How to practice the art of Abhyanga to access the benefits of ghee for skin and spirit
In Ayurveda, ghee is considered the nectar of the gods and has been revered in India for its nutritional benefits, culinary applications, and healing properties for five millennia. Here in the West, we mainly think of ghee as a food — something to sautée or roast our veggies in or a shmear for our toast. It’s a “good” fat that’s quite tasty and is packed with tons of vitamins and minerals. However, using ghee for skin care is also a great idea!
The benefits of using ghee for skin care
The benefits you get by using ghee for skin care are many — it moisturizes and calms dry or irritated skin, soothes chapped lips, brightens dull eyes, and can even help to slow the aging process. (1) And while Ayurveda has been touting these benefits for 5,000 years, Western medicine is increasingly beginning to recognize the many benefits ghee has for skin.
There are several ways to use ghee for skin — you can apply ghee directly to your face and lips, you can prepare a ghee mask, or you can perform Abhyanga, the art of massaging your body with ghee or oil.
Abhyanga: The art of self-massage
Abhyanga is the Ayurvedic term for lovingly massaging the body and when practiced regularly, can promote feelings of well-being, reduced stress, and overall strength and stability. (2) Traditionally, Abhyanga is performed by someone else, and receiving Abyanga from a trained massage therapist can be an incredibly relaxing experience. However, there are also many benefits to be had from performing Abhyanga on yourself, namely, it promotes feelings of self-love and acceptance.
But whether you treat yourself to a professional Ayurvedic massage, receive a relaxing massage from an adoring partner, or perform the loving ritual on yourself, you will be sure to feel relaxed and rejuvenated afterward!
Although there isn’t much research on Abhyanga specifically, there is no shortage of anecdotal experiences that speak to the benefits of the practice that has been used for thousands of years. Plus, there is plenty of research that backs up the positive effects of general massage.
At any rate, Abhyanga is said to:
- Reduce stress
- Lower blood pressure
- Improve skin health
- Reduce muscle stiffness
- Promote lymphatic drainage
- Improve vision
- Increase energy and alertness
- Increase physical strength
- Slow age-related changes
How to perform Abhyanga:
- Scoop about 1/2 cup of ghee into a clean bowl and melt in the microwave for just a few seconds until the ghee is just warm (be careful not to overcook and make it too hot).
- Apply the ghee with your hands to your whole body, including the top of your head. Massage it into your scalp, moving in circular motions.
- Continue to your forehead, ears, cheeks, and jaws.
- Massage your chest and abdomen, moving in clockwise and circular strokes. On your torso, massage inward along your ribs.
- Continue to your back and buttocks. Massage in straight, long motions on your arms and legs. Move in circular motions on your joints.
- Massage your feet, including your toes and soles.
- Relax for 10 minutes to let your skin absorb the ghee.
- Take a warm bath or shower. Use a gentle cleanser to remove the ghee.