Do you recall the feeling you have after a relaxing and therapeutic massage? That blissful state when your circulation is flowing, your muscles are restful, and you feel tranquil and confident? Imagine this type of relief every day!
The great Rishis of Ayurveda greatly encouraged oils and massage. Abhyanga, which is the daily ritual of self-massage (and massage as a treatment), includes warm, doshic-specific oils applied vigorously on the body, feet, face, and scalp. It is an essential part of dinacharya or Ayurveda daily routine.
Abhyanga Oil Massage Benefits
The ritual of Abhyanga is a form of snehana, or oiling, in Ayurveda. Snehana includes the oiling of all facets of the body, but Abhyanga helps focus on one of the most important organs of elimination and protection: the skin.
The skin absorbs most of what we put on it – especially products full of fatty acids. Warm oils help lubricate the layers of the skin, all the way down to the organ systems. Depending on one’s dosha, they may require a more rigorous or gentle massage. Abhyanga oil massage benefits include:
- Increases circulation, which helps bring nutrients and oxygen to cells
- Helps break down stagnant areas of toxins, or stubborn adipose tissue
- Aids in the movement of lymph, encouraging lymphatic drainage
- Calms the nervous system, which in turn can reduce stress and anxiety
- Strengthens the hair and scalp by nourishing the skin and hair follicles
- Prevents and reduces the progression of premature aging, by bringing nutriment to and helping tone the muscles
- Brings tone and ignites strength in the organs, and boosts the agni of the tissues (dhatus) and of digestion
- Releases endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin resulting in feelings of happiness and relaxation
Abhyanga Oil for Each Dosha
Each dosha requires a specific oil for promoting balance. Remembering the Ayurvedic principle of like attracts like, try to choose an Abhyanga oil that balances one’s dominant dosha (Prakriti), or the dosha that is most deranged or off balance (Vikruti).
Vata Abhyanga Oil
Characterized by lightness, dryness, coolness, subtleness, and mobility, Vata types will often suffer from dry skin, achy joints, and fleeting Agni. Warming and nourishing oils, like sesame, or jojoba will help ground Vata and bring warmth to the body. The Vata individual can also use ghee if they feel called, as it provides a strong therapeutic effect.
Pitta Abhyanga Oil
Our fierce and fiery Pitta dosha types are characterized by heat, oiliness, and sharpness. They benefit best from cooling oils such as coconut, or sunflower. Pitta persons can also enjoy a lighter massage, with smoother and slower strokes.
Kapha Abhyanga Oil
The Kapha individual exhibits qualities of heaviness, slowness, coolness, and stickiness. Kapha types normally also have adequate amounts of sebum production, making their skin smooth and soft. They benefit from oils which are warming and rejuvenating, like sunflower, or almond. Rigorous massage is recommended, especially for areas with thicker tissue.
Tridoshic Treatment Oils
Each dosha can also benefit from the addition of herbal oils (tailam) blended in their doshic-specific carrier oils.
- Neem oil is excellent for cooling Pitta
- Brahmi oil has cooling effects, but can also help Vata by grounding their mind
- Bhringraj oil is excellent for stimulating the scalp and skin, and for strengthening hair follicles in all doshas
- Mahanarayan oil is excellent for all doshas and is specifically helpful in warming the joints
Abhyanga Massage Application
To practice Abhyanga, start by warming the oil in a bain-marie, or in your hands.
Begin at your scalp, moving in circular strokes, followed by a massage of the face, always in upward motions. Then, use long and strong strokes up and down the arms, and up and down the legs, always moving in the direction of the heart. Use light circular strokes on the elbows and knees. Massage the abdomen in the direction of digestion (clockwise), and the same with the heart. Finish by spending about 5 minutes massaging the hands and the feet.
After the massage, sit with the oil on for 5-15 minutes. This a great time to read, meditate and/or practice pranayama. It’s also a great time to consume Chyawanprash to further boost health and wellness.
Take your shower or bath, careful not to wash too vigorously with soap, as the oils can be penetrated further in the shower!
Ceanna Saatsaz is a Licensed Master Esthetician, Certified Ayurvedic Practitioner, and Certified Professional Herbalist, from Seattle, WA.