Psst! You, there. Yes, I am speaking to you. Would you like me to share one of the best-kept secrets to radiant health and longevity? Well, have you heard about abhyanga?
It is an ‘oil massage’ for the body. The word literally translates to the rubbing of limbs: abhy (to rub) and anga (limb). It originates from Ayurveda, which is the oldest medical practice on the planet.
Abhyanga is an important part of the Ayurvedic detox system called panchakarma. As a stand-alone treatment, abhyanga is quickly becoming a popular service on spa menus where it is often performed by two therapists in what is referred to as the 4-handed Indian massage.
However, one of the most powerful ways to incorporate abhyanga into your life is through the daily practice of self-massage. Ancient Ayurvedic texts are very clear about the benefits of regular self-massage.
“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: Sutrasthana: V: 88-89.
In abhyanga, the application of warm oil is known as snehana. Snehana shares the same Sanskrit root for the words ‘oil’ and ‘love.’ It is, therefore an act of love that keeps the body glowing, healthy, and young. Daily self-massage with warm oils help to penetrate the many layers of tissue and provide a gentle detox as well as the following benefits:
- Lubricates and supports the joints.
- Soothes the nervous system.
- Improves circulation.
- Helps to move to xins to the digestive track for elimination.
- Protects and nourishes the skin.
- Slows the aging process.
What Oil Should You Use?
Choose an oil that balances your Ayurvedic body type or dosha. There are three main Ayurvedic body types: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. Know more about Ayurvedic body types.
Traditionally, Ayurveda uses herbal medicated oils for self-massage but the quality nut or seed oils can also be applied to the body. Your skin is your second digestive system, so make sure that you are using an organic, cold pressed nut or seed based oil. Needless to say, if you have allergic to nuts then avoid these oils.
Here is a list of suggested oils for each body type. The medicated herbal oils are listed in the parentheses:
- Vata: Sesame oil or almond oil (Bala herbal oil)
- Pitta: Coconut oil or sunflower oil (Brahmi herbal oil)
- Kapha: Sunflower or safflower (Triphala herbal oil)
Keep in mind that Ayurveda is a personalized holistic system. The oils listed above benefit a body that is in a state of balance. If you are experiencing an imbalance in the Vata, Pitta, or Kapha energies, then your practitioner may recommend an oil that corresponds to the energy that is out of balance.
Every season (Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter) heightens the energy of the dosha associated with that time of year. Your Ayurvedic practitioner may also recommend the use of oil that corresponds to that season. It is always best to work with a certified Ayurvedic consultant to optimize your lifestyle routines.
How To Perform A Self-Massage Routine?
First, make time for self-massage. A self-massage routine typically takes 15-20 minutes. This might seems like a big chunk of time out of your busy morning but remember the benefits to maintaining your glow. If this is a big step, then start off with 5 minutes in the week and 15-20 minutes on the weekends to build up slowly.
Next, self-massage is done before your morning exercise routine. Oil has a gentle warming effect and when combined with the heat generated by exercise, it creates a daily detox. Again, this is the optimal way to perform self-massage. If you do not have time for a morning exercise routine, then do yourself a massage and follow it up with several sun salutations.
When Not To Perform A Self-Massage Routine
Abhyanga is a great practice, however, there are times when it is necessary to take caution. Avoid performing abhyanga in the following conditions:
- On open wounds.
- On rashes, acnes, or inflammatory skin conditions like eczema.
- On injured or inflamed areas.
- While experiencing fever or flu symptoms.
- If you have a thick white coating on the surface of your tongue.
Other practical application tips include the following:
- Do not put oil on the bottom of your feet in order to avoid a slip and fall.
- Do not wear your best exercise gear to avoid oil stains. And you may need to use a natural degreaser to avoid oil build up.
- It is also best to check with your Ayurvedic practitioner to see if it is appropriate to perform self-massage during pregnancy or with other medical conditions.
The Self-Massage Routine
- Anoint your body in a peaceful state of mind and in a quiet, calm environment, i.e. do not perform the massage while listening to the radio or watching TV.
- Warm up 1-2 oz of oil. “Warm” is the operative word here. The oil should not be hot. It should not cause any discomfort or pain during its application. I usually heat water and pour it into a container. Then I place the closed bottle of oil in the container of water. I never heat oil by directly pouring it into a pot.
- Start at your feet and legs. Then move to your upper extremities. Next massage your back, neck, chest, and abdomen areas.
- Apply oil to your scalp and massage it in. Make sure that you apply oil to the crown of your head.
- Apply oil to the inside of your ears and nose.
- End the self-massage with the application of a perfumed essential oil blend on your chakras or energetic centers.
- Anoint your body temple by saying your favorite prayer and/or blessing every part of your body as you massage it.
- Once you complete the self-massage, enjoy a gentle exercise routine and meditation. Then take a warm shower. This is the way to start your day and get in touch with glowing health and happiness.
Refer Ayurvedic Terminology
Ayurveda: The oldest medical system that originated in India over 5000 years ago. “Ayus” means life and “Veda” means science or knowledge. It is a personalized science that focuses on the individual in relation to nature. It is a holistic practice that focuses on balancing the individual’s health through diet and lifestyle practices.
Abhyanga: An Ayurvedic massage that traditionally uses medicated warm oils to balance the individual and used as a daily self-practice as well as a part of the detox protocol.
Dinacharya: The daily healing and balancing routines that include the best time to wake up, go to sleep, to eat, as well as daily practices for body care, oral care, exercise, breathing, and meditation.
Dosha: The individual’s personal Ayurvedic body type. It is the predominant expression of the three Ayurvedic energies, Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.
Snehana: The application of warm oils.
Pancha Karma: An Ayurvedic detox system that focuses on eliminating toxic buildup in order to balance the individual and to slow the aging process.
The content of this blog is for educational and informational purposes only. The information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Therefore, the information does not replace the recommendations made by your doctor or primary healthcare professional.
The information in this blog is general and cannot take into consideration the individual’s personal state of health. It is, therefore, necessary for you, the reader, to understand and assume the personal risk for the use of all products and recommendations mentioned in the blog.