certain self-care habits with your ability to thrive in this modern life? This past year was one of the most personally challenging I’ve yet experienced. Looking back, I’m astonished that the stress of it just sort of bounced right off of me, and I credit some of my seemingly innocuous daily habits with playing a big role in my resistance to stress and its nasty affects.

I’ve been drinking tea made from the tulsi herb for the last year, and I believe this tea has had a significant affect on my well-being. I was looking for a peppermint tea when I found Organic India’s Tulsi Peppermint Tea. The information on the box described tulsi as a sacred, healing herb that fights stress, and the little herbalist in me got excited. Before I get to the health benefits, let me say that this tea is truly delicious. Tulsi has a touch of sweetness that peeks through the true peppermint flavor. The taste and scent are relaxing and refreshing. I’ve been through countless boxes of it now and drink it several times a day.

Tulsi is sometimes called holy basil because it’s part of the basil genus and has spiritual significance in India. It’s widely used in Ayurvedic medicine as a healing herb that clears the body of toxins and restores balance. It lifts spirits (true!) and acts as a serious nerve tonic. Tulsi contains loads of anti-oxidants and phytochemicals that boost the immune system and assist the body’s natural process of healing. Tulsi’s anti-inflammatory properties also make it good for digestive disorders, as does the peppermint in this blend.

But if you ask me, the coolest thing about tulsi is that it’s an adaptogen.

An adaptogen is any herb that supports a systemic resistance to stress and stressors and has a normalizing affect on the body. For example, Asparagus racemosus, or Shatavari in Ayurvedic medicine, is a rejuvenating adaptogen that tends to lower estrogen levels when they are too high and raise estrogen levels when they are too low. Adaptogens help create a state of balance in the body. They are innocuous and do not influence the body more than necessary.

But how can plants be so smart? Well, when all of an herb’s hundreds of molecules are present, they work synergistically to offer long-term balance. This is the opposite of a pharmaceutical drug, which has no way to balance itself or remain innocuous. The tulsi tea I drink uses the whole herb, which allows it to reach its full potential as an adaptogen. I put a lot of stock into this herb and tea. I felt the affects of tulsi long before I actually researched the power of this plant. My body intuitively craved it, which is the true test of efficacy in my book.

Have you tried tulsi? What herbal teas have improved your health?


Meatless Monday: My Easy Kitchari Recipe

Are you sometimes stumped for an easy vegetarian meal? Has your digestion been on the fritz? Do you ever crave a “cleanse” that doesn’t involve green juice or starvation of any kind? If you answered yes to any of these then you should probably meet Ayurveda’s answer to all ailments: the warm, tasty goodness that is Kitchari.

Last night after some gentle Sunday slowga it occurred to me that I was craving a bowl of this stuff. It had been a while, and since we’ve been promising to mix up Mondays with some recipes, I decided to go full-hog and take pics.

Introducing MM Recipes! If you have a good one, send it to nomoredirtylooks@gmail.com with MM Recipe in the subject. And send us pics of the process!

So, what’s Kitchari? It’s a one-pot-stop Indian dish that contains everything you need nutritionally, while also going super easy on your digestive system. Week-long Kitchari cleanses—more accurately mono-diets, where you eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner—are a common practice in Ayurveda to prepare the body for the strain of the changing seasons. They’re usually done in the spring or the fall, but Kitchari is recommended anytime you feel like your system needs a little break or extra love.

If you google recipes you’ll see there are all kinds of little variations, but I promise that almost anything goes here with spices as long as you add the fresh fixings (and enough salt) at the end.

The ingredients…

2 cups mung beans (the one bean known to be kind to all tummies), 1 cup basmati rice (I used brown this time), 1 tablespoon ghee* (very important!), teaspoon turmeric (anti-inflammatory and amazing), teaspoon fennel powder (I didn’t have any this time), teaspoon asoetifida (a hard-to-find, slightly funky smelling spice that tastes a little like garlic and is known to help digestion). Sometimes I use onions, even though they’re not technically part of the Kitchari recipe—in Ayurveda onions are generally a nono, but man do they add a nice flavor. Last but not least, fresh ginger, lemon or lime, fresh cilantro, and salt and pepper.

*Ghee is clarified butter, and you can find it at Whole Foods and most health food stores. It’s also considered to be a healing ingredient, which is great because it adds a richness and sweetness to everything it touches.

Step by step…

1. Strain your mung beans and in a large pot, melt a tbsp of ghee. Throw in the beans and spices on medium heat and toss them around for a few minutes.

2. Now add your rice and do the same.

3. Cover with 4-6 cups water. You can always add water—or cook water off—later so don’t worry about being exact here. You’ll see in the pic that I also added chopped leaks at this stage—usually I would have done this right at the start but I didn’t realize I had them!

4. Bring everything to a roaring boil and then lower heat to a simmer, keeping the pot covered for 15-20 minutes and then taking the cover off so that some of the water can boil off. It should take about 40 minutes give or take to fully cook, and depending on whether you want this to be a bit soupier or more substantial adjust water accordingly.

5. Season generously with salt and pepper.

6.Finally in your bowl, add another teaspoon or so of ghee, a squeeze of lime (or lemon), fresh cilantro, and freshly chopped or grated ginger. Probably a bit more salt too.

As I mentioned, if you add those to your bowl at the end, as long as you didn’t burn your Kitchari it will taste amazing.

Have you ever tried Kitchari? How do you make yours?

Loving this post from Well+Good (apparently we’re not the only ones on a major ayurvedic kick). Please tells us in the comments 1) what your dosha is (if you know it) and 2) what kind of exercise you do. Let’s see who’s balancing and who may be increasing like with like! We’ll start.

Lots of things explain why you love insanely hot, slow Bikram sequences, while your best friend would rather be running the city streets on a 40-degree day.

But from an Ayurvedic perspective, the workout you’re most drawn to may be the one your body needs the least. (Bummer!)

“Like increases like,” says Ayurvedic expert Monica Bloom, author of the blog, Hey Monica B. “So, if you’re a fiery, competitive person (a Pitta constitution in Ayurveda), you’re going to want to literally race. But that will just add more fire. What you really need is to slow down, to create balance.”

And certain times of year can really set off your dosha. Fall, for example, is Vata season according to Ayurveda, so you may feel more scattered and need some grounding yoga sessions. (And put your iPhone down more often.)

So what types of workouts do you and your dosha need? (You can find out your dosha here.) These are Bloom’s workout recommendations for each dosha:

Monica Bloom, the Ayurvedic expert behind the blog, Hey Monica B.

1. VATA What you’ll want to do: Run, cardio
 What you should do: Barre, Pilates, restorative yoga, strength training

“Vata people are go, go, go,” says Bloom. So, stop. “They don’t eat a lot and don’t have great endurance, so what’s good for them is a routine that’s not too intense and is grounding.” The concentrated, precise movements of a focused barre class, as opposed to running laps, for instance. Yoga is great for Vatas’ characteristically tight muscles and creaky joints.

2. PITTA What you’ll want to do: Competitive sports, triathlons
What you should do: Bike riding, running, swimming, yoga

Pitta people are fiery and competitive, and Bloom says if you’ve ever passed out from exercise, you’re probably one of them. (Most of us are way too lazy to take it that far). “Pittas should do something that’s cooling and that they can enjoy alongside their more competitive sports,” she says. “Riding a bike with the wind in their face or swimming without clocking your time are great options.” Important: Don’t. go. to. hot. yoga. (Spontaneous combustion may occur.)

Continue here for Kapha!

File this under weird things I learned at the ashram (again), but I’m officially a tongue scrapring convert.

What’s a tongue scraper, pray tell? While many of you may know—I didn’t—it’s a simple device used to remove the bacteria and buildup that likes to set up camp on the tongue. This film, which can go from clear to thick and white, yellow, or even greenish, can also speak volumes about our health. What’s the first thing a doctor, eastern or western, usually asks to see? Exactly.

But when I told Durga, my ayurvedic consultant that I didn’t need to scrape because I brushed my tongue with a toothbrush, she shuddered, explaining that the using the same tool to clean the tongue and teeth was ill advised.

In Ayurveda, the rituals of self maintenance are very clear: there are specific ways to clean the ears, the eyes, the tongue, the nose, and all the pathways, to maintain the body’s balance. And for the tongue, it’s a scraper.

This is the one that I use, though some folks just opt for a spoon, or the plastic ones you can get at the drugstore. If you are going to try tongue scraping, follow the instructions, and by all means, be very gentle with your tongue—the last thing you want to do is hurt the thing.

Onto the benefits…

1. Better breath. While there isn’t a ton of research on tongue scrapers, clinical studies have shown that removing the bacteria, dead cells, food etc from the tongue does significantly help with bad breath. Most professionals suggest brushing the tongue to remove this stuff, the tongue scraper is just a more sophisticated tool for the same purpose.

2. Ayurveda says it removes ama. And ama is the toxic byproduct of improperly digested food. It is believed to lodge itself in the body creating blockages, but often it shows up on the tongue first. So in order to properly digest one’s next meal, you need to remove this so-called sludge from your tongue. Because then, among other things…

3. You’ll taste flavors more effectively. This is one of the most critical points for Ayurveda. Proper digestion begins with proper taste and salivation. It is believed the more you taste, the more consciously you will eat: You will appreciate the food, digest it better, hear your body when it’s full, and so on. It’s one of those simple ayurvedic prescriptions that just makes sense. Take the time, and have a clean tongue, to taste and appreciate your food.

4. It’s good for your teeth. Like tongue brushing, because tongue scraping gets rid of nasty stuff in the mouth, it’s also believed to help with general tooth and gum hygiene and health.

5. Your tongue is a diagnostic tool—so get to know it. Just like your skin, looking at your tongue can tell you a lot about your health. So a daily practice of consciously cleaning it—and not to get gross, but actually seeing what comes off of it as opposed to mindlessly brushing without really looking—puts you in direct contact with this diagnostic organ. For me, this is kind of the most important point. If you see significant change from one day to the other, you may discover which foods don’t agree with you, or maybe you can just catch an imbalance before it gets too out of wack.

How much do you think about tongue health? Is cleaning it part of your daily routine?