Abby- what? Move over oil pulling. Because another Ayurvedic practice that’s been around for thousands of years is now starting to trend, called Abhyanga, pronounced ab-hee-un-ga. Deepak Chopra and I go into great detail on it in our new book Radical Beauty, as it is considered a powerful anti-aging practice with great health benefits. But here’s a little overview, to help make it super doable for your life.
Abhyanga is believed to help with circulation and detoxification, which is especially helpful during the more sluggish cold months, when we aren’t as active and we tend to eat heavier.
It’s a practice that can help relieve fatigue, provide stamina, enhance sleep, and soothe your nervous system. Ayurveda believes that touching the outside of your skin can strongly and positively impact your nervous system, helping to dissipate the stress that we all know leads to inflammation and visible aging. But unlike your facialist, it’s free. And it’s easy (but you do have to do a little work 🙂 ).
Here’s all you need for Abhyanga and how to actually do it:
Organic, cold-pressed, unrefined sesame oil, which is best to use in the cold months as it is considered warming (or an herbalized Ayurvedic oil)
A closable, smaller glass or BPA-free vial or container
3-4 old towels you don’t mind getting super oily and stained
Note: It’s generally considered ideal to do your abhyanga practice in the morning to help release the toxins that have accumulated during the night and rejuvenate you for the day. But any time of day is okay. I personally do it in the evenings, because my mornings are chaotic with the baby and life and all.
Start by pouring about two tablespoons of your sesame oil into a smaller glass or BPA-free container and close up. Run the container under hot water for a few minutes to warm the oil.
To avoid slipping, sit on the floor or a chair near your shower. Apply some of the warmed oil to your hands and massage your entire body for 5 to 10 minutes, applying even pressure. Apply lighter pressure to sensitive areas such as your upper torso, breasts, heart, and abdominal area. Use circular motions over rounded areas such as your feet and scalp and straight, longer strokes on your limbs.
Special belly time: start on the right side and then make a circular motion up, across, and down the left side of your abdomen, repeating a few times. This is believed to help support digestion.
Next, massage the soles of your feet and the palms of your hands. Don’t forget about your face, ears, and neck (if you have excessively oily skin and are worried about breakouts, you can always avoid your face).
Massage your scalp well. If you are like me, and only wash your hair once or twice a week, wash your hands off first and massage your head with no oil. But don’t skip it, as Ayurveda teaches that the feet and scalp are the most important areas to stimulate with touch.
When you’re done, make sure you’ve rubbed the oil in as much as possible, Towel off the excess oil, especially on your feet, before attempting walking or showering!
Wait ideally at least 10 minutes. You can brush your teeth, do oil pulling or whatever (my Ayurvedic teacher said you can go work out, but I honestly can’t imagine doing yoga feeling so “sticky”. Eek!). But either way, next take a hot shower. The heat from your workout or the shower will help the oil penetrate transdermally, which is believed to help strengthen the connective skin tissues and help your skin stay supple. In the shower, only use soap on your private parts and underarms. Excessive use of soap can strip your skin of moisture.
After you towel off, you’ll find a thin film of oil left on your skin. It will help your skin stay moisturized and protected, while keeping your muscles warm throughout the day. Another bonus in the cold months!
Now it’s your time to try it for yourself and get your circulation going. Let me know how you did with your own Aybhanga practice!