In Ayurveda, anointing oneself—from head to toe with warm oil—is called Abhyanga. Typically, a massage therapist performs abhyanga where they apply the oil to the entire body, from the scalp to the soles of the client’s feet. But if you grew up in an Indian home, you have noticed babies getting daily, warm oil massages. They look so calm and replenished at the end of the session. That is because warm oil massage balances the doshas and enhances their well-being.
Having a massage therapist anoint you with oil daily falls under the realm of impossible and unaffordable for the large majority. This is where self-abhyanga comes in—a practice where you massage your own body with warm oil prior to taking a shower. Self-abhyanga is a comforting exercise that helps put the mind and body at ease. It can be energizing, stimulating, and relaxing depending on the season and the oil you use.
There is a word in Sanskrit called Sneha, which can be translated as both “oil” and “love.” It is believed that the effects of Abhyanga are like being deeply in love. Abhyanga can give a deep feeling of stability and warmth…just like true and deep love.
How do you practice Abhyanga?
- Warm the oil in an oil warmer.
- You can also hold a small container of oil under running hot water or set it in a bowl or container of hot water.
- Be careful as to not overheat the oil.
- Dip your fingers in the oil.
- Massage your body with compassion and patience for 15-20 minutes.
- Use circular motion around the head, elbows, and knees and straight strokes on the rest of the body.
- Apply light pressure on sensitive areas.
Here’s the general technique of abhyanga self-massage
- Massage the oil into your scalp, moving in circular motions.
- Use your fingertips to apply comfortable amount of pressure.
- Continue to your forehead, ears, cheeks, and jaws.
- Massage your chest and abdomen, moving in clockwise and circular strokes.
- On your trunk, massage inward along your ribs.
- Continue to your back and butt.
- Massage in straight, long motions on your arms and legs. Move in circular motions on your joints.
- Apply oil to your feet and massage the nerve endings
- Allow 15-20 minutes to let your skin absorb the oil.
- Take a warm bath or shower.
- Don’t apply soap to wash away the oil.
What oils for each dosha?
Here are the recommendations for frequency and oil type, based on the doshas:
- Vata Dosha: 4-5 times a week using sesame or almond oil.
- Pitta Dosha: 3-4 times a week using a coconut or sunflower oil.
- Kapha Dosha: 1-2 times a week using safflower oil.
- Good for all Three Doshas: Jojoba oil or a tri-doshic massage oil.
Benefits of Abhyanga
- Improved circulation, strength, vision, and stamina.
- Lowers stress.
- Restful sleep.
- Stimulation of the internal organs and circulation for increased waste removal and cleansing
- Increased moisture for softer skin.
- Improved texture, tone, and overall skin appearance.
- Nourishment of entire body
- Strengthened bodily tissues, lubrication of internal organs, bones, and joints.
- Better sleep and overall health.
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