Abhyanga in its simplest form is the practice of massaging warm oil into your skin. With its roots in Ayurveda, a holistic healing practice developed in India nearly 3,000 years ago, it has a long history with many (many) glowing endorsements.
"Abhyanga delays visible aging, promotes longevity, and decreases stress. It keeps your body sturdy and prevents dehydration," says Nisha Saini, founder and director of New York Ayurveda. "Abhyanga is a part of your lifestyle-it's a very basic treatment that you don't have to go to a spa for."
A full-body abhyanga treatment at an Ayurveda center usually involves lots of oil (maybe infused with customized medicinal herbs). But you can simplify the practice and do it right at home-some centers, like New York Ayurveda, even offer training sessions.
"You might not get the same benefits as you would from someone else giving you the massage, but you can still do it yourself and feel very relaxed," says Saini. "You can focus on your hands and feet: wash them, pour some warm oil on them, and massage for about 15 minutes. There's no need to rinse the oil off afterwards, since it will have absorbed into your skin."
"When you practice self-abhyanga, you can do it every day." -Nisha Saini
Saini recommends sesame oil as the most traditional option, but coconut oil, almond oil, jojoba oil, and sunflower seed-based oils also work. It should be heated to a medium temperature, so it's warm to the touch but not scalding (half a minute or so in the microwave should do the trick).
When you massage, take your time. Focus on the act of massaging as an act of self-care, and the benefits you'll gain from abhyanga will be both physical and mental. "When you practice self-abhyanga, you can do it every day," says Saini. "Once a week can even be ideal just to recharge."
Start out with hand or foot abhyanga treatment, then step up your relaxation game: massage in your favorite facial oil before you go to bed and your favorite body oil into your arms and legs after a steamy shower. The practice, at its core, it about taking the time to care for your body-and it will leave you looking and feeling your best.
Extra Virgin Organic Sesame Oil, $11, edenorganic.com.
Organic Coconut Oil by Spectrum Naturals, $8, vitaminshoppe.com.
Vanilla Citrus Moisturizing Oil, $36, indielee.com.
Almond St. John's Wort Soothing Body Oil by Dr. Hauschka, $22, pharmaca.com.
Anti-Stress Massage Oil by Himalaya Herbals, $7, herbalusastore.com.