Abhyanga - self oil massage
One of the easiest and most powerful traditional Ayurvedic practices we can do on our own is Abhyanga (warm oil massage).
Dr. Vasant Lad says that “a dry body, like a dry stick, breaks easily.”
When we apply oil, the body becomes more flexible, and able to bend with the challenges of life. We feel nourished, grounded and supple.
Benefits Of Abhyanga
• Enhances health of the skin, makes it strong, soft & lustrous
• Produces softness, strength and color in the body
• Decreases the effects of aging & increases longevity
• Bestows good vision
• Promotes healthy appetite & strong digestion
• Nourishes the body by removing toxins & providing nutrients to tissues
• Supports restful sleep patterns
• Strengthens the immunity, energy & vitality
• Imparts tone and vigor to the tissues of the body
• Maintains optimal body chemistry, including hormones & neurotransmitters
• Calms the nervous system & sense organs
• Reduces pain
• Stimulates the internal organs of the body, including circulation
• Balances elimination processes
• Reduces coarseness, stiffness, roughness, fatigue and numbness
• Nurtures & supports positive feelings & emotions
• Benefits local veins & ligaments
• Helps sciatica
• Oiling the face removes facial wrinkles
• Oiling the scalp causes hair to grow luxuriantly, thick, soft and glossy
CHOOSE YOUR OIL BY DOSHA
Vāta & Pitta/Vata combo Constitutions -
Try our Calming Abhyanga Oil
Kapha & Pitta/Kapha combo Constitutions -
Try our Warming Abhyanga Oil
Abhyanga in Pregnancy
In pregnancy, it’s best to avoid abhyanga during the first trimester. In the 2nd and 3rd trimesters, abhyanga is highly recommended as long as the pregnancy is stable and their are no contraindications (be sure to check with your care provider). Apply the oil all over and very gently massage.
Try our Mamāyurveda Medicinals Mama & Baby Oil during the 2nd & 3rd trimesters and postpartum.
HOW TO DO THE MASSAGE
• Put about ½ cup oil in an 8 oz. glass bottle. *Check the smell - make sure the oil is fresh and hasn’t gone rancid.
• Place the bottle of oil in a pan of hot water until the oil is warm, or fill your bathroom sink with a little hot water and place the bottle directly in the sink.
• Sit or stand in a warm room, on an older towel (one you don’t mind ruining with oil accumulation). Make sure you’re protected from drafts.
• Apply oil to the crown of your head and work slowly out from there in circular strokes. Put a couple drops of warm oil on the tip of your little finger and apply to the opening of the ear canal. (If there is any current or chronic discomfort in the ears don’t do this without the recommendation of your health care practitioner).
• Apply the oil to your entire body, and use a generous amount – 1/4-1/2 cup.
• Massage the oil into your entire body, beginning at the extremities and working toward the middle of the body. Use long strokes on the limbs and circular strokes on the joints.
Massage the abdomen and chest in broad, clockwise, circular motions.
On the abdomen, follow the path of the large intestine; moving up on the right side of the abdomen, then across, then down on the left side.
• Massage your body for 5-20 minutes, with love and patience. Don’t rush this process.
• Give a little extra time and attention to massaging the oil into your scalp, ears and feet.
• Leave the oil on for 10-20 minutes.
• When you massage your feet, be sure to wipe them well before getting into the shower and wash them first, so you don’t slip.
• Enjoy a warm/hot bath or shower. If you have access to one, a sauna or steam bath is great for 15 minutes, right before the shower. If you use sauna or steam, only remain there long enough for light sweat to occur.
You can use a mild soap on the “strategic” areas, but it’s best not to soap the oil off your skin. Enough will soak in and then rinse off that you shouldn’t need to use soap.
• When you get out of the bath, towel dry. Keep a special towel for drying off after your Abhyanga because it can eventually get ruined, due to the accumulation of oil. Women - if you use your oil towel to wipe well under your breasts you’ll save your bra from oil accumulation.
CLEAN-UP & MAINTANENCE
Oil can accumulate in your tub and drain over time. A couple of times each month, pour approx. ¼ cup dish soap into the drain, then pour 2-3 cups of boiling water into the drain. Let sit for 15 min. Run hot water down the drain for a couple of minutes to flush out the residue. Another option I like is 1 Tbsp of baking soda followed by 1 cup of white vinegar.
For laundering oily towels, add ¼ cup grease-cutting dish soap along with your regular laundry detergent. Let sit in very hot water for at least 30 minutes, then wash. You may need to repeat this. Experiment as needed.
*Caution: do not dry oily towels in a hot dryer as they are easily combustible and may catch fire. Oil towels stored together can build up internal heat in warm environments to the point of catching fire. Yep, we’ve actually seen this happen!
**Note - Contraindications for Abhyanga
• After eating and if there’s indigestion
• Acute conditions such as fever, chills, common cold, diarrhea, flu
• Chronic high systemic āma. This can show as a heavily coated tongue.
• Immediately after taking emetics or purgatives
• Under a doctor’s care for medical condition
• During pregnancy without consulting health care practitioner or in threatened miscarriage
• During menstrual cycle
• Infected or open lesions
• Edema (swelling)
• Blood clots or bleeding disorders
• Extreme emotions
• Acute hypoglycemia
• Insulin-dependent diabetes
• During chemo therapy
I first began practicing abhyanga over 20 years ago with online guidance from Maya Tiwari & Darci Frankel. Big gratitude to those 2 women & to Dr. Vasant Lad & Dr. Claudia Welch for teaching me more about this life changing practice & providing indications + contraindications.