Abhyanga: The Benefits of Adding Ayurveda Self-Massage to Your Self-Love Routine

By Isha Sharma | Posted: August 24, 2018

In Sanskrit, oil is called ‘sneha’, which is also the word for ‘love’ or ‘affection’ in the language. In Ayurveda, one of the most important expressions of self-love is on oil massage, or abhyanga. It is believed the feeling one gets after an abhyanga is similar to the feeling of being loved. Just like the experience of receiving love, a self-abhyanga gives a feeling of stability, calm, comfort, and restoration.

A daily practice of abhyanga - which generally takes around 15 minutes - is known to promote longevity, create balance and foster well-being physically, mentally and emotionally.

“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 Vol. 1, V: 88-89  

Benefits of abhyanga include (but are not restricted to ) :

  • Gives glowing, soft and healthy skin
  • Provides better circulation
  • Aids in removing toxins by stimulating the lymphatic system
  • Enhances digestion
  • Promotes metabolism
  • Stimulates internal organs and tissues
  • Enhances muscle tone and firmness
  • Increases immunity and stamina
  • Promotes better and sounder sleep
  • Assists in thicker, softer and shinier hair (through the scalp massage included as part of the abhyanga)
  • Lubricates joints
  • Promotes better vision

Steps to practicing a self-abhyanga :

1. Environment: Sit in an environment that is comfortably warm or room temperature. If you are in your bathroom or bedroom, make sure you have a towel below you to soak in the left over or dripping oil.

2. Choose the right oil for your body and your dosha: Each of us has a dosha, a predominant element, or 2 predominant elements, which determine our psychological body-shape, personality traits and emotional tendencies. Find out more about doshas here.

For Vata : Shankara vata body oil

For Pitta : Shankara pitta body oil

For Kapha : Shankara kapha body oil

3. Warm the oil: Pour the oil in a cup and warm it in a larger pan filled with water

4. Start with the scalp: The scalp contains the largest number of marma points, or points of concentrated vital energy, in our body. Massage your scalp with an upward stroke in small circles, as if you are shampooing your scalp.

5. Move to the face: Massage your forehead, temples, cheeks, jaws, upper lip, lower lip and chin with upward circular strokes. Don’t forget to massage your ears and ear lobes, as they are also home to vital nerve endings and marma points.

6. Neck and shoulders: Massage your neck from the bottom of the neck towards the chin. Massage your shoulder from inside to out as if you are brushing something off. Massage your shoulder joints in strong circular movements.

7. Abdomen and chest: Massage these areas in a clockwise circular motion.

8. Arms and Legs: Use long strokes for the arms and legs and circular strokes for the joints. Massage from the hands or feet towards your shoulders or thighs.

9. Feet and Hands: Massage the upper and lower part of your feet and hands in rhythmic strokes. Using your thumb, massage your sole/palm in small circular strokes. For a firmer movement, use the opening of your palm or your knuckles. Also massage each toe/finger separately; pull each one at the end to release any trapped stress or tension in each nerve ending.

10. Soak it all in: Leave  the oil on your body for at least 5-10 minutes so that it can be absorbed and penetrate into the deeper layers of your body. Take this time to feel the sneha’ - the love and nourishment you have given to your body, mind and spirit with your oil massage.

11. Clean it all up: Have a luke-warm shower with a gentle, mild soap.

12. Pat dry your body: Gently dry your body - instead of vigorously rubbing it - with a soft towel to make sure the moisture, softness and suppleness retains in the skin.

13. Dress yourself, and you’re ready to go!

By Isha Sharma, a global nomad native to the Himalayas and raised across six countries. Youth Ambassador and Instructor at the Art of Living, E-RYT 300 Yoga Teacher, Social Worker, Nutritionist and Mind-Body Wellness Writer.

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