Abhyanga is the Ayurvedic practice of oil massage. This can be experienced as self-massage with oil or you can visit an Ayurvedic clinic or spa to receive a professional abhyanga from a trained practitioner. Abhyanga is one way that we show ourselves love and that we receive nourishment from the outside in. When you massage good quality oils into your skin, you calm your nervous system and Vata dosha, and protect your ojas (vigor and vitality). You may be wondering, what is the best oil for abhyanga? Let’s explore a few options!
Abhyanga: When, Why, and How
First of all, if you are new to Ayurveda, you may have some questions about abhyanga: when, why, and how. Though receiving a special abhyanga from a professional may be an occasional treat, self-abhyanga is a practice you can do daily. Traditionally, first, warm the abhyanga oil and then apply from head to toe, massaging into the skin. It is best to warm the oil using the double boiler method or you can simply fill a bowl with hot water and then place your bottle of massage oil in the bowl of hot water until it is gently warmed. The abhyanga oil should feel warm to the touch but not hot.
Take as much or as little time as you like to self-massage. Perhaps it’s a lazy Sunday morning and you can take 20-30 minutes to do abhyanga. Or, if it’s a rushed Monday morning, 5 minutes is great.
Ayurveda generally recommends that after you do abhyanga, give a little time for the oils to seep in, and then bathe or shower to rinse off the excess oil. However, some people do their abhyanga in the shower and others do directly after bathing.
Regardless of your exact abhyanga process, quality oils are held in high regard in Ayurveda. Ayurveda teaches that the internal intake of oil and external application of oil nourishes the rasa (fluids of the body) and ultimately helps build and maintain ojas, our vigor and vitality. In addition, the oils that you choose make a difference.
The Best Abhyanga Oil For You
When considering the best abhyanga oil for you, you will want to consider your dosha(s) as well as the season and the climate. Here are a few guidelines.
Sesame oil is warming and nourishing. It calms and balances the cool, dry, rough nature of Vata dosha but will tend to increase Pitta and Kapha doshas. Therefore, sesame oil is a good choice for those with a predominant Vata constitution. In addition, this is a good oil choice for the fall and early winter, the Vata time of year.
Ghee and Ghruta
We know that ghee (or better yet, ghruta) are delicious and that they make fabulous cooking oils, but did you know that you can apply ghee externally too? Ghee is actually used in many Ayurvedic body therapies. Ghee is tridoshic, mildly cooling, and nourishing. It protects ojas and encourages agni, the digestive fire. Our bodies easily absorb ghee, whether we take it internally or externally.
Sunflower oil is lighter and cooler than sesame oil. It is not as dense and heavy as ghee and sesame oil. This can be a good choice for Pitta dosha or for summer abhyanga, especially if you live in a hot and humid climate.
Mix It Up!
You may be wondering if you can mix oils to achieve the best oil for abhyanga. The answer is yes! You can combine any of the above oils to get the best oil for abhyanga for you. Also, you may want to add a few drops of an essential oil of choice or an herbal infused oil to further boost the effects of your oil for abhyanga.