The skin is the largest organ of the body. The millions of pores allow the skin to digest any substance put on its surface, similar to how our stomach processes food. Knowing this, it is critical that we only apply things to our skin that we would be willing to ingest orally. Many lotions and soaps are loaded with synthetic fragrances and parabens which are extremely damaging to the body. Some of these toxins are found to cause tumors, reproductive complications, acute toxicity, biological mutations as well as skin irritations.

Ayurveda recommends that you start each day with a warm self-oil massage, known in Sanskrit as Abhyanga. Why oil? Oil is said to help pull out any impurities from the deeper layers of skin, thus enabling the skin to perform its function more efficiently. The oil also allows the skin to become more supple and moist, thereby permitting the skin to more effectively drain waste products and toxins through the lymphatic system. If the skin becomes too dry, the waste products will begin to accumulate in the skin as well as stress the kidneys and liver. The lymphatic system is greatly supported by self-massage as it creates more circulation. In addition to giving your lymphatic system a boost, abhyanga is also great for the nervous system, as it creates the sensation of grounding and relaxation.

To perform an abhyanga select an oil that is appropriate for you. Sesame oil works well for most, but if that feels too hot or heavy, try coconut oil.

  • Begin by sitting up and firmly massaging the crown of the head, working the oil into the scalp. This is also a great practice to do at bedtime to help create a sound night of sleep.
  • Work your way down the neck, shoulders, heart, chest and the mid-back area using large sweeping strokes.
  • Do circular movements on the joints and long sweeps on the bones.
  • Work oil into the stomach in a clock wise rotation, going in the natural direction of the colon. 
  • Finally, finish the body with long strokes on the leg bones, and circular movements on the knees and ankles.
  • Take some time to give yourself a foot rub, pressing into any points that feel particularly tender.

Allow the oil to soak in for a few minutes and then carefully step into a hot shower or bath. The heat will allow the pores to open and for the oil to fully penetrate and nourish your skin. If this seems too time consuming for you each morning, you can always opt to do the shower abhyanga. After washing and shampooing, with the water still running, rub a small amount of oil all over the body, similar to how you would apply a lotion. The nice thing about the shower version is that it requires less oil.  The classics say the following about self-oil massage, Of the one who practices oil massage regularly, the body – even if subjected to injuries or strenuous work – is not much injured; his physique is smooth, flabby, strong, and charming.  By applying oil massage regularly, the onslaught of aging is slackened.

The onslaught of aging is slackened? That’s reason enough for me! Give it a try.

Writer Lauren Sauer is a graduate from the Kripalu School of Ayurveda and a certified 500 hour Kripalu Ayurvedic Yoga Teacher. As an Ayurvedic Health Counselor, she is passionate about educating others to become their own health advocate, to live with the rhythms of nature and to simply slow down and breathe. She currently resides in the beautiful Berkshires as the intern with the Kripalu School of Ayurveda.

For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease, or to sell any product.