Published on Oct 10, 2022 By Lisa Codina
Abhyanga is an Ayurvedic practice that plays an integral role in a daily self-care regime. This ancient form of therapy involves massaging the entire body with an herb-infused oil specifically chosen to help balance the doshas, or energies, in your body. There are three doshas—vata, pitta, and kapha—and each one has its own qualities and characteristics. Everyone has a unique amount of each one in their body, and the concept is that by balancing them out with nutrition, seasonal practices, and daily routines such as Abhyanga, you can help you achieve more vibrant health and optimal wellness.
The word for oil in Sanskrit is sneha. Another translation of the same word is love or affection. The interesting connection is that the very essence of a plant is its oil, just as the essence of who we are is pure love. When we practice a self-massage with oil, we are literally coating our bodies with a layer of our own love and affection, as well as a soothing, healing touch. In Ayurvedic culture, Abhyanga is a staple practice which promotes physical as well as emotional and mental wellness. One of the most amazing things about this healing practice is that it gives you an opportunity to pamper yourself, to cultivate calm and stillness, melt away stress, and nurture a deeper connection to self.
Abhyanga self-massage provides a multitude of mind-body health benefits;
When performing Abhyanga the first thing you need to ensure is that you choose an oil tailored to your dominant dosha(s). Here are the recommendations for frequency and oil type, based on the doshas:
Abhyanga is an opportunity for you to shower yourself with love and affection. Be sure to set aside some quiet, uninterrupted time so you can calmly massage your body with love and patience for 10-15 minutes. Listen to relaxing music or practice breath work while massaging.
Step 1: Start by warming up your oil. Pour the oil into a glass bottle or jar, then warm it by putting that bottle into a mug of hot water for a few minutes. Warming the oil cures it, which allows it to be more easily absorbed by the skin and tissues.
Step 2: Prepare all your materials before starting; warmed oil, place a towel on the bathroom floor to help you avoid slipping or sit on an old towel to avoid a mess, listen to relaxing music, set aside a good book to read while letting the oil sink in.
Step 3: Pour about a tablespoon of oil at a time into your palms and rub them together. A traditional Abhyanga starts at the head but you can also start at the feet. Massage each body part with love and intention.
Remember that practising Abhyanga is not only about the physical massage, it is also a state of mind. Be sure to give yourself enough time so that you do not feel stressed or rushed. Embrace the entire experience of Abhyanga so you can fully enjoy the feeling of having nourished your body, mind, and spirit and carry that with you throughout your day or evening.