Why Abhyanga is so important to include in your daily routine
Abhyanga is the Ayurvedic term used for warm oil self massage and is one of the most powerful lifestyle advices there is in Ayurveda. For that reason you may want to consider putting this ritual into your daily routine (Dinacharya) to increase your overall health and well being.
Of course this sounds wonderful. At least to me, as health is my number one priority. But I guess it’s yours as well nowadays. Want to know how oil massage can benefit your health? Or how you can start with this ritual today? Read everything you need to know about the self massage, oils and get a practical guide on how to start this ritual yourself in the article below.
Self oil massage (or abhyanga) soothes your skin, tones your muscles, nourishes and calms your nerve system and brings bodily fluids and fats into circulation. Actually, it nourishes all the tissues (called ‘dhatus’ in Ayurveda) of your body and therefore is a perfect way of taking care of yourself and boosting your immune system. Besides, it’s a way to stay in touch with yourself, a way to get to know your body better and cultivate gratefulness for the beautiful body you have.
Boost your immunity with Abhyanga
But hey, why do we use warm oil for this? Warm oil is nourishing and heavy and supports you in releasing tensions throughout your whole body. It helps you to recharge. If you want to start your day completely nourished and refreshed this is a perfect way to do so. The heavy quality of the oil will also provide you with the essential ingredients such as warmth, love and nourishment. Besides, it helps you ground which is very much needed in times like this. I can also imagine that everything that is going on at the moment will take away your sleep. If this is the case, a warm oil massage before going to bed is the way to go for you.
As I already mentioned earlier, a self oil massage is also a way to connect and bring in more compassion towards yourself. Not only because you allow yourself some me-time, but definitely also by touching your own body in a compassionate conscious manner. Love will be brought into your day. It’s for a reason that the Sanskrit word “sneha” can be translated as both “oil” and “love”.
Ayurveda's number one self-care tool is Abhyanga
In the mood to start with your self oil-massage? Here is how it works: pour some oil in a bottle and add some drops of your favorite essential oil (like lavender, rose or ylang ylang) to it. Warm the oil. Put an old towel on the floor to sit or stand on. When the oil is comfortably warm take a small amount in your hands and rub your hands together. Start with massaging your skull and from there work all the way down towards your feet using your fingertips on your skull and face, long strokes on the limbs and circular movements on the joints. Pay extra attention to your feet as they carry you through life day after day. Now put on a bathrobe and socks or slippers and leave the oil for 30 minutes or even an hour. You may want to buy yourself a bathrobe which you will use exclusively for your Abhyanga as over time it will get very oily. Follow this ritual by a warm shower or bath to rinse off all the excess oil.
Do you want more warmth, comfort and stability in life? Here are the things you need to put on your (online ?) grocery list to do your warm self oil massage at home:
Good quality organic cold pressed oil (see below) –> Basugandar Taila cleanses the blood and is therefore a good choice now with the corona virus
Small bottle – ideally squeezable or with a pump
Large (old) towel
Your favorite essential oil (see below)
Socks or slippers
Is Abhyanga good for everyone?
Abhyanga is mostly used to treat Vata Dosha imbalances. Meaning that if you are always on the run flying from meeting to meeting, from one social event into the other, feeling nervous and ungrounded than this is number one self-care tool for you. It is a way to find some deep relaxation and grounding in stressful periods. Nevertheless, if you are more a Kapha type you need it the least.
What is the best time to do my self-oil massage?
The old scriptures on Ayurveda suggest to do your warm self oil massage in the morning before breakfast. The moment you feel that you are hungry is the best timing to put the oil on. As always, all suggestions need to be adapted to your personal needs at a particular moment. For example, if you have a hard time falling asleep it can be beneficial to put your warm self oil massage into your evening routine. Same goes for when you’ve kids and there is no time to do it in the morning. Find out what works for you and stick to it.
Which oils should I use?
This depends, among others, to your birth constitution (prakruti), current imbalance (vikruti) and the seasons. Vata types will love warm heavy sesame- or almond oil while Pitta types will benefit more from cooling coconut- or sunflower oil. For Kapha types invigorating safflower oil is the best choice.
Are you confused now? Either stay with your birth constitution or follow this advice and feel for yourself if it works:
Use sesame- or almond oil during autumn and winter time. Switch to safflower oil in spring and use coconut- and sunflower oil for hot summers.
Any injuries in the body to work with? Use Mahanarayan oil which is made from over 30 Ayurvedic herbs. It is traditionally used for joint pain or weakness. If you warm it, massage it into the affected joints or muscles and proceed with your regular Abhyanga, it can be fabulously beneficial.
Now, with the corona virus I would highly recommend to use Basugandar Taila. It’s a medicinal oil packed with herbs to cleanse the blood and regulate tissue formation. You can buy it online via Holisan.
How do you warm the oil?
Pour some oil into a manageable bottle. Ideally one with pump. Add some drops of your favorite essential oil. For Vata lavender drops will help you to calm down, Pitta goes very well with rose drops to bring in humility and Kapha will benefit more from an awakening flavour like ylang ylang or mandarin. Now put hot water either in a big cup or in the sink. Put the bottle in the hot water and wait a couple of minutes until the oil is nicely warm. Another way to do it is to put the oil bottle into a baby’s bottle warmer.
Do you need to do your face and head also?
According to the classical text you should also include the head and face. Nevertheless, if you have a sensitive skin or are prone to acne you might want to skip the face or use a more gentle oil like almond oil or special face oil for your head and face. Dry hair? Definitely go for oiling the skull also.
How often should I treat myself?
This depends, among others, to your birth constitution (prakruti), current imbalance (vikruti) and the seasons. Roughly estimated you could say that Vata types need it at least 4-5 times a week, Pitta types 2-3 times a week and Kapha types are good with 1 or maybe 2 times a week. Besides, you should take it more seriously during autumn and winter time.
How long will it take?
Ideally, you want to spent 15 minutes or more to massage the oil mindfully into your body and leave it on until the oil is completely absorbed. But I know that time is precious. If on certain days there is a time limit you might want to put the oil on and dive directly into the shower. This will already give you so much.
When should I avoid to do Abhyanga?
If you have a cold (with lot’s of slime) it’s better to avoid an oil massage. Because the oil will be absorbed into your skin and this can lead to more sliminess in the body. Another contra-indication is fever (Abhyanga can increase the heat and your digestion is not optimal when you have fever). The last very important one is during the first 3 days of a woman’s period. Because your menstruation is a cleansing mechanism and a warm self oil massage does the opposite (it’s nourishing and building). It would therefore go against your body’s intelligence to do a warm self oil massage during your menstruation.
With all my heart I hope this way of taking care of yourself will bring you the nourishment and love you need to be the best version of yourself.
ps, for questions you can leave me a message here.
Photography by Wendy Symons.