Discovering The Art of Ayurvastra
If you discovered Bennd out of a desire to improve your wellness, you’ve probably read about how our yoga mats and other textile products feature medicinal plants. While we may have been the first to bring the practice of infusing textiles with plant ingredients to the Western world of yoga, we’re far from the first to use this type of process to help boost wellness and health. In fact, the practice has existed for centuries, originating in an Indian tradition known as Ayurvastra.
So, what is ayurvastra? Let’s explore this ancient healing tradition and its potential benefits for everyday wellness.
What is Ayurvastra?
The term “ayurvastra” comes from two Sanskrit words: ayur, meaning “health” or “healing,” and vastra, meaning “clothing” or “cloth.” Thus, ayurvastra, or “healing cloth.”
In short, ayurvastra is the practice of using herbal, plant-based compounds to dye textiles with the goal of infusing them with the ayurvedic (that is, “healing wisdom” from the Sanskrit) properties of those herbs. In the ayurvedic healing tradition, the skin is considered one of the five principal organs of the human body, responsible both for protecting us and for interacting with the outside world and deciding what makes it into your body and what doesn’t. Ayurvastra seeks to use the skin’s semipermeable nature to support the body with beneficial compounds or substances.
Why is Ayurvastra good for your health?
In traditional approaches, this technique has been used to craft textiles intended for infants, as practitioners believed the benefits of Ayurvedic herbs could help fortify young children against infection and disease. It has also been used to encourage general wellness and to treat people suffering from a range of diseases and maladies.
Ayurvastra can play a similar role in the modern world. It’s a simple way to introduce healing agents such as antioxidants and anti-inflammatories into your body, especially when herb-infused textiles interact with moist or sweating skin. Notably, ayurvastric clothing is often used to fight issues like psoriasis, eczema, and skin infections. The following plants feature prominently in ayurvastra, each with their own benefits:
- Sappan wood
- Annatto seed
- Madder root
You can read more about some of these plants in the Bennd Plant Series on our blog.
How is Ayurvastra different from plant-dyeing?
Many brands and textile-makers use plant-dyeing processes to avoid including potentially harmful synthetic chemicals such as PVCs, parabens, and carcinogens in their products. Often, these dyes incorporate ingredients from tree barks, flowers, and other plant parts, but most often, these are selected for their durability and aesthetic qualities rather than any healing properties.
Ayurvastra takes it to the next step, using only herbal dyes that contain plants with medicinal effects, such as those listed above. For that reason, the dyes used for ayurvastra are often much simpler than other plant-based dyes.
Fast fashion vs. slow fashion: Is Ayurvastra the missing link?
If you’ve paid any attention to the debates around the environment and climate change, you know that so-called “fast fashion” is having a dramatic, and negative, effect on our already-serious environmental challenges. In today’s world, convenience and value are prized above other traits, so brands that can offer the cheapest clothing the fastest will often win out economically.
But people around the world are recognizing the harmful impacts of fast fashion, including large amounts of waste, harmful chemicals, factories that emit greenhouse gases, and garment workers facing conditions most Westerners would find deplorable.
Ayurvastra holds great promise for helping people change how they think about clothing and the way textiles are produced. For people invested in decreasing their environmental impact and helping the world shift to a more circular, sustainable economy of production, ayurvastric textiles could be part of the solution. The Ayurvedic tradition is all about using time-tested wisdom and knowledge to improve the quality of human life in balance with the environment. Here at Bennd, we aim to bring the benefits of the traditional practice of ayurvastra to a wider group of people, helping spread an important idea: that there is a better way of clothing ourselves, and that fulfilling our needs doesn’t have to come at the expense of our long-term wellness or that of the planet.