“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 boy parts and becomes strong, charming and least affected by old age.” – Charaka Samhita Vol. 1, V: 88-89
This quote sums it up for me! Let us remind ourselves that this passage is written in the Ayurvedic ancient texts thousands of years ago, and is so relevant to this day and age. Born in Mysore, India I know this practice was lovingly offered to me as a baby. In Indian culture, home of Ayurveda, it is a daily lifestyle practice for all ages! This is why I believe it is my most favorites of all the Nourishment Rituals.
So what is Abhyanga?
It is the anointing of the body with herbal oil as a self-massage. The word for lubrication in Sanskrit is Snehana. It is also the word for affection. How perfect is this? I call it a cocoon of nourishment. There are so many benefits for this self-offering which I will list in a minute, but most of all I feel it is a call to action for “self-love”. We have an opportunity for Bhakti, an essence of devotion, affection and an opportunity to begin to take into account this temple we are housed in, to care for it, Nourish it and give it LOVE. This ritual when given the proper intention and attention will affect us Not only on the physical level but mental and the heart level. It is Soul Food!
Here are some benefits of Abhayanga:
– Lubrication of the joints
– Increased circulation
– Better sleep quality, highly grounding and relaxing
– Nourishes the skin, the largest organ of our body!
– Calming for the nerves, therefore, the mind
– One of the best anti-aging beauty treatments, improves luster and complexion of the skin
These are just a few. So yes we can list all the benefits that this beautiful practice offers, but one has to do it! This is a lifestyle practice. Ayurveda is just that, daily tools for constant health and vitality. Recipes for a lifetime.
Choices of Oils:
We know that Ayurveda classifies each organism into energies of Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. Each of these dosha’s will ask for specific Abhyanga oil.
Our windy nature will ask for something grounding and warm. I suggest organic Sesame (not roasted and toasted), warmed up slightly to pacify the coolness of Vata. Other options might be jojoba oil, and Ghee.
Our fiery side of us will beg for a little coolness to the mind and body. Coconut oil is wonderful or even sunflower oil.
This energy needs a boost in all ways! Lighter oils are much nicer like almond or olive oil, and mustard, which has a strong aromatic essence to it, is quite energizing.
Here are some tips:
– Create a quiet space and time. Can you find 5-15 minutes before you shower?
– To warm the oil I find a squeeze bottle is an easy way to access the oil without a mess.
– Hot water in a bowl or fill up your sink, and place the squeeze bottle in it to warm to body temperature. This is important for Vata and Kapha.
– Abhyanga towel or mat. I have a towel that I always use for this practice, something that I don’t mind getting oily. Something to stand on, and one to dry off.
– It’s a wrap. If you are planning on leaving the oil on the body for a while before showering I recommend to wear something again that you do not mind getting oily. A sarong is nice, sit in quiet contemplation for 10 minutes, and maybe practice some pranayama or both! Kapalabhati is great for the skin!
Daily! If you do not have time why not massage your legs and feet before you retire for the night. Ayurveda also suggest massaging the head, face and ears. A little intention of gratitude for the day.
An Ayurvedic nightcap!
A Brief Overview:
– Undress and stand on your towel
– A little oil in the palm of your hand, begin to gently rub into the top of the head, the crown chakra
– Massage into scalp and hair. Oil in my hair!!! Simply omit the oil for this part, maybe consider an aroma instead.
– Work down the body, pressure in direction of hair
– Use long strokes on limbs and circular strokes on joints, chest and stomach
– Massage the body until the part warms up
– Take time to massage the soles of the feet, nice now that you will be sitting on your towel!
– Rinse off in shower, massaging face and ears, down the neck
– Look for some natural body cleansers, as soaps can be drying for the skin
Blessings and may this ancient ritual bring you Peace in your mind, Peace in your body and Peace always surrounding your Soul.
Blessings and Love,
Anita has traveled the world inspiring health and wellness through the traditions of Yoga and Ayurveda. She currently facilitates Yoga Alliance approved yoga teacher trainings, offers lifestyle and wellness education programs and women’s sacred retreats at some of the most beautiful places on the planet.
She lives in Seal Beach, California with her husband, Goyo, and their dog, Goldie.