According to Ayurveda, massage is considered to be one of the best things for your health and well-being. Abhyanga, the full body self-massage with warm oil, is a wonderful ritual that you can do every morning before your bath or shower. If you don’t have the time every day, try to do it as often as possible, even 2-3 times a week gives considerable good results.
The benefits of Abhyanga are countless. Its most profound blessing is that it allows us to reconnect with the biological intelligence that underlies the physiological processes, and it creates an overall harmonizing effect for the whole body. It contributes to the creation of Ojas, the master coordinator between body and mind.
From the perspective of modern science we know that there is an intimate connection between the skin and the nervous system. The stimulation of the skin promotes the secretion of neurochemicals that balance the nervous system. Abhyanga sends the signals of joy, comfort, and well-being throughout the body.
Beyond the physical stimulation the healing qualities of the massage oils and the herbs used in some of the oils further contribute to the beneficial effects of Abhyanga. Since these healing substances are absorbed through the skin, our largest organ, the body can assimilate them quickly and efficiently; there is no need for them to go through the digestive system and the liver.
A regular massage with warm oil is especially helpful for pacifying dry and cold Vata. Abhyanga soothes the mind, creates bliss hormones, dispels fatigue, improves circulation, increases muscle strength and joint flexibility, and boosts the immune system. Going deep within the tissues, it helps remove toxins. And if all this is not enough, it does wonders for your skin. It prevents the skin from drying and cracking, and its regular use bestows a glowing complexion.
How to Do Abhyanga
Warm some massage oil by putting the container in warm water for a few minutes. Pour some oil on your palm and spread it all over your body. Then start massaging your head, face, and neck. Continue over your chest and abdomen with gentle circular movements. Be especially gentle around the area of the heart. Over the arms and legs use straight strokes, and again circular motions on the joints. Don’t leave out your back, the buttocks, and the hips. Spend more time with the head, the hands, and the feet. If you don’t want to wash your hair, don’t put oil on your scalp.
When you are done, relax for about 10-15 minutes to let the oil soak in. The more you allow the oil to stay, the better it gets absorbed. In the meantime, do whatever you comfortably can: brush your teeth, cut your nails, shave, or do breathing exercises. You can even put on some old pajamas and check your e-mail. Finally, wash the oil off, preferably without the use of soap.
What to Use for Abhyanga
If your dominant dosha is Vata, sesame oil is the best. To calm Pitta, choose coconut or olive oil. Kaphas sometimes do well with sesame, if it is too heavy for them, they can try mustard oil or switch to Gharshan, the ayurvedic dry massage performed with special silk gloves. If you are dual dosha, you might need different oils in different seasons. For example, a Vata-Pitta can use sesame oil in winter and spring to stay warm, and olive to pacify Pitta when the weather gets hotter.
Several kinds of herbalized oils are also available, some are made specifically for each dosha. Even after washing them off, their wonderful, exotic aromas stay with you for a long time. A final piece of advice: always use good quality, organic substances.
It may sound daunting to incorporate a daily oil massage into your routine. If that’s the case, why don’t you go gradually, starting with several times a week until you can build up to a daily habit. Once you get used to it, you will not want to forego the wonderful benefits of this internally and externally rejuvenating ancient practice.