Ayurvedic medicine is one of the oldest systems of medicine in the world. hailing from India, this system of medicine is based on the belief that good health and well-being are dependent on a delicate balance between the mind, body, and spirit. One of the most popular treatments from this system of medicine is Abhyanga, which is a form of massage. Abhyanga is said to have many benefits, including promoting relaxation, improving sleep, and reducing stress and anxiety.
What Is Abhyanga and Why Is it Recommended in Ayurveda?
Wouldn’t it be nice to get a professional massage every day? Unfortunately, that’s not always possible. However, you can still enjoy the benefits of abhyanga with a self-massage at home. This Ayurvedic technique involves using warm oil to massage specific points on the body in order to release toxins, stimulate circulation, improve digestion, increase energy levels, relax muscles and prevent dry skin.
Ayurveda suggests practising self-massage for at least fifteen minutes each time you do it, and to devote love and attention to your body as you nourish it with an Ayurvedic oil of your choice.
There’s nothing like a good massage to balance out your Vata dosha! The act of massaging balances what we call Vata dosha in Ayurveda, which primarily is responsible for balancing out the nervous system and governs all movement in the body including elimination.
If you want to give your whole body a boost, try giving yourself a scalp, face, and foot massage with some oil. Ayurvedic texts say that this can help other parts of your body, since the scalp, ears, and feet are seen as maps representing the entire body. So go ahead and give yourself a little TLC!
Abhyanga is said to ward off old age, and who doesn’t want that? Plus, it can help with things like vision and skin health. Not to mention, it might just help you live a longer life.
Abhyanga is just what you need to perk up a sluggish mind and body! It’ll promote high energy levels throughout the day and sound sleep during the night. Plus, it releases toxins into the body for elimination and deeply moisturizes the skin to keep it looking nourished, supple, and soft. Not to mention, it strengthens and lubricates the muscles and joints, making them more resilient to injury. Relaxes the muscles and improved range of motion? Check! Calms the nervous system, leaving you feeling relaxed yet alert? Check! Assists in slowing down the signs of ageing? Check! Assists in removing blockages from the nadis, chakras and marmas, promoting the free flow of prana throughout the body. Have I convinced you yet?
How To Do Abhyanga
Get ready to give yourself a relaxing self-massage! You’ll need an old towel to stand on, a pot or sink of warm-hot water, and oil (preferably in a glass bottle with a pump for easy administration, otherwise you can pour a small amount into a mug or glass). A Paper towel, or another old towel, will come in handy to pat off any excess oil. Socks and old clothes to cover your body post-application (so you don’t slip or leave oil stains around the house!)
The amount of pressure you use during a self-massage should depend on your needs and how you’re feeling that day. Some days you may need a more vigorous approach to achieve balance, while other days may benefit from a slow, deep massage to relieve stress, anxiety, or tension. The goal is always to maintain balance within the body and mind. With practice, you’ll become more intuitive to the needs of your body and be able to provide yourself with the care you need.
Look for cold-pressed, organic oils whenever possible – they haven’t been over-processed like conventional oils, so they retain all their nutritional value. Plus, oils oxygenate quickly, so they can go rancid if you don’t store them properly. Keep them in a cool, dark cupboard, tightly sealed.
If you are a Vata type, try: Sesame, almond, olive
If you are a Pitta type, try: Coconut, sunflower, safflower
If you are a Kapha type, try: Mustard, safflower, apricot, and sesame (small amounts)
Place the bottle or container of oil in hot water for about 5 minutes, or until it feels comfortable to the touch.
Time to get your oil on! Stand on your mat and take a small amount of oil in the palm of your hand. Rub your hands together, and then begin applying it all over your body. Start with the scalp (if you have enough time to wash your hair afterwards!) and work your way down to the soles of your feet.
Now that your body is all glistening and oily, it’s time to give yourself a good ol’ massage! Work the oil into your skin with your hands and really feel those muscles relax.
There are countless marma, acupressure and trigger points throughout your body – so go explore! If you discover a sensitive area, spend a little more time on it until some of the tension is alleviated. Who knows what you might find!
It is advised that you massage your body in the following order:
To improve circulation, stimulate hair growth, and de-stress, massage your head in a circular motion, using your fingers. Scratch gently to exfoliate the scalp and enliven the hair follicles.
Consider giving yourself a relaxing facial massage with some oil. Not only can this help relieve tension in your face, but it can also promote a healthy complexion. For an extra dose of relaxation, pay attention to the marma points on your face when massaging. These are points that are said to be particularly important for maintaining natural beauty.
Marma points are located along the nadis, which are like energy highways that prana flows through. In Ayurvedic medicine, marma points are used to help the body and mind communicate better, as well as to coordinate communication between cells. Marma points also help transmit healing energy to organs and tissues.
Forget your troubles with a shoulder massage! Work those knots out with circular movements, then move down to the chest and arms. Use long, sweeping movements down the limbs, and don’t forget to give your hands some love. Work the oil into your nail beds with your thumb in gentle, circular motions. This will help strengthen your nails and keep your cuticles looking neat.
Let’s get our legs and feet looking and feeling good! Who knew that foot massages could do so much! Not only are they deeply relaxing, but they can also provide relief from pain and stiffness. Plus, foot massage helps to strengthen the feet. And if that wasn’t enough, foot massages can also enhance vision and help balance Vata. So go ahead and give your feet a little love – it’ll do them (and you) a world of good!
Your stomach is one of the most important parts of your body, so don’t be afraid to give it some love! This area can often hold a lot of emotional tension, so working deeply into those areas of tightness can help release that tension and improve your overall wellbeing. I advise massaging the abdomen last because it has the potential to release a large amount of prana, or life force energy, into the body.
What’s the rush? Abhyanga should take a chill 10-25 minutes, done bi-weekly or daily. After massaging the oil into your skin, sit quietly for 5-20 minutes to reap the benefits. This is a nice time for engaging in morning meditation; another daily practice you may wish to add to your life.
Okay, lovelies! Make sure to pat off any excess oil before your lovely, warm baths or showers. And please be careful around slippery surfaces! If you’re worried about slipping, make sure to hold on tight to something stable or install a non-slip mat. We don’t want you to hurt yourselves – that would defeat the purpose of this healthy practice!
Okay, time to get out of the shower! Make sure you pat your body dry before applying moisturizer to the skin if and where needed.
When NOT to Do Abhyanga
If you are pregnant, have your menstrual cycle, have an acute illness, or have any great physical discomfort, it is best to avoid self-massage.
Abhyanga is a wonderful way to relax, unwind, and enjoy the simple pleasures of life. It’s my hope that these tips have helped you learn more about how to incorporate this wonderful practise into your everyday life. Please feel free to share your experiences and questions below, and stay tuned for future posts on other ways to integrate Ayurveda into your lifestyle.