Many years ago, I was an aspiring martial artist (who would have guessed, right?). I studied under teachers of more than one style and more than one nationality. There was Tai Chi with Chinese Master John Chung Lee. A self-named style (Bo-In) taught by Korean Bo In Lee. And Aikido taught by my Japanese acupuncture teacher Sensei Masahilo Nakazono. At some point, as we were taught to soften up and toughen up, the subject of body brushing for health, longevity and great circulation, of course, came to be assigned to us as one more means to agility and success in learning our arts. These days everyone – well, maybe not everyone - is familiar with the technique and it is known all around as ‘dry brushing’. I will tell you more of my story but first I will extoll the benefits of doing it, or for me, something like it.
A Proper Brush. Like this one with a long handle made by The Organic Pharmacy. Or this one, Kamenoko Tawashi Soft Body Brush. THIS one, however, has been mine for-ever and that is the beginning of my story which I still promise to tell later.
Start at the feet. Long-ish strokes. Direction upwards and up the legs one at a time. Next the belly. Clockwise circles as you are looking down at your hand’s motion. Across the chest. The back as best you can. This is where the handle comes in handy. Though I’ve never used one. I’m that flexible. Finally the arms. Upwards again toward the armpits. You are brushing TOWARD THE HEART. Pressure is firm but not extreme. We are not looking for pain. A few brush strokes for each section is enough. Avoid the face as that skin is too delicate. Also avoid any cuts, broken skin or rashes. Wait until they heal. Then jump into the shower. Your pores are open and your skin is exfoliated. Wash off.
The largest organ in your body is… the SKIN. It is a protective shield and yet so porous that a third of our body toxins get eliminated (excreted) through it! Dry brushing opens, unclogs and lets the skin let go of collected and trapped toxins. Which leads to…
Exfoliate dead skin. Eliminate cellulite.
Gently dry brushing will lift off dead cells and dry skin. This is a natural process anyway but brushing does the job thoroughly. They say dry brushing will even break down cellulite which is kind of the same unwanted stuff – accumulated toxic matter in fat cells just under the skin surface.
Stimulating the skin, stimulates the blood to flow. Which in turn circulates nutrients to the skin and everywhere, and carries away more metabolic waste from tissues.
Stimulate lymph flow.
Also clearing toxins and waste through the lymph channels strengthens the immune system.
After a good brushing you will feel relieved and refreshed and stimulated and possibly then relaxed. Your overactive adrenals will even get a break from being too often in the ‘on’ position for ‘fight or flight’!
How could we NOT want to brush???
I was inspired and instructed way back then to dry brush. I was handed a traditional Japanese tawashi. Made of palm fiber. Dark brown. Small. Fits in the palm of your hand. We used it to scrub and clean our vegetables. And now we were going to scrub and clean ourselves. No one mentioned other types of brushes or light lymph-like methods. I brushed devotedly for a long time. It was painful, even brushing as lightly as possible. The tawashi was really, really hard. It hurt - and it was truly invigorating. What could possibly make you stronger than the hardest-core technique?
My effort to be a master of a martial art finally exhausted me and brushing really wore out my poor delicate skin. I had to surrender to the fact that I am what I am or was what I was and that is/was skin-wise at least, a rather delicate sort. I’m quite fair and quite small. I could love the practice of tai chi but I never became much at the more aggressive forms. I didn’t have rough tough thick or hair-covered skin like fellow trainees who were mostly of the masculine ilk. Please know how much I love the essence of the martial arts forms. Moving with the flow. Moving out of harm’s way. Following the attack with your negative motion. Also how much I love the tawashi. And still do. (I use more than one more than once a day. In the kitchen for my vegetables and in the bath for me.) One morning I woke up with a command decision. No more martial arts, except maybe tai chi, and no more dry brushing with that incredibly hard tawashi. But loving it as I did, I also had another method in mind. I started on it then and have used it ever since. I took my beloved tawashi INTO the shower with me. Instead of getting into the shower AFTER the tawashi. And I scrubbed away. Wet. Sometimes soapy. But so much nicer on my skin. Bearable. Wonderful. Do-able. My tawashi stays with me and so does my delicate skin. I do it this way every morning. Every shower. I even carry my tawashi when I travel. I am hooked. I couldn’t give up the brush. And I couldn’t disappear my skin. So I compromised.
Honestly, I don’t know if it is because of the tawashi, its daily invigoration, stress and toxin elimination, but my skin and my health are in pretty good shape. I’d recommend this to anyone as a potential albeit side-stepped means to daily rejuvenation. Don’t ‘cheat’ in the shower though with a lightweight soft brush. Use the tawashi!!