Abhyanga is a traditional Ayurvedic health care routine which involves self-massaging a good amount of oil onto your skin. It is a great way of bringing love, stability, nurture, comfort and nourishment into your body and your life. For Kapha/pitta types 3 times a week is good, preceded by dry skin brushing, and using coconut oil if needing to balance pitta dosha—grumpy, impatient, frustrated, too much heat in body—and safflower oil to balance kapha dosha—lethargic, mucous build up, putting on weight that won’t budge. Vata types do well using sesame oil.
A simple way to carry out Abhyanga at home involves applying lots of oil to your whole body, before taking a steamy bath or shower – on an Ayurvedic retreat there will probably be a steam box to use and as many as 4 people massaging you!
I recommend you carry this out each day while balancing vata dosha (it can take as little as 5 minutes to apply the oil but 15 is better), before breakfast. The longer you massage yourself the deeper the oil will penetrate and the stronger the effect.
Abhyanga softens your tissues at surface and deeper levels, nourishes your nervous system, reduces stress, and pacifies your mind and body. I learnt that this self-massage benefits the skin and sleep patterns, increases circulation, and helps to balance vata and pitta doshas. By carrying out this massage a few times a week you will bring warmth and stability into your body and mind while grounding your nervous system.
Use 1/4 to 1/2 cup of oil. Place this in a jar and put the jar in hot water to warm the oil. In a warm bathroom run yourself a bath (it is fine to have a shower if you do not have a bath) and coat yourself from head to toe in the oil – take 5-15 minutes (the longer you take the deeper the oil will penetrate the tissues).
Start on your scalp (leave your scalp out if this is not practical for you), move to your face, neck, and shoulders, then move to your hands and feet, massaging up your arms and legs towards your heart using long strokes, with gentle and circular strokes on joints. Next massage the oil towards the middle of your body, always moving towards your heart – up your lower back, down your upper back and around the sides of your body to your abdomen. Massage your abdomen following the clockwise flow of your intestines – up the right side, along the top and down the left side (when you look down at your abdomen). As soon as you have finished, relax in a warm bath for 20 minutes if possible or take a hot shower. The aim is to be relaxed and warm in a wet and steamy environment. Do not wash the oil off just pat dry with a towel.
- After eating
- When there is severe indigestion
- When pregnant
- During menstruation
- When there is a fever
- When there is high toxicity
- If you have received an enema – toxins are being directed to move out of your system in a specific direction
- If you feel nauseous or are vomiting
- Over broken skin
- Over infected skin
- If you have a medical condition or over painful areas without the okay from your doctor
Image by Sylvia on pixaby