Considering the self-care industry is worth a whopping $450 billion, it’s no surprise that many of us are shelling out some seriously big bucks for the sake of feeling good. But while $75 face masks and $40 yoga classes certainly have they’re place, in reality the top self-care practice you can treat yourself to costs $0, and you’re (hopefully) doing it every day already.
Enter: Your morning shower. According to pros, it’s one of the best-of-the-best ways to treat yourself on every level. “Aside from the obvious benefits of staying clean, showers can help you achieve amazing mental and physical benefits,” says health coach Jim Curtis, CRO at The Institute for Integrative Nutrition. “How you wake up and what you do when you wake up can drastically set the tone for how you will think and feel throughout the day, so the way you integrate a shower into your morning routine can make or break your mood for the rest of the day.”
He explains that a hot shower exposes your body to negative ions, which can help give you a boost. “Research supports that exposure to negative ions can have amazing benefits, ranging from reducing symptoms of depression to increased cognitive performance,” says Curtis. Plus, he says, “Time in the shower also gives you a few minutes alone to focus on your breathing and mindfulness, both of which can reduce feelings of stress and support your self-care.”
One of the best ways to make the most out of your a.m. lather and rinse is to integrate practices from Ayurveda. “Bathing has always been considered a sacred activity in Ayurveda, because it purifies the body,” says Shadoh Punnapuzha, founder of Taïla Skincare. “It is also a therapeutic and rejuvenating ritual to restore the mind, body and soul. A shower can relax tense muscles, open clogged pores and restore moisture to the tissues while adding a healing element to your day. It helps to enhance physical energy levels and improve mental clarity. Cleansing is also thought to cleanse the body of negative energies that it has stored throughout the day.”
Below, she shares three things worth borrowing from the Ayurvedic shower tradition to turn your usual daily routine into the ultimate self-care ritual.
1. Dry brushing
“As showers are a way of honoring your body it is important to take time before and after a shower, focusing a few minutes on preserving the body can be a form of gratitude for all that it does,” says Punnapuzha. Her favorite way to do it? By way of a dry brush. She likes to use a paste made with chickpea flour and turmeric (a recipe borrowed from her mother) and massage it onto her skin with a dry brush or textured glove before stepping into the shower. “I love how it makes my skin feel so soft and glowing, Dry brushing helps to stimulate circulation, reduce cellulite and aids in lymphatic drainage,” she says.
2. Cold therapy
Your morning shower helps wake up your body and mind, and one way to take it to the next level is by integrating the Ayurvedic shower practice of cold therapy. “Start by deep breathing and splash your face with cold water, then massage the eyelids gently from the inner to the outer side,” says Punnapuzha. If you’re really hardcore, you can turn it into a contrast shower that alternates hot water followed by freezing cold water. “Contrast showers can boost mental and physical alertness, increase circulation, support the immune system, reduce inflammation, aid in muscle recovery, and really increase mood and energy,” says Curtis. They also support detoxification and promote lymphatic drainage, since cold water contracts your blood and lymph muscles and activates your parasympathetic nervous system. To try it, alternate between three minutes of hot water with one minute of cold for about 10 minutes (or as long as you can handle it).
3. Natural ingredients
Your skin-care routine extends below your head and neck, and the products you use to treat your body are just as important as the ones you use to treat your face. Because of this, Punnapuzha is a fan of cleansing with natural ingredients in the shower. “Using cleansing ingredients that possess natural intelligence is believed to rejuvenate the skin,” she says. “Harsh cleansers can deplete the skin of its moisture. Ayurveda considers it vital to maintain the skin’s moisture balance because this is essential for overall skin health.” A few favorites currently on our shower shelves? Phlur Anoranza Body Wash ($18) and Osea Salts of the Earth Body Scrub ($42).
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