The Benefits of Ayurveda Self-Massage “Abhyanga”

 

by Sandhiya Ramaswamy

There is no greater expression of self-love than lovingly anointing ourselves from head to toe with warm oil—this practice is called Abyanga. The Sanskrit word Sneha can be translated as both “oil” and “love.” It is believed that the effects of Abhyanga are similar to those received when one is saturated with love. Like the experience of being loved, Abhyanga can give a deep feeling of stability and warmth.

A daily Abyanga practice restores the balance of the doshas and enhances well-being and longevity. Regular Abyanga is especially grounding and relaxing for Vata dosha imbalances, but everyone can benefit from this practice.

“The body of one who uses oil massage regularly does not become affected much even if subjected to accidental injuries, or strenuous work. By using oil massage daily, a person is endowed with pleasant touch, trimmed body parts and becomes strong, charming and least affected by old age”

Charaka Samhita Vol. 1, V: 88-89  (One of the Great ancient texts of Ayurveda)

Benefits of Abhyanga:

  • Nourishes the entire body—decreases the effects of aging
  • Imparts muscle tone and vigor to the dhatus (tissues) of the body
  • Imparts a firmness to the limbs
  • Lubricates the joints
  • Increases circulation
  • Stimulates the internal organs of the body
  • Assists in elimination of impurities from the body
  • Moves the lymph, aiding in detoxification
  • Increases stamina
  • Calms the nerves
  • Benefits sleep—better, deeper sleep
  • Enhances vision
  • Makes hair (scalp) grow luxuriantly, thick, soft and glossy
  • Softens and smoothens skin; wrinkles are reduced and disappear
  • Pacifies Vata and Pitta and stimulates Kapha—to learn more about Doshas.

Abhyanga Routine and Oils

Massage your body with love and patience for 15-20 minutes. Here are the recommendations for frequency and oil type, based on the doshas:

  • Vata Dosha | 4-5 times a week using sesame, almond, or a Vata-balancing oil,  warming
  • Pitta Dosha | 3-4 times a week using a coconut, sunflower, or a Pitta-balancing oil,  cooling
  • Kapha Dosha | 1-2 times a week using safflower or a Kapha-balancing oil, invigorating
  • Good for all Three Doshas | Jojoba oil

Steps to Follow for Self-Massage:

  • Warm the oil (pour approximately ¼ cup into a mug and warm using a coffee-cup warmer.) Test the temperature by putting a drop on your inner wrist, oil should be comfortably warm and not hot
  • Sit or stand comfortably in a warm room
  • Apply oil first to the crown of your head (adhipati marma) and work slowly out from there in circular strokes—spend a couple of minutes massaging your entire scalp (home to many other important marma points—points of concentrated vital energy)
  • Face: Massage in circular motion on your forehead, temples, cheeks, and jaws (always moving in a upward movement). Be sure to massage your ears, especially your ear-lobes—home to essential marma points and nerve endings
  • Use long strokes on the limbs (arms and legs) and circular strokes on the joints (elbows and knees). Always massage toward the direction of your heart
  • Massage the abdomen and chest in broad, clockwise, circular motions. On the abdomen, follow the path of the large intestine; moving up on the right side of the abdomen, then across, then down on the left side
  • Finish the massage by spending at least a couple of minutes massaging your feet. Feet are a very important part of the body with the nerve endings of essential organs and vital marma points
  • Sit with the oil for 5-15 minutes if possible so that the oil can absorb and penetrate into the deeper layers of the body
  • Enjoy a warm bath or shower. You can use a mild soap on the “strategic” areas, avoid vigorously soaping and rubbing the body
  • When you get out of the bath, towel dry gently. Blot the towel on your body instead of rubbing vigorously

Enjoy the feeling of having nourished your body, mind, and spirit and carry that with you throughout your day.