Abhyanga is the ayurvedic practice of self-massage that can offer you a moment of pause to honor your self. A daily Abhyanga practice can reassure your sense of strength, restore balance, and reinforce your overall well-being. Especially when implemented at the start of your day, a regular Abhyanga practice can help alleviate anxiety by slowing the heart rate and relaxing the body.
According to the ancient texts, Abhyanga nourishes the entire body- invigorating the muscles and tissues, lubricating the joints and increasing circulation. If done repeatedly and patiently, it can stimulate the internal organs, assisting in digestion, moving the lymph, and eliminating toxins (ama).
“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
(One of the Great ancient texts of Ayurveda)
One of the benefits of peaceful abhyanga is the soothing relaxation it provides. While increasing circulation, it still calms the nerves, improves sleep and encourages mindful breathing. Using the correct oils, it has the additional benefit of softening and smoothing the skin, and during the scalp massage, stimulating hair growth.
In the tradition of Ayurveda, the oil used is based on your dosha, or innate tendencies. We will address the doshas in a later blog.
For now, a quick recommendation is:
Vata Dosha: a relaxing oil such as sesame or almond
Pitta Dosha: a soothing oil such as coconut or sunflower
Kapha Dosha: an invigorating oil such as safflower
Good for all Three Doshas: Jojoba oil
A Method of Self-Massage:
Carefully warm the oil
Begin massaging at the top of your head (adhipati marma) and massage in a circular motion throughout your whole scalp, touching on the many marma points, or energy points, in the head
Move onto your face: continue in circular massage over your temples and forehead then down to your jaw and cheeks, and then to your earlobes
Move to your abdomen, with increased pressure, slowly moving up on the right side of the belly, then across, then down the left side, following your digestive path
When you reach your limbs, move in fast upward brush strokes on the long bones, briskly stimulating circulation with a firm touch
When you reach joints, return to circular movements, as if cupping your joints in your hand
When you reach your feet, push deeply with your fingers into the balls of your feet and then the heels, then separating your toes briefly and push your fingers between the toes (Your feet hold many energy points and the nerve endings are close to the surface and easily accessed by pressure)
Sit for a moment with yourself, let the oil soak in
Abhyanga is meant to be easily integrated into your morning routine. (Check out our previous blog post for more information about The Morning Routine). This element should not be daunting. Ideally you would dedicate 10-15 minutes to the practice; but if you only have 5 minutes, focus on the scalp, earlobes and jaw, and the feet. Use more oil if you have the time to absorb it in a relaxed manner.