The Ayurvedic Pre-Shower Routine for Feeling Like a Shiny New Penny
I’m here to tell you why you need to get your oil on.
Ayurveda, the ancient Indian tradition of health and wellness, recommends a daily oil massage called abhyanga. I’m here to tell you why it will help you feel like a bright & shiny, freshly minted copper penny post-shower, and how to make it totally doable for your modern morning routine.
Abhyanga is essentially an oil massage. You can do it quickly and easily yourself before you hop in the shower, no massage table and fancy accoutrements needed.
Now, who is this unpronounceable, messy-sounding endeavor for?
You definitely want to try some abhyanga if:
- You are still currently living in the winter season (oh hey, February).
- The word “aging” is anywhere on your radar.
- You experience dry skin, get cold easily, tend to feel ungrounded, anxious, or scattered, or experience any other Vata imbalance (take a quiz to find out your doshas here or here).
- You just want to feel extra sparkly and energetic during the day.
Abhyanga is especially beneficial for Vata types, Vata imbalances, and during Vata season (winter). But it’s great for all types. It’s also amazing to counter the effects of aging. Aging is considered basically a “drying” process in the body, and so oils, both in and on the body, are extremely beneficial to countering this.
You also just feel like a million bucks. Sparkly, shiny, extra clean.
There are more extensive versions of abhyanga, but I have got it down to a <ten-minute science. I promise it can be easy, quick, and mess-free.
If you’ve ever done panchakarma, a divine and intensive multi-day Ayurvedic cleanse and treatments, you’ll know that having a full 45-minute abhyanga massage by two trained technicians working in synchronicity can make you feel like you’ve died and gone to heaven. But the “baby” version of this is also pretty great, and works much better for daily life.
You can customize abhyanga to your body type and needs, based on the massage oil you use. Sesame oil is a great place to start, but you can also use coconut oil, sunflower, etc. And you can further enhance the benefits by selecting an herbal massage oil with a blend of herbs to balance your body type, or to just smell delicious. I personally use a blend of sesame oil with this divinely scented nectar of the gods massage oil for Vata. Expensive, smells amazing, and so I blend it with the plain sesame (and therefore end up smelling more magical and less like a sesame seed). Banyan Botanicals also has great massage oils for all types.
Here’s the gear, and the “how.” Get a regular baby bottle warmer, and a glass bottle to fit inside. (Cleaned soy sauce bottles also tend to be the perfect size.) Fill with your oil(s) of choice. Place a tiny bit of water in the warmer, and heat that puppy up. While it’s heating, get yourself ready.
I simply fold my towel and sit in the bathroom before getting in the shower. You can towel up the toilet seat, a stool, and even under you on the floor if you like. I also pile my hair up and protect with a terrycloth band. Although oil on your head and in your hair is considered very beneficial in Ayurveda, I have a massive amount of hair on my head that makes getting that out in the shower a real chore, so I skip that. A warning about towels: abhyanga will kind of mess your good towels up, so now would be a time to ignore that advice I gave about upping your shower game with luxury towels. You probably want a set of cheaper towels for this.
Once your bottle is warm, you want to arm yourself with some paper towels too. If you use the cheapo off-brand, be warned you will use about 20, but if you use the good ones, maybe only one or two. Hilariously, the blue automotive towels are great for this. I wrap my warm bottle in a towel, get a small amount of oil in my hand, and just start in. Face (if you want - I like coconut oil on my face), neck, shoulders, arms, joints, belly, back, legs, and feet. You can give some circular attention to your joints, but in general, you just want to go with what feels good and enjoy it. Then take your towel and blot. The beauty here is that you can remove the excess, get in the shower, and only soap “selectively.” That way you retain some of the oil on the rest of your body, and it’s like an awesome moisturizer.
You can really take as much time with this as you want. On the weekend, make it slow and luxurious, or you can zip through quickly and still get benefit. Leaving the oil on for up to 20 minutes is great... I'm never sure how to pass THAT time, other than skating around the house folding laundry, naked but for socks. But you can definitely do this speedily and be on your merry showering way. I LOVE that this makes me feel extra clean, energetic, moisturized, and I smell good but not perfume-y. Vata-balancing benefits are a bonus.