The Scrub Down *
Funny I should find myself buck naked, face down, with a strong Korean woman clad in a conservative, black, 2-piece bathing suit hovering over me. This is in San Francisco, mind you; anything goes and more. It’s noontime on what turns out to be a sunny San Francisco day and I’m at the Imperial Spa getting a scrub, massage and oil treatment. I’m not a big spa goer, which makes some people go “whaaat?”. It’s like cilantro, you either like it or not, however, I do like cilantro, especially when made into pesto. Oh, back to the spa. Pricey as spa treatments are, I like to save my yoga bucks for my overpriced, but wonderful, Clarey Sage yoga tights. Also, I don’t dig people that I don’t know touching my body without a recommendation from someone I trust and even those at times can go awry. This thumbs-up came from yogi-extraordinaire, Ann Austin. If Ann’s doing something, I’m putting it on my list. I would really like to know what brand of Wheaties she eats in the hopes that my pushups can look half as effortless as hers.
The Imperial Spa was not as appointed and zen-like as the Kabuki. I got the requisite slip-on plastic sandles, two towels, my orange trimmed, white robe and my locker key. Along with the hot tub, cold plunge, dry and wet saunas, there were rows of short plastic white stools for sitting and washing and big bowls to fill and rinse yourself. The scrubbing was very “thorough”– backside, frontside, and both side-sides. After the warm oil massage, cucumber mask, scalp massage, I was finished off with warm milk rinse down. Ahhh.
So, besides the babies-butt smooth skin and the opportunity to hang in San Francisco and part with some hard earned dollars at Lava9 in Hayes Valley, body scrubs are actually very therapeutic. Our skin is our largest organ, crazy as it sounds. It’s our main system of elimination. In addition to making it soft and shiny, there are other reasons to shed some skin.
Stimulates the Lymphatic System – Dry brushing (see below) is believed to stimulate the lymphatic system, which is important for developing a strong immune system. Lymph ducts are located all over the body and drain into the blood circulatory system just above the heart. So, in theory, brushing toward the heart could improve the function of the lymphatic system.
Detoxification – It’s certainly the buzz word of late. Brushing the skin not only removes dead skin cells and stimulates oil production but stimulates blood flow to the skin through the smaller capillaries in the skin’s deeper layers. The increased blood flow both promotes skin renewal and supports detoxification, encouraging the elimination of toxins.
Calming the Mind – Our nervous system is also intimately connected to our skin. Think about our touch receptors. Touch can be soothing and calming when we’re coping with stress or in need of relaxation, as well as uplifting and invigorating when we’re depressed. Regular dry brushing routine has been suggested for people who are coping with depression.
So, what is dry brushing?(1) As the name implies, it is practiced when the skin is dry, before bathing or applying oil or lotion. This promotes exfoliation, skin renewal and revitalization, and the stimulation of the lymphatic and nervous systems beneath the skin. Try using a natural-bristle brush or a loofah glove and brush toward the heart. Before a bath or shower is a perfect time to include dry brushing in your daily routine, especially since the subsequent immersion in water can support the removal of dead skin and continue the detoxification process.
Want more reasons to slough off some skin? Remember those phrases so commonly used like, beauty is only skin deep, it’s like a second skin, it got under my skin, and thick skinned or thin skinned. Maybe our thick skinned friends that are not easily offended or insensitive, could use a trip to the scrubbing spa? I know I’ll be back and in the meantime, I’m going to find one of those cool, soft, natural fiber brush with a long handle so that you are able to reach all areas of your body, just like my Korean masseuse.
*Recycled from May 29, 2011. Happy Memorial Day weekend, friends.