Ever heard of abhyanga? The daily self-massage technique is generating major buzz, but getting all oiled up outside of the spa can be a major buzzkill. (Hello, slippery tub!) Here, celeb nutritionist and Ayurveda expert Kimberly Snyder gives the inside scoop on the easiest way to get the reputed health and beauty benefits—with minimal mess.
Move over, oil pulling. Another Ayurvedic practice that’s been around for thousands of years is now starting to trend: abhyanga (pronounced ab-hee-un-ga). It’s a topic Deepak Chopra and I go into great detail on in our new book, Radical Beauty, as it’s considered a powerful anti-aging practice with incredible health benefits.
The full-body oil massage is believed to help with circulation and detoxification, which is especially useful during the cold, sluggish months—when we aren’t as active and tend to eat heavier. (Guilty as charged.)
But that’s not all: Abhyanga is also said to help relieve fatigue, provide stamina, enhance sleep, and soothe your nervous system. According to Ayurveda, the power of touch 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.
Here’s everything you need to know to get going with abhyanga—without a trip to the spa (or the ER).
The essentials you’ll need
• Organic, cold-pressed, unrefined sesame oil, which is best to use in the cold months as it’s considered warming (or an herbalized Ayurvedic oil)
• A closable, small 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.
How to become an at-home abhyanga pro in 7 steps
1. Pour about two tablespoons of your sesame oil into a smaller glass or BPA-free container and close it up. Run the container under hot water for a few minutes to warm the oil.
2. 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 five 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.)
5. Massage your scalp. Ayurveda teaches that the feet and scalp are the most important areas to stimulate with touch—so even if, like me, you only wash your hair once or twice a week, don’t skip this step! Wash your hands off first and then massage your head, sans oil.
6. 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! Ideally, wait 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!)
7. 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 keep them supple. In the shower, only use soap on your private parts and underarms, since 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 that will help you stay moisturized and protected, while keeping your muscles warm throughout the day. Another bonus in the cold months!
Kimberly Snyder, CN, is a member of the Well+Good Wellness Council, our handpicked holistic health squad that gives the best advice this side of your own personal guru.
She is also a celebrity nutritionist and the New York Times best‐selling author of The Beauty Detox Solution, The Beauty Detox Foods and The Beauty Detox Power, and co-author of Radical Beauty, with Deepak Chopra. Her popular beauty blog, KimberlySnyder.com, features Ayurveda-inspired recipes and products—and she is also the creator of Glow Bio, an organic juice, smoothie, and cleanse company.
What should Kimberly write about next? Send your questions and suggestions to [email protected].