Oiling Your Scalp to Balance Vata
Fall brings more Vata energy into our environment and into our bodies and minds. Vata is composed of the elements space and air. The dry, mobile, and changeable energy of Vata can noticeably affect our ability to calm and settle our minds and make it more difficult to keep our bodies nourished and hydrated. Symptoms like anxiety, restless mind, insomnia, nervous stomach, heart palpitations, constipation, dry skin, hair, and scalp are some of the signs that Vata is out of balance.
One way to counteract this excess Vata is to ground the mind and nourish the body with warm oil. Oil has the opposing qualities of air and space. Oil is moisturizing, unctuous, heavy, slow, fluid, and smooth and it will immediately work to oppose the light, dry, rough, and mobile qualities of Vata.
As a Vata-dominant being, Fall is one of the most challenging times of the year for me to stay balanced, so a consistent, self-care routine gets even more of my time and attention throughout this season. One of the daily practices that I significantly increase is how much oil I use. I generously bring in more warm oil to my whole body inside through my diet and outside by applying it all over my body externally including my scalp, my feet, my ears, and my nasal passages...literally all over. I also replace my light Summer coconut oil with a thicker, warmer, heavier oil like sesame.
There are countless reasons why oiling the whole body is such a rejuvenating and nourishing practice, particularly for balancing Vata dosha, but here are a few specific reasons why it is powerful medicine to incorporate the practice of oiling and massaging the scalp, especially when Fall is here.
So, applying some oil to the head, you might have thought ~ it’s just good to moisturize your dry hair and scalp. Well, it's good for that too, but the healing benefits run so much deeper.
Vata governs our nervous system and is, therefore, more susceptible to imbalance during the Fall. Oil that is applied to the skin and scalp penetrates through the deep layers of the fascia and into the nerve endings, releasing qualities that will balance Vata. The oil acts as a lubricant and provides protection to sensitive nerve endings. It literally acts as a buffer and soothes the nervous system.
Massaging the scalp with warm oil also helps decrease accumulated Vata in the head by relieving tight muscles from tension and stress and enhancing blood circulation in the head and neck, promoting the removal of toxins via the lymphatic system.
In addition, the scalp is full of vital energy points located on the surface of the body called Marmas. Marmas are infused with Prana (a subdosha of Vata) and imbued with consciousness, and they are interconnected with the body's neuroelectrical energy (the nervous system).
These points serve as a bridge between the body, mind, and spirit designed to balance the doshas and harmonize all parts of your being. Applying gentle pressure with the aid of oil helps stimulate these points, releases stuck energy, and connects you with your higher consciousness, all of which allow for a deeper state of relaxation and healing. By applying oil all over your head, you will surely touch on all of these extraordinary points.
I try to do this practice at least 1x a week regularly, but when Fall approaches, I do my best to increase it to 2-3x a week. Right before bed, I apply the oil on my head, massage it in thoroughly with circular motions making sure to get it all over my scalp. Then I tie my hair up and put on a shower cap or towel to protect my pillow and go right to bed. I usually get a very solid, restful sleep on the nights that I've ‘buffered’ my nervous system. In the morning, I wash my hair.
Always use organic oil so that it has only a healing effect, we don't want the negative effects of harmful pesticides. Vata dosha really benefits from the thicker, warmer qualities of sesame oil in the cooler months. Pitta often needs a cooler, lighter oil like coconut and Kapha does best with a lighter oil like sunflower. Vata will need the most oil, Kapha will need the least.
You can do this practice at home, and you could also come see me in my cozy Ayurvedic haven in Agoura Hills to receive my Total Bliss or Shirodhara treatments. In these treatments, I envelop you in copious amounts of warm, luxurious medicinal Ayurvedic oil and focus on pacifying your nervous system and stimulating your vital energy points with a soothing and nurturing massage, helping you to connect to your higher consciousness where true healing happens.
For more on the medicinal benefits of applying oil to the body, see my previous blog on Abhyanga.