The skin is often called the "third kidney" as it can eliminate up to 2.5 lbs. of toxins daily! Clothing and cosmetics conspire to clog up our pores. Skin brushing can compensate for this and leaves your skin as soft as your behind!
Give Aging the Brushoff
By Bruce Berkowsky, N.M.D., N.C.T.M.B.
Skin-brushing is not just great for the skin. It is an easy, nontoxic and pleasurable way to stimulate and support numerous body systems for optimal health.
Variations on the art of skin-brushing have been known for thousands of years. Loofa sponges were used by the Japanese prior to their hot baths and skin-scrapers were used by the Greeks after physical training. Among Native Americans, the Cherokees used dried corncobs, and sand from river bottoms was the choice of the Comanches. Even animals rub themselves vigorously against rough surfaces.
I have developed a skin-brushing system that is very specific, following the direction of lymph flow and acupuncture meridians. You can use a loofa or a coarse towel, but the best tool is a vegetable bristle skin brush. The techniques for the Vital Chi Skin-Brushing System evolved from my training and experience in bodywork disciplines, including the Oriental healing arts.
Functions of the Skin
The importance of the skin is often under-appreciated. We want attractive skin, but may not be aware of its fundamental relationship to overall health and rejuvenation.
The skin is the largest organ of the body, with more capillary surface than the heart or lungs. It is responsible for numerous tasks of protection and cleansing. Brushing the skin promotes both circulation and lymphatic drainage, with a variety of benefits. These include stimulating the exchange of nutrients and wastes, improving immune function and promoting the flow of vital energy, or Chi, as it is called in traditional Oriental medicine. Skin-brushing is a powerful way to provide support to many vital physiological functions, relieve tension and give the skin a youthful glow.
A brief look at the skin's many roles in protecting the body reveals why skin-brushing can help reverse degenerative conditions and slow the aging process.
EXCRETION–No other organ is more actively engaged in discharging impurities from the body than the skin. It is a close relative of both the lungs and kidneys. Like the lungs, it absorbs oxygen and expels carbon dioxide and water vapor; and, like the kidneys, it excretes organic and saline matter. The entire surface of the skin is impregnated with millions of sweat glands. These constitute a vast drainage system whereby the blood purifies itself of poisonous waste that it has collected from the cells.
With millions of sweat glands, the skin has a vast drainage system whereby the blood can purify itself of poisonous waste that it has collected from the cells.
BLOOD CIRCULATION–There is approximately 17 square feet of skin surface. When its capillaries are fully dilated, the skin has six times the capillary surface area of the lungs. This network is required for nutrition and oxygenation of skin tissue; regulation of body heat (the blood is cooled when it moves through the surface capillaries); distillation of waste matter from the blood; and the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide between blood and atmosphere. The skin's blood vessel network is as crucial as the heart for normal circulation. The vessels also act as reservoirs that release or store blood as needed.
LYMPH CIRCULATION–Drainage of intercellular lymph fluid is one of the most crucial of all body functions. Lymph acts as a go-between medium for the transfer of vital materials from the blood to the cells, and for moving cellular debris out of the intercellular environment into the blood. The blood feeds the lymph, and the lymph feeds the cells. The superficial lymph vessels terminate just below the outer layer of skin and inter-join with the deeper lymphatic vessels.
Any blockage at the superficial lymphatic level will result in congestion throughout the whole lymphatic system. Skin-brushing is an excellent way to stimulate the activity of the entire lymphatic system.
BIOENERGY CONDUCTION–Our feeling of "aliveness" is a measure of the flow of vital energy (Chi) within our body. I have put the Western and Eastern names for this energy together and coined the term "Vital Chi." This natural force fills the universe. It is the fundamental energy that sustains life—it is what differentiates life from death. It is present in the vibratory, biological processes of every cell. Vital Chi is not synonymous with metabolically generated energy; rather, it is the animating force behind the body processes.
Chi circulates through channels, or meridians, throughout the body. The places at which the various channels and vessels reach the skin's surface are the "acupoints" used in acupuncture and acupressure. As an essential matrix for these channels, the skin is a crucial medium for Vital Chi movement.
The Benefits of Skin-Brushing
Here are some ways that brushing invigorates the natural functions of the skin and the underlying physiological processes that the skin supports.
EXCITES VITAL FUNCTIONS–Proper skin-brushing promotes lymphatic drainage of the skin by accelerating filtration from the intercellular spaces into the lymph vessels; emptying of the smaller vessels into the larger lymph vessels; and assisting the flow of lymph through the lymph nodes.
Cellulite is a structural disturbance of fat tissue, related, in part, to local vein and lymph congestion. Proper skin-brushing can help to alleviate this condition.
Skin-brushing similarly increases blood flow through the veins, which carry blood back to the heart. This return blood-flow is not propelled as much by direct heart action as by muscular contraction and vein constriction. By exciting and tonifying the muscles and nerves of the skin, brushing improves venous circulation. These same effects enhance capillary circulation, as evidenced by the skin-flush and feeling of warmth that skin-brushing imparts.
The skin is also impregnated with nerve-end fibers that play an indispensable role in nervous system activity. This explains the remarkable relaxing effect, including the decrease in muscular tension, elicited by skin-brushing. Decreased muscular tension affords improved lung capacity, digestion, bowel movements, blood circulation and lymph drainage—and clearer thinking!
* Never skin-brush during an active metastatic cancer state. All cancer patients are advised to consult an oncologist if considering a skin-brushing regimen.
* Always brush in the direction shown by the arrows, following lymph flow and acupuncture meridians.
* Seek the advice of a qualified health-care practitioner to determine relevance in a given case.
STRENGTHENS THE BIOENERGY SYSTEM–Unimpeded Vital Chi flow is essential to the prevention and cure of disease. Since the Vital Chi meridians course through the skin, they are readily accessible to skin-brushing. Massaging these channels stimulates the movement of energy and improves the delivery of Vital Chi to the associated organs.
Proper skin-brushing can also exert a profound influence upon Wei Chi, or "Guardian Chi." Wei Chi is an aspect of Vital Chi that flows outside the energy channels in a layer beneath the skin, and serves as a defensive perimeter. This energy shield protects against environmental influences such as varying weather conditions, pathogenic microorganisms, pollutants, emotional stresses derived from human interaction and other external challenges.
PROMOTES SKIN BEAUTY AND REVERSES AGING SKIN–The outermost layer of skin cells that serve to protect the underlying skin layers are not living cells. They are dead cells that are continuously shed and replaced via the multiplication and upward movement of living skin cells. Aging skin does not shed dead cells as easily as youthful skin, and is therefore susceptible to cellular build-up. This accounts, in part, for the dry, thick, leathery look of older skin. The most obvious mechanical beneficial effect of skin-brushing is the detachment of dead skin cell buildup.
Skin-brushing makes a strong impression upon the dermis (the skin layer that contains an abundance of blood and lymph vessels), and upon nerves, glands and elastin and collagen fibers. The dermis provides nutrients and moisture to all the skin layers and lends contour and flexibility.
When the dermis ages, however, its connective tissue fibers rigidify, lose resilience and even break into pieces. This causes the support muscles of the skin to lose tone and volume, and causes the skin to dehydrate and collapse into sags, wrinkles and lines. Healthy connective tissue and muscles are products of efficient nutrient support and oxygenation, a waste-free milieu and optimal water balance—all of which are promoted by regular skin-brushing. You can even think of skin-brushing as beneficial "exercise" for the skin. The gentle stretching of connective tissues, afforded by proper skin-brushing, helps to increase and regenerate the production of collagen and elastin fibers.
Decreased sweat gland and oil gland functions are another effect of aging. The oil secreted by the sebaceous glands coats the surface of the skin and prevents excessive water loss through evaporation. Proper skin-brushing stimulates both the sweat and oil glands, and in this way, contributes to the restoration of moist, supple skin. Aging and devitalization of the skin also results in pore enlargement and flaccidity due to loss of skin tone and depleted Wei Chi. Brushing strengthens the pores, through which the skin is moisturized and cleansed, and oxygen and carbon dioxide are exchanged.
Cellulite is a structural disturbance of fat tissue whereby fibrous nodules surround fat cells, giving the affected skin areas their typical orange-peel appearance. Cellulite formation is related, in part, to local vein and lymph congestion. Proper skin-brushing can help to alleviate this condition, too.
Skin-brushing is pleasurable and easy to learn. Stimulate your Vital Chi and give aging the brush-off.
For maximum lymph drainage, both the sequence and direction of brushing are important.The area closest to the drainage point is treated first. Brush the armpit region before the chest and both before the head and neck. The groin region is brushed before the abdomen. To reduce the resistance of gravity, brush the upper body before the lower body.
Use seven brush strokes for each step. For complete guidelines, see Dr. Berkowsky's Vital Chi Skin-Brushing System™ (see contact information).
Some basic strokes
Use seven circular clockwise strokes and seven counter-clockwise strokes. Use firm pressure only on the arc toward the head.
Brush from the breastbone to each armpit, seven times on each side. Women should avoid direct brushing of the breasts. Using curving strokes below the breast. Sides: Brush sides upward from waist to armpit.
The upper back and shoulder blades also drain into the armpit, so brush upward and outward from the spine, seven strokes on each side. Start at the base of the neck.
4. NECK AND THROAT
Start at the back and brush outward and upward from spine, then forward over shoulder to the soft hollow at the base of the throat. Turn head to right when working on left side and vice versa.
Place brush vertically at base of skull and brush along jawline to throat and down over collar bone to the chest.
5. LOWER AND MID-BACK
Holding brush horizontally with both hands, start at lower sacrum. Pull brush upward with firm pressure to the bottom of the shoulder blades. Use seven strokes each up the center, left and right of the back.
Use firm, upward and outward strokes. Begin at the top, circle around hip to groin region. Gradually, work down to the gluteal fold where the buttocks join the thigh, and then back up to the top.
7. LEG REGION
Brush left leg first. Using firm gliding strokes, brush upward seven times on inside , outside, front and back, from knee to the top of the thigh.
Brush from ankle to knee, as above.
Ending a session
Hydrotherapy is a good follow-up to skin-brushing.
Bruce Berkowsky, N.M.D., is President/Director of Joseph Ben Hil-Meyer Research, Inc., advisor to the Institute of Applied Biochemistry and faculty member of the British Institute of Homeopathy (1994 Recipient of the Hahnemann Award). He is the founder of the Natural Health Science System that includes herbology, nutrition, aromatherapy, exercise, traditional nature cures, East/West healing arts, bodywork and homeopathy. Dr. Berkowsky offers workshops to health-care professionals and designs nutritional, herbal and aromatherapy formulations. He writes a journal, Nature's Therapies™, and has been a guest on radio and TV talk shows. Dr. Berkowsky recently retired from private practice to work on health related books and videos.
Skin Brushing—Easy and Inexpensive
One of the best ways to cleanse the entire lymphatic system is by brushing the surface of the body with a soft dry brush made of natural vegetable bristles.
The traditional Chinese version of this method uses the dried fibers of a ground fruit called 'silk squash', known as loofah in the West, but natural-bristle brushes have proven to be far more effective. The brush should have a long handle, soft natural bristles, and always be kept dry.
Dry skin brushing stimulates the lymph canals to drain toxic mucoid matter into the colon, thereby purifying the entire lymphatic system.
This enables lymph to perform its house-cleaning duties by keeping the blood and other vital tissues detoxified.
Most people today today have chronically toxic lymph fluids and swollen lymph nodes, a condition which promotes toxicity throughout the system by robbing lymph of its power to clean the blood and cellular fluids. In addition, skin brushing is highly stimulating to surface circulation of blood and leaves you feeling invigorated.
Skin brushing need be performed only once a day, preferably first thing in the morning, and it takes only a couple of minutes.
If you're feeling sluggish, toxic, or ill, you may want to do it twice a day.
The body should be dry and naked, and the brush should be swept once or twice in the same direction, across every surface of the body except the face.
Do not scrub, massage, or rotate the brush on the body; just sweep it across the skin in long smooth strokes in the direction of the colon.
Brush up the arms from hands to shoulders, up the legs from feet to hops, down the back and torso, up the buttocks, down the neck, and across the shoulders.
After a few days, you may notice a gelatinous mucoid material in your stools; that's toxic lymph which has drained into your colon owing to skin brushing.
For a thorough lymphatic cleansing, perform skin brushing daily for about three months during and after your cleansing program. Thereafter twice a week is sufficient to keep your lymph quite cleanse, but you should resume daily brushing whenever you get the chance.
Source: Daniel Reid, Guarding the Three Treasures.