Abhyanga is a traditional Ayurvedic therapy, that involves massage of the body with large amounts of warm, medicated oils to the body, to soothe and nourish the body at the deepest cellular level through the skin, the largest organ.
Abhyanga uses the skin as a conduit to transport medicine and herbs into the body to detoxify, clean, purify and rebalance the body’s natural harmony. Traditional abhyanga has ayurvedic herbs and medicines infused in the oil, which have been prepared according to ancient Sanskrit texts. This is then is applied to the whole body in generous amounts and penetrates into the skin and into each layer of tissues and cells.
In Ayurveda there are seven dhatus or layers of tissue in the body, abhyanga massage is one of the most effective methods for absorbing the medicinal properties of the oil into the body, promoting a state of good health.
There are many benefits of abhyanga these include, nourishing the whole body as it balances the nervous system, prevents physiological imbalances and lubricates the muscles, tissues and joints. It increases circulation, moving the lymph, helping with detoxification of impurities within the body. Abhyanga increases stamina as well as soothes your nervous system.
Abhyanga also decreases the effects of aging by softening and smoothening the skin, promotes good vision, benefits sleeping, strengthens the body, imparts a firmness to the limbs, brings tone and vigour to the dhatus (tissues) of the body, stimulates the internal organs and pacifies vata dosha while helping to keep your ayurvedic doshas in balance.
Vata dosha is particularly aggravated in our modern world with smart phones, social media and always being connected online in addition to multi tasking, like listening to music while reading, irregular eating and sleeping habits as well as any type of travelling.
The classical texts of Ayurveda teach that a daily abhyanga massage will help bathe our body in self-love through the application of oil and touch therapy. During abhyanga you massage a variety of marma points in the body during the massage which combined with the above benefits also helps to activate oxytocin the happy hormone in the body giving you a feeling of warmth and love during and after the therapy.
Step by Step Guide
So how can you add this to your daily routine? Well it’s easy to incorporate abhyanga massage into your day and here’s how. Ideally this should be done before your shower in the morning and should be 15 minutes long in duration with a few extra minutes for absorption of the oil into the body.
Choose an appropriate oil, if you can’t find specific ayurvedic oils you can use an organic sesame seed oil which is suitable for all doshas and helps particularly to pacify vata.
Then warm the oil on a low; gentle heat to ensure it is warm to touch but not too hot.
Start the application of oil from the head first, pour a generous amount of oil into your hands and then using the palm of your hands place on to the crown of the head and massage the crown of your head in a clock wise motion using a firm but gentle touch. The head and feet are the two most important places to massage so spend a little extra time on these areas.
Once you’ve massaged the head move down to the face and ears, massaging all around the outer edges of the ear lobes where there are a number of important marma points and gently massage your face.
Move down to the neck massaging both the front and back of the neck gently but firmly with the palms. Massage the back of the neck and the top of the spine as well as the two indentations at the lower, back of the head, which help to activate relaxation and calm.
Use upward motions on the front of your neck in the same way as when you apply your moisturiser in the morning giving yourself a daily face-lift.
Then move on to the body starting with your arms, hands and fingers. Use long, firm strokes of your hands from the wrist to the upper arms going back and forth, starting from the outside of the arm and moving towards the inside. Use small, circular movements over the joints and long sweeping motions along the arms. Continue to the hands and fingers.
Now apply oil to your chest using a gentle circular motion over the heart area but ensuring you are massaging the whole chest allowing stagnant lymphatic fluid to move and drain.
Move down to the abdomen where a gentle, circular massage in a clockwise motion should be used; follow the intestines from the lower, right part of the abdomen, up, across, down and across. This also helps to aid digestion and bowl movements.
Next move to the back and spine, your hands should move upwards towards the heart, again using long, firm but gentle strokes using plenty of oil and the palms of your hands.
Moving down to the lower half of the body massage the legs like the arms starting from the ankles and massaging upwards, using back and forth motions, start from the outer part to the inner part and use a circular motion over the joints.
Finally massage the tops of the feet and then the soles of the feet taking care to spend time here being a little more vigorous in your massage here.
Ideally the massage should take between 15-30 minutes with an additional 15 minutes to allow the absorption of oil, however if this is too long you can cut the time down, even 5 minutes is of greater benefit than no massage at all.
If you’re able to do this regularly you will reap the benefits through increased health and vitality and will help keep your body in tiptop shape, ensuring you stay in balance rather than creating imbalance, which is the source of many diseases. Love your body and your massage.