Of all the lifestyle practices Ayurveda offers, Abhyanga, (ah-be-yong’-ah) the practice of a warm oil daily self massage, is by far my favorite. Not only does it feel good, but it is one of the most beneficial to keep you feeling young, healthy and beautiful.
Our skin contains the greatest amount of beneficial hormones. The act of self touch balances the endocrine and nervous systems, enlivens the vital energy points and affects billions of nerve endings that connect to all parts of the body including the brain and vital organs. The ritual detoxifies the body’s tissues, increases circulation, calms the mind, enhances immune function and harmonizes the entire body.
Abhyanga is recommended as a daily preventative therapy throughout the year but is especially important during Autumn, when the quality of dryness is most pervasive in nature.
benefits of self-massage:
- Balance the endocrine system
- Increase mental alertness
- Stimulate internal organs
Ayurvedic massage is traditionally performed in the morning, before your bath or shower, to facilitate the release of toxins that may have accumulated during the previous night. However, a massage at the end of the day will certainly help to promote restful sleep. The entire practice takes about 15 minutes.
- Choose an oil appropriate to your constitution or the season. It is preferable to use a dosha specific, herb infused oil appropriate for lowering the imbalanced dosha. For more on your dosha, you can consult an Ayurvedic Doctor. If one is not available to you, an unrefined, organic sesame oil is recommended in cooler months and coconut oil can be used for a more cooling effect in warmer months.
- Begin by running some hot water over the bottle to gently warm the oil.
- Pour a tablespoon of warm oil onto your scalp and vigorously work in the oil.
- Using your fingertips, vigorously massage your head and scalp with small circular strokes, as if you are shampooing.
- Move to your face and ears, massaging more gently.
- Using an open hand to create friction, massage both the front and back of the neck.
- Vigorously massage your arms, using a circular motion at the shoulders and elbows, and back-and-forth motions on the upper arms and forearms.
- When massaging your chest and stomach, use a gentle circular motion and a straight up-and-down motion over the breastbone.
- After applying a bit of oil to both hands, gently reach around to the back and spine and massage them as well as you can without straining.
- Vigorously massage your legs as you did your arms, using circular motions at the ankles and knees, back-and-forth motions on the long parts.
- After massaging your legs, spend extra time on your feet. Using the open part of your hand, massage vigorously back and forth over the soles of the feet.
- Keeping a thin film of oil on the body is considered very beneficial for toning the skin and warming the muscles throughout the day.
It is said that the the effects of abhyanga are similar to the effects of being intensely and deeply loved. In fact, another Sanskrit word, sneha, translates as both love and oil. Abhyanga is an opportunity to love and feel gratitude for your own body, encouraging it to function better. Take the time to indulge in this Ayurvedic ritual as often as you can, and you’ll enjoy its benefits daily.