Ayurvedic self massage (abhyanga) with warmed, herbal oil is an excellent way to get in touch with your body and mind. It gives you time to check in with yourself and find areas that need special attention. Besides leaving you feeling warm, cared for and refreshed, abhyanga soothes your nervous and endocrine systems, rejuvenates your skin, tones muscles, eliminates impurities, promotes youthfulness, reduces the effects of stress, is relaxing and just feels terrific. Overall it's wonderful!
Ideally, it is best to give yourself a self-massage every day. Choose organic oil appropriate for your body type. In general, Vata-type skin tends to be dry, flaky, itchy, rough, cold and easily becomes dull, wrinkled and tired-looking. Good choices of oil for Vata skin are sesame and almond oil. Essential oils such as lavender, jasmine and frankincense calm Vata.
Pitta type skin tends to be oily, sensitive, and red, inflamed, freckled, has moles or freckles, is sweaty and warm, and is prone to acne, rashes, and rosacea. Sunflower and coconut oil is good for Pitta skin. Khus, rose and sandalwood are ideal for Pittas.
Kapha type skin tends to be cool, heavy, thick, oily, clammy and moist, and is prone to lots of oiliness, clogged pores and eczema. Sesame and corn oil are best for Kapha skin, and warming, spicy scents such as lemon, bergamot and rosemary are ideal.
If you do not know your constitution or imbalance, you can simply mix equal parts organic sunflower and sesame oil together and use that. If desired, you can add a few drops of sandalwood, chamomile or lavender essential oil for a calming effect; juniper, citrus or bergamot enliven you.
To practice abhyanga, fill a small squeeze bottle with oil, and warm it by putting it in a bowl of hot water. When it's warm, begin by massaging your scalp, face, temples and backs of the ears. Put a little oil on your pinkie and dab it into your ears. Use a circular motion on your joints and back and forth motions on the long bones. Use large, gentle, circular and clockwise motions on your abdomen. End by lovingly massaging your feet.
If you find any sore spots, spend an extra minute massaging that area. When you have finished applying the oil, sit and relax for at least 20 minutes and up to an hour, or as long as you like. This is a great time to do a brief meditation. When you are ready to rinse, use an old washcloth to dab off excess oil just prior to getting into the shower. Rub the oil off of the bottoms of your feet so that you do not slip. Alternatively, you can take a little chickpea flour and gently rub it on your skin to absorb the excess oil.
In the shower, it is not necessary to use soap to wash off the oil. You only need to use soap if you have actual dirt on your skin. The warm water will help your skin absorb the healing benefits of the oil.
If you do not have time to do a full body massage, you can still benefit by giving yourself a mini-massage to your scalp, face, hands and feet. This is good to do either before your shower or just before bed.
Ayurveda offers an abundance of different herbal oils to use for abhyanga. Here are a few of my favorite oils that I frequently suggest to my patients.
Mahanarayan oil can be used diluted half and half with a base like sunflower oil for a whole body massage and is excellent for Vata muscle pain, soreness and inflammation. I use it full strength on specific areas of soreness and muscle aches. I have also found it to be an excellent oil to apply to the legs to deter chiggers and ticks.
Nalpamaradi Coconut Oil is contains turmeric and sandalwood, which is gentle enough to use as a baby massage oil. Applied regularly, it can give your skin a lovely glow and is helpful for itchy skin.
Ayyappala Coconut Skin Oil is another favorite which is especially useful for inflammatory types of skin troubles such as certain types of acne, fungal infections, eczema, psoriasis and dermatitis. It contains neem which is antimicrobial and promotes the immune system of the skin. Apply the Ayyappala Oil to the affected areas at the beginning of your massage and use a simple base oil for the rest of your body.
Brahmi Oil nourishes and soothes the mind, relieves stress and tension and helps provide a restful night’s sleep. It is excellent to massage into the soles of your feet and to your scalp before bed.
Kadaliphadali Oil is another wonderful oil to use at bedtime. This relaxant oil helps balance Pitta dosha, relieves tension headaches, reduces the effects of stress and helps you fall asleep.
Ayurveda views each person as completely unique and treatments are customized to each individual’s constitution and skin type. To learn more about your constitution and what is specifically best for your own health, consider scheduling an Ayurvedic consultation with an Ayurvedic practitioner. In this way, you will discover what the best practices are for you and learn how to use your inherent strengths and nourish your challenging areas.
I hope you add abhyanga to your daily routine. I have found it to be comforting and revitalizing at the same time.
Be well and smile often,
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Janet Shivani Chase is a NAMA certified Ayurvedic Practitioner who has been practicing yoga for over 40 years and Ayurveda for over 25. As the owner of Balanced Life Ayurveda, Shivani offers consultations, treatments, workshops and classes. You can contact her at email@example.com or for more information visit balancedlifeayurveda.com.
It is not advised to do massage during menstruation, pregnancy, over swollen areas, infected areas, or during any acute illness. If you have a medical condition, consult with your practitioner before giving yourself a massage.
The sole purpose of this article is to provide information about the tradition of Ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have any serious acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. Check with your doctor before taking herbs or using essential oils when pregnant or nursing.
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