Ayurvedic Self-Massage (Abhyanga): The Lost Ritual in Our Daily Routine
“The leaves and bark of a tree are massaged by the wind,
the rocks and pebbles by the rivers and streams,
primates groom and rub up against each other to socially bond, decrease stress, and make up after a tussle,
a child feels protected with the touch of their mother.”
~ John Douillard.
Most of us bathe on a daily basis. We rub soap in the creases of our body and may hydrate our thirsty skin with moisturizer.
But there’s another self-care ritual delivered via the skin that’s missing in our daily lives: Self-massage, or Abhyanga, an Ayurvedic oil massage.
Unfortunately many humans missed out on the integration of this daily ritual. Other living beings in nature got the memo. They are being pampered daily, and so they deserve to be.
Fortunately, due to the rise of Ayurveda in the west, self-massage is now beginning to return to our innate daily regimen.
Tissue massage doesn’t have to be complex. Simple strokes are enough to allow the oil to do its job of going deep into the tissues, pulling out toxins (via the lipophilic effect of oil) and then nourishing the bodily tissues, far deeper than just the skin.
Benefits of Self-Abhyanga
Pacify the Nervous System
Your skin is the largest organ of your body, which happens to have more nerve endings than any other part of your body. The day of performing self-abhyanga, you will probably feel the difference. More grounded, relaxed and clear minded, less anxiety, fear and busy mind. Even just doing the “quick version self-abhyanga” (head, feet and hands) will help you sleep like a baby.
This is why self-abhyanga is the number one practice to balance the vata dosha (bio-energy responsible for the nervous system and all body movements).
Abhyanga specifically stimulates and strengthens the lymphatic system, which are the “drains” to detox the body. Proper lymph flow is responsible for immunity, hormone balance and according to Ayurveda, is the foundational tissue for overall physical and mental health.
Abhyanga improves our skin physiology, which is important for biological functions far greater than youthful skin and good looks. Enhancing our skin physiology is essential to absorb vitamin D and other essential frequencies from the sun and not get burnt by it. It will strengthen our shield (skin) to inevitable environmental pollutants as well as “negative energies.”
Approximately 1000 species of microbiome live on our skin, about the same amount that live in our gut. Microbes love oil, especially Ayurvedic oils. Self-abhyagna is an effective way to support our microbiome to thrive and successfully accomplish their vital bodily functions.
Today a lot of the population are dehydrated and just drinking more water is not going to solve this pandemic. Self-abhyanga not only lubricates tissues to promote flexibility of the muscles, tissues and joints, the oil also penetrates deep to hydrate the body on an intra-cellular level.
Enhances blood circulation and removes impurities from the blood.
Detoxification via the lipophilic action of oil “pulling out” toxins from the deep tissues onto the surface of the skin, then to be washed off.
Self-Love and Respect
Nourish yourself. Treat yourself. Begin to feel more content and comfortable with your body, rather than a foreigner inside this vehicle.
Start Practicing Self-Abhyanga
What Oil To Use
• Sesame oil in winter.
• Coconut oil in summer or for those with irritated skin.
• Superiorly, buy medicated Ayurvedic oil that is cooked with herbs for maximum effect.
• All oils should be cold-pressed.
When To Do It
Morning or evening before shower. It is important to shower or at-least wipe yourself down after to remove the toxins that self-abhyanga brought to the surface.
When Not To Do It
When you are sick with a cold, fever, cancer or when (women) are menstruating.
Whether you anoint yourself calmly sitting on your yoga mat and towel, or quickly rub oil on your skin right before the shower, integrating self-abhyanga into the minimum essentials of your daily regimen will enhance your health and daily performance on a foundational level.
GO DEEPER: Read our Conversations Over Tea interview with Dylan
Photo by Sam Burriss on Unsplash
Dylan Smith is a certified Ayurvedic Practitioner and holistic health educator based in Sydney, Australia, where he runs and operates the Vital Veda clinic offering patients consultations, body treatments and detoxification programs. Dylan teaches and lectures on Ayurveda and holistic health across the globe. Aimed at uncovering the root cause of ailments, Dylan has a holistic passion to teach patients to effortlessly integrate new habits into their daily life.
- Indigenous Medicine & Culture,
- Self Care,