When the ball dropped on New Year's Eve to symbolize that 2022 had begun, I was already fast asleep. Quarantining with COVID meant that any grand plans I had were canceled, which was fine with me because there didn't really feel like much to celebrate. Continued concerns about the virus meant that the "fresh start" so many of us were hoping for was postponed until further notice, and that the languishing I'd been feeling for the past two years would just... keep on keeping on.
But a few days (and multiple negative tests) later, my fresh antibodies and I took a trip to Little Palm Island, a luxury resort located on a private island off the coast of the Florida Keys. While I was there, I soaked up the sun and experienced exactly the type of reset I had been yearning for, courtesy of an Ayurvedic Royal Treatment.
"In Ayurveda, health comes from a balanced state, and the release from this massage helps to reset energy and return the body to an optimally balanced state," says Rooshy Roy, co-founder and CEO of Aavrani, an ayurvedic skin-care brand. "The type of practice best for each individual should be tailored to fit the needs of their unique makeup, known as a constitution, or dosha, in Ayurveda."
There are three doshas—vata (wind), pitta (fire), and kapha (earth)—and knowing yours can help you figure out how to best focus your self-care practices. (Vatas can benefit from grounding practices; kaphas benefit from movement; and pittas benefit from energy and stimulation). A recent reading with ayurvedic specialist Mary A. Whitlock determined that I am a vata (you can figure out your own dosha with this quiz), and confirmed that the type of rooting energy that the Royal Treatment is exactly what I needed to achieve the sort of reset I'd been looking for.
Though I had the chance to experience Ayurveda's energy-restoring benefits at the hands of a professional, it's mind-bogglingly easy to recreate at home. Keep reading to find out exactly how it went—and how you can try it out for yourself without having to hop on a plane to Key West.
1. Abhyanga massage
After I unwound with a cup of ginger tea in the spa's waiting room, my royal treatment began with an Abhyanga massage during which a practitioner used warm oil to administer fast strokes all over my body to stimulate circulation and release toxins. "The Abhyanga massage is an important ritual to help promote overall well-being," says Roy. "It stimulates the lymphatic system, calms the mind and body, and allows the body to release toxins. Practicing Abhyanga and oiling your body is a form of self-love. Somewhat literally, because in Sanskrit, the word for oil—sneba—means love."
According to Kimberly Snyder, CN, abhyanga massage is especially useful during the colder months when we aren't moving as much (hi, COVID quarantine!), as it can help relieve fatigue, provide stamina, enhance sleep, and soothe the nervous system. In a 2011 study done on 20 participants, researchers found that a 1-hour Abhyanga massage decreased their heart rates and their subjective stress levels—and after experiencing it for myself, I can definitely attest that they were on to something.
Roy recommends catering your treatment to your dosha. “Vatas would benefit from fast strokes and more-frequent treatments, especially during cold, dry months; kaphas would benefit from firmer strokes to stimulate the body; and pittas would benefit from using a cooling oil, like coconut,” she says.
To reap Abhyanga's mind-body benefits at home, all you really need is a bottle of body oil and a few free minutes of time. Shel Pink, beauty pro and founder of SpaRitual, recommends doing it as follows:
- Start by massaging the oil into your feet with the open part of your hand, working your way up your body with circular strokes around your ankles and knees, and long, quick strokes on the rest of your legs.
- Do the best you can to hit the spots on the back of your body with up-and-down strokes (massaging your spine, in particular, can be great for restoring energy).
- Massage your breastbone using up-and-down strokes, move to clockwise strokes on your stomach, then use a counter-clockwise motion with a little extra pressure over your heart and lungs.
- Massage your arms, focusing on circular motions around your shoulders and elbows and up-and-down strokes on your arms.
- Use an open palm to massage your neck (front and back!) with enough pressure to create friction, and use your fingers to loosen any knots.
- Gently massage your face and ears, spending extra time on your temples and jaw bone.
2. Full-body exfoliation
Next came a full-body exfoliation, another practice that has significant roots in Ayurveda. "Your body naturally accumulates toxicity over time, and regular detoxification helps to remove those toxins. When your lymphatic system is congested, you experience toxic accumulation," says Roy. "Exfoliating helps skin eliminate toxins more efficiently by removing dead skin cells and also stimulates lymphatic drainage."
For the best exfoliating effects, Roy recommends using a natural, non-abrasive physical exfoliant. This one features Ayurvedic-inspired ingredients such as honey, neem, and turmeric, which gently exfoliate to brighten your complexion and even out your skin tone.
After this step was complete, I stepped into the shower and watched my dead skin shed off of me like a snake, which felt like an all-too-obvious metaphor for exactly how I was feeling in the moment. I was as if the negative energy that had been plaguing me was literally going down the drain, and I can't say that I was sad to see it go.
3. Soak it all away
To finish things off, I spent 20 minutes luxuriating in the most beautiful bathtub I've ever seen. This part of the process also offered Ayurvedic benefits. "Frequent and even daily baths are highly encouraged in Ayurveda," says Roy. "Baths remove excess toxins and dirt from the skin while helping to restore physical energy to the body. There are also mental and emotional benefits because baths help to relax and center the mind, promoting calmness and balance."
These rose-geranium-infused bath salts are exactly the ones used in the Royal Treatment at Little Palm Island’s SpaTerre. According to Tracy McClellan, the property’s spa manager, they offer a “rejuvenating and moisturizing blend” meant to bring “soothing balance” to the skin.
"Balanced" was exactly what I felt when I re-emerged into the South Florida sunshine. The treatment gave me a chance to reset my energy, and the renewed sense of well-being that it gave me is something I've continued to carry with me in the month and a half since. And if ever I lose that feeling? Getting it back is only a self-massage—and 20 minutes of bath time—away.
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