What is the skin?
The skin is our body’s largest organ. It is the outer layer, the expression of what we reveal to the world. It is our skin that digests the outside environment first. It is our first line of defense when coming into contact with something harmful to the body. On the reverse or internal side, it can often be the last to reveal our inner workings. The deep seeded emotions, past experiences, stressful memories and even lack of productive and therapeutic expression. Let us look at our skin and bodies with a wide and open lens, seeing the whole picture.
I am often asked questions related to the skin such as: How do I know my hormones might be affecting my skin? How do I go about understanding why my skin is acting as it is? What am I doing wrong? How can I fix it?
These questions are usually asked with a tone of confusion, worry or distress. The overwhelm of thinking that something may be “off” or “wrong” can lead to an array of uncomfortable emotions and feelings.
If you relate to any of what is being said here, know that you are not alone and there is always a way through. I want to share some tips and information regarding the skin in hopes that it will inspire you to relax, take a deep breath and know that there is no “right” or “wrong” way to live in your unique body.
True living and transformational healing is about connecting with your state of balance and meeting yourself where you are in every moment. Skin can feel like our most vulnerable and exposed part of us. Here, the practice of self-compassion is ultimately a path to self-love.
Loving the skin you are in:
There is not a “one size fits all” when it comes to skin, just like there isn’t for any one Body. Take into consideration the way we digest information, food, thoughts, feelings… it can be subtly or grossly different for each person. This concept is often lost when we are seeking and striving for a way to look like or be like someone else. The reality is, everyone’s skin is unique. We may go through periods of our lives trying to manipulate our skin to fit a certain mold or standard of beauty we have been told is good. Perhaps we compare or have compared ourselves to others, thinking that “they have it better” or that they were gifted the “secret formula of perfection”.
Over time, these types of self-critical thoughts and or behaviors can lead to a loss of true, authentic self-identity, confidence and body-trust. That critical voice takes over, and the sounds of kindness and compassion soon become faint noises in the background. We may lose a sense of ourself and feel shut down, restricted or numb to our feelings. That lack of self-expression will often show up in how we relate to our bodies, which can ultimately effect the outer layer that protects us – our skin.
A piece of my healing journey:
When I was a little girl I loved playing dress up. It was one of my favorite things to do. Go into my mother’s closet and pull out all her high heals, scarves, silk slips and jewelry to wear around the house. I would spend hours putting outfits together. I’d tie the scarves around my hair, put on whatever makeup I could scrounge up and cherish the process of admiring my creations. It felt so good to pamper myself.
As I got older, things began to change. I stopped dressing up, putting on any kind of makeup or taking the time to pay attention to my appearance. These were hard moments in my life, a time of so much change and uncertainly. I did not know how to process or express my feelings, nor did I feel safe doing so. I felt out of control and my way of coping was to dis-associate with my body.
It took a few years before I would start to pay attention again. One of the miraculous practices that helped me begin the process of healing, was developing an intentional and mindful skin care routine.
After receiving healing support and encouragement from my peers, I decided to invest in high quality skin care products for myself. I would intentionally use them to offer my body moments of gratitude and love. It was difficult at first because I had to face my body and do my best to come from a space of acceptance, but I showed up and began.
Every time I washed my body and face and applied the special oils to it, I intentionally slowed down, took deep breaths, and massaged the fragrant moisturizers into my skin. I would chant or say positive affirmations to myself as I did this.
It took me a few months of practicing this ritual daily to notice the changes that had been taking place even just a few days after I began. I was letting go little bits at a time and allowing myself to feel my feelings and at the same time, offer my body love and appreciation.
It was a surprising moment when I realized my practices were working for me. I had paused one day during my skin care rituals, and took a long look at myself in the mirror. I was no longer seeing sadness or disappointment, I was seeing a glimmer in my eyes, a glow to my cheeks and radiance in my smile (yes one of my practices was to smile at myself in the mirror. I highly recommend it!). I actually saw a woman who could look at herself with confidence and kindness. For the first time in many years, I could stare at myself in the mirror and know that my skin was good, kind, radiant, and perfectly my own. Perhaps the best part of this self-discovery was letting go of comparison and embracing all that I saw and felt. It was a true and authentic moment that allowed me to turn a corner on my healing journey.
Connecting with your true self:
Loving the skin you are in means caring for your whole self in a mindful and intuitive way. This will allow the flow of long lasting, sustainable change to take place. It does take work, intention, the right outside support and focus, but with your willingness to break free from self-defeating habits, you can recognize the gifts of your beauty and live in the grace and confidence of who you are.
Where can I start?
Step 1. Meet Yourself:
The first thing I always advise is to meet yourself where you are at, just as I did.
Once you do this, then you have the energy to take some form of action.
When I took that intentional leap into self-healing, I was not ready to dive deep into a long skin care routine that would overwhelm me. I began with the seemingly “easy” act of purchasing a beautiful product that I could (later) apply to my skin. Even if it were to take me a few weeks to open the product (which it did) once it arrived, that didn’t matter because I had taken my first step towards self-care.
Perhaps your first step is different than mine. However, it is a first step that can feel like the highest and hardest mountain to climb.
Step 2. The integration:
Now you have set yourself up and action needs to take place. This is where your willingness to move forward kicks in.
I suggest creating the time and space for your skin care routine to manifest. 3-5 minutes in the morning and 3-5 minutes before bed. Put it on your calendar so you don’t allow yourself to let it slip by.
Step 3. Set the tone:
Make your bathroom, or wherever you do your skin care routines, a place that you want to enter. I like to have fresh flowers right next to the sink, good lighting that is somewhat natural and clear/clean mirrors so I can really see myself. Setting the tone re-instates a sense of self-worth and self-love. You deserve a beautiful, sacred and wholesome space to perform your self-care rituals.
Step 4. Affirmation and the sound of your own voice:
As you touch your face and body, notice what is going through your mind. Notice where your breath is. Notice how you are feeling about yourself.
You can use this time to go into a self-love meditation. I like using affirmations while touching my skin. I will often use “I love you”; “You are so strong”; “Thank you”. At first you may feel a bit silly or disbelieving – but I promise you, after one minute you’ll notice a shift and you will relax into it.
Our whole body responds to acts of love and kindness. If you are fighting yourself on a daily basis, questioning your body, comparing to others, then your skin will eventually show it and ask you to take a different approach. I have found over the years of practicing Ayurvedic medicine and coaching clients that there isn’t one pill, food, product or routine that will create long lasting change. It is the inclusion of it all. It is the beautiful face oil, the deep breathing while massaging the oil, the clear mirrors in the bathroom, the compassionate self-talk, the healing food all mixed together that lights up the skin and reveals to us our true and authentic beauty.
When you notice your skin needing love and attention, I encourage you to answer the call. Be curious and kind. Change the tone of how you talk to yourself from harsh and defeating to loving and encouraging. Become still long enough to hear yourself… where do you need the most support? Once you show up for yourself in the moment, compassion is awakened and the spark in your eyes is rejuvenated.
Keep it up! You can trust your body; the courage to trust is always with you.
Hari Simran Khalsa was born into a family of Kundalini Yogis and has been a student of Yogi Bhajan’s since her early childhood. She has been teaching and practicing Kundalini Yoga and Ayurvedic medicine for over 10 years. Hari’s work incorporates the principles of these powerful, ancient sciences to heal modern health and life issues. Using Ayurvedic medicine and Kundalini Yoga as tools to support self-healing and happiness, Hari believes all people no matter what stage of life they are in can feel their very best both inside and out.
She is currently an Ayurvedic health practitioner, healer and Kundalini yoga teacher living and practicing in Los Angeles, CA. You can contact her at www.harisimranayurveda.com and @hari_simran_ayurveda.
You can also find Hari Simran at 40 Day Rituals by going to 40dayrituals.com