Body, Mind, Spirit
The Powerful Ayurvedic Practice of Abhyanga
“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection”
Abhyanga is the Ayurvedic practice of self-massage with oil. It balances your state of being and your dosha.
If you need a refresher, according to the ancient science of Ayurveda, each of us has a unique makeup of elements (fire, water, earth, ether, wind) that constitutes our physical and mental constitutions. Our constitutions are also known as our doshas. There are three primary doshas: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.
Vata is made up of air and ether; Pitta is made up of fire and water; and Kapha is constituted of earth and water. We contain elements of all three, but one will likely be primary in our makeup. If you want to learn more, try an online quiz.
This incredible practice combines the process of anointing one’s self with oil and attention. Taking time first thing in the morning to gently tune into the body with self-massage benefits the skin, deeply nourishes all layers of tissue, helps to open stuck energy channels, and soothes the mind.
How to Practice Abhyanga
“To love oneself is the beginning of a life-long romance”
– Oscar Wilde
Use warm oil that is beneficial for your dosha:
- Vata Dosha: Use vata massage oil (infused with herbs); sesame, almond or jojoba oil
- Pitta Dosha: Use pitta massage oil (infused with herbs); coconut, sunflower or jojoba oil
- Kapha Dosha: Use kapha massage oil (infused with herbs); safflower, sesame or jojoba oil
Start at the top of the head. Then massage your face and ears. Stroke your limbs in the direction of your heart. Continue by massaging your chest and abdomen, moving in a counter-clockwise circular motion, beginning with your right lower abdomen and working your way up and around toward the left lower abdomen, following the path of your digestion. Finish with your hands and then your feet, taking time to let the oil sink into your skin.
Allow the oil to stay on your skin for 5-10 minutes and then relax in a warm shower, using soap sparingly. Pat-dry yourself off with a towel so the oil continues to moisturize your skin all day long.
Abhyanga is an ancient practice that has numerous benefits. Discover the top four benefits of self-massage:
“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 (An Ayurvedic Text), V: 88-89
The anti-aging benefits of self-massage are countless. From luxurious skin to the emotional effects of bathing in self-love, this healing practice keeps the less pleasant effects of aging at bay. Similar to the beauty boost that comes with falling in love, Abyanga will leave you with a healthy glow that emerges from deep within your being.
All that rubbing boosts circulation and energy while simultaneously supporting the body’s natural detoxification processes. Similar to the effects of exercise, Abyanga cleanses the blood and boosts the immune system, not to mention reduces unwanted stress. Drink plenty of room temperature or warm water after your self-massage to support your body’s detox process.
Generates a Calm and Clear Mind
Similar to the effects of going to get a massage, self-massage generates a deep inner calm. When the practice is coupled with positive self-talk and non-judgmental self acceptance, the results can be astoundingly refreshing. Alongside the deep relaxation and calm that comes from this self-care routine comes an amazing amount of grounded energy to support your daily activity.
Abhyanga should be resorted to daily. It wards off old age, exertion and aggravation of vata.
– Ashtanga Hrdayam: Sutrasthana: II: 8-9
When your Vata dosha is out of balance, you may experience anxiety, dry or chapped skin, indigestion, sudden bouts of fatigue, and light interrupted sleep. Self-massage balances Vata and results in mental stability, smooth skin, great energy, deep sleep, and healthy digestion (thanks to the abdominal massage!).
<< Read more: How To Know If Your Vata Dosha Is Out Of Balance >>
When to Avoid Abhyanga
Abhyanga is not advised if you are pregnant or menstruating; or if you are experiencing an acute illness or medical condition. When your body is in a fragile state, the detoxification process triggered by self-massage can overwhelm the body rather than nurture it. If your skin is reacting to the oil you choose, stop the practice. We highly recommend testing the oil on a small patch of your skin before beginning the head-to-toe massage to avoid any unknown allergic reactions.
Photo by Jairo Alzate via Unsplash
- Self Care,
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