Abhyanga is an Ayurvedic practice that involves massaging good quality oil into your skin every day. It’s the perfect remedy for the cold, dry, winter air! Most obviously, daily oiling helps your skin retain its hydration and luster. When you oil your skin in the morning, you feel warm and cozy all day, as if you were wearing silk long underwear. Oiling your feet at night helps you to get more restorative sleep. The physical action of massaging oil into your skin and joints helps to relieve stiffness and improves circulation, giving your whole body a nice glow and boosting energy and overall health. Since there is so little circulation in the joints, they can really benefit from the extra attention. You can even put a little oil in your nostrils to help keep the sinuses moist, which helps you to avoid colds and sinus infections.
The benefits of abhyanga don’t end with the physical. According to Ayurveda, the cold winter air can also impact the mind, causing us to feel jittery, scattered, and exhausted. Regular application of oil infuses your body-mind with a grounding energy that soothes any winter-induced anxiety or forgetfulness. All of these symptoms (cold, dry, stiff, anxious, scattered, tired) that we can relieve with abhyanga are often associated with aging. This is why abhyanga is considered one of Ayurveda’s top anti-aging strategies!
How to oil
- Since your skin absorbs whatever you put on it, use the highest quality oil you can find – organic, cold-pressed, and in a glass bottle when possible. Jojoba, sesame, and coconut are great choices. Most of these are available at the grocery store. However, you can also purchase wonderful oils infused with herbs or essential oils (we especially love Sarada’s Woman Power oil!). Natural, cold-pressed oils contain fatty acids, vitamin E, and other antioxidants that promote healthy skin. Sure, lotions often add vitamin E, but not the whole vitamin E complex, like natural oils have.
- Before your shower, rub the oil into your skin, using long strokes on the long bones, and circular motions around the joints. Be sure to pay attention to your toes and feet, fingers, and neck too. Enjoy it!
- You don’t need to use a lot of oil.
- If you like, you can rub some into your scalp. This helps keep your hair healthy and conditioned. (When doing the hair, it’s great to let it soak in for 10-15 minutes if possible.)
- Using your pinky finger, you can apply a bit of oil to your nostrils as well. “Nasya” oil was created for this purpose, and is usually infused with sinus opening herbs like eucalyptus. But of course regular oil also works well.
- When you shower, the warm water will help the oil to sink in. Be sure you don’t use soap on the arms and legs. You may need to shampoo twice if used a lot of oil in your hair. Blot your skin dry after the shower.
- An alternative option is to apply the oil after your shower. Just use less oil, and give it a few minutes to sink in before getting dressed.
- When you’re cooking, rub extra olive, sesame, or coconut oil into your hands!
- Ayurveda is pretty obsessed with oiling. They even put drops in eyes, ears, other places :-0 and swish with oil like mouthwash. It’s really good for dental health. Swishing with coconut oil actually whitens your teeth while improving dental health! If you decide to try this, swish for about 10 minutes as you do your morning routine, and spit the oil out in the trash, not the sink (because it can clog the sink over time).
Image credit: Lisa Mair
Personally I love to oil in the shower. I find it less messy and the hot water encourages the oil to seep deeply into your skin. It creates the effect of having a pair of thermals on all day long.
Naysa this time of the year is great for creating protection agains colds and virus.
Since I have been practicing Abhyanga I no longer need chapstick in the winter!