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This traditional herbal rub can melt body fat away
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This traditional herbal rub can melt body fat away

Apart from weight reduction, `udvartanam’, Ayurveda’s dry powder massage or the common` ubtan’, is credited with dealing many bonuses to the body: lowered lipid levels, healthy skin, muscles, and de-stressing, among others.
powder massage
Representational image | Shutterstock

Harshita CJ, a 26-year-old student from Hassan in Karnataka, decided to lose weight when she figured that she was marginally overweight. Her targets were the extra kilos that had accumulated in the belly region, on thighs and arms.

When she consulted an Ayurveda expert about it, she was surprised to be advised a few sessions of powder massage as a first line of remedy.

“I have tried other methods to lose weight. But none helped me to lose belly fat as powder massage has,” says Harshita. “I took seven sessions of massage. I shed weight and also lost inches around my belly and back. After every powder massage session, I felt more relaxed and lighter.”

Powder massage is a procedure where the body is rubbed in a certain way with a paste or powders such as turmeric powder, gram flour and chickpea flour before bathing. The Ayurvedic term for it is udvartanam, a Sanskrit word meaning `rubbing the body with herbal powders’.  Ubtan is its popular Hindi equivalent.

Dr Gaurav Davee, Mumbai-based Ayurvedic physician and Director of Dr Dave’s Panchakarma and Wellness Centre, explains, “This procedure is Ayurveda’s special massage therapy wherein the massage is done with dry herbal powders. The powders are rubbed against the direction of hair roots. It is recommended for those with excessive body fat.”

Dry and coarsely powdered herbs are rubbed against the skin and deep tissues to generate heat. This loosens and melts the stored brown fat.  Several sessions of powder massage can trim down fat storage regions such as the belly, buttocks, arms, and thighs.

The procedure

The person taking udvartanam is made to lie down on the massage table. An oil massage is first given followed by a dry powder massage for 30-45 minutes. Steam is given and the sweat is patted out. The person is then allowed to relax for a while after which follows a warm water bath.

Perfect skin exfoliator 

Exfoliation is a process wherein the dead cells of the skin are scrubbed away with a coarse powder or paste. After the process, the skin appears refreshed and healthy.

In addition to her weight loss, Harshita speaks happily about the healthy changes in her skin, too, after she took a series of powder massages. She says, “The massages were vigorous, and that worked like a skin scrub. My skin looks healthier and refreshed.”

Many bonuses

Blood circulation improves: The scrubbing deeply stimulates underlying muscles, blood vessels and lymphatics and enhances blood flow.

Toned muscles: Once the excessive accumulated fat is reduced and the dead skin is removed from the skin, the underlying muscles become firm.

Body odour out: The aromatic herbal powders impart a pleasant fragrance to the body.

Stress hormones curbed: Cortisol, the hormone that regulates our stress response, is reduced even as the levels of serotonin and dopamine rise; the latter are known to induce feelings of happiness, pleasure, and alertness.

In a meta-analysis, it was noted that massage lowers cortisol levels and elevates serotonin-dopamine levels, suggesting that massage therapy alleviates stress. Though this meta-analysis refers to a general massage, powder massage works no different from it.

Another pilot clinical trial conducted by Dr Rajan Nelson Munzni from Jaipur’s National Institute of Ayurveda covered 30 obese participants. The study found out that after powder massages, body weights of participants on an average reduced 2.46 percent and the BMI fell 9.35 percent.

Normalises lipid profile: Lipid profile measures the amount of various fat molecules (lipids) in the blood.

Researchers from Gujarat’s Ayurveda University found after a case study that powder massage therapy is beneficial for losing weight and reducing lipid levels.  A 42-year-old woman diagnosed with obesity and dyslipidemia (imbalance in lipids) was asked to undergo powder massage for 30 days (along with a diet of buttermilk-based gruel.) Post-treatment, she lost 6 kg and showed drastically reduced lipid levels.

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