Abhyanga • How To Do It & What It Is
Abhyanga is the Ayurvedic ritual of massaging your skin with warm oil to nourish the tissues, hydrate the skin and soothe the nervous system. It is a deeply restorative and soothing act of self-love which realigns balance within the mind, body and spirit. Abhyanga is practiced by anointing the body with warm oil which can be infused with medicinal healing herbs and balancing essential oils. In the Ayurvedic texts the act of anointing the body with warm oil is known as Snehana. The Sanskrit word Snehana means oil and love, and essentially translates to apply love to your body. The healing benefits of this ritual envoke the same nurturing qualities of feeling deeply loved, loving yourself and others, compassion, warmth, stability and strength and openness. Not only is it healing for the body, but for the heart, mind and spirit too. Massage in Ayurveda is recognised as an extremely important practice for maintaining stable health, stamina, balance and longevity. Accumulated stress and toxins dissolve during Abhyanga, which aids detoxification, relaxation, enhances muscle tone and softens the skin, calms the nervous system, releases fatigue and stagnant energy and promotes deep and peaceful sleep.
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 body parts and becomes strong, charming and least effected by old age.
The Chakra Samhita
Health benefits of abhyanga
Calms the nervous system
Soothes the mind
Deeply nourishes the body
Softens the skin and tones the muscles
Aids detoxification and elimination of impurities
Release fatigue and stagnant energy
Enhances immunity and vitality
Increases mental alertness and clarity
Rejuvenates the body and increases circulation
Promotes deeper and peaceful sleep
what oil should i use?
The types of oil you use will depend on your current Doshic balance and the season. You can also add essential oils to your blend for additional healing and health benefits.
Vata & Winter
Oil: Sesame oil , olive oil and almond oil.
Essential Oils: Lavender, ylang ylang, geranium, ginger, cinnamon leaf, sandalwood, neroli and patchouli.
Pitta & Summer
Oil: Coconut oil, neem oil, safflower oil and almond oil.
Essential Oils: Sandalwood, rose, lavender, jasmine, geranium, sweet orange, clary sage and lime.
Kapha & Spring
Oil: Sesame oil, olive oil, safflower oil and jojoba oil.
Essential Oils: Peppermint, rosemary, lemon, sage, eucalyptus, grapefruit, fir and cinnamon leaf.
You will usually use between 1/4 and 1/2 cup of oil during your Abhygana. Always choose organic and high quality oil from a trusted source to ensure you are applying only the safest products to your skin.
How to practice abhyanga
Practising Abhyanga is an intuitive, simple and a sacred act of self care. A time when you can create space to nourish your body with the unconditional love and care that it deserves. There is nothing more important than your health and your body works endlessly to keep you well and balanced. This ritual offers a way to give back the support and nurturing it needs. As you are massaging your skin choose an intention of gratitude you would like to share with your body, such as “I honour you, i love you, thank you so much for giving me the sacred gift of health, i am so grateful”.
When it comes to the touch and pressure of your self-massage, remember this is a time for sacred self-love so be gentle and act intuitively depending on how your feeling. If you’re feeling stressed, tense and tight, practice slower and more deliberate strokes. But if your feeling heavy and lethargic then you can practice more firm and vigorous strokes to stimulate the mind and body. If you are a Vata type it is reccomended to practice Abhyanga 5 times a week, Pitta’s 3 times a week, and Kapha’s at least 2 times a week.
Generally best practiced before bathing or showering. After the warm oil is massaged into the skin, it is best to sit for 15-20 minutes in a warm room to allow the oil to penetrate deep into the skin and tissues. Set the ambience with candles, essential oils, fresh flowers and relaxing music. Listen to our Calm playlist here.
First you need to heat up your oil. This can be done by filling a large glass measuring cup with hot water and placing the bottle of oil inside to warm it up.
Create a pool of warm oil in the palm of your hands and begin to apply oil to the entire body, starting with the neck and arms.
Remember to use circular motions over the joints and long strokes on the limbs.
When massaging your abdomen use counterclockwise circular motions. This will massage the direction of your colon and help aid digestion and elimination.
After the abdomen, bring the oil to your chest and perform long and slow strokes toward your heart centre. This will encourage connection with your heart chakra, emotions and feelings of self-love.
Add more oil to your hands when necessary and pay attention to particularly dry areas.
Deeply massage the oil into your shoulders, lower back, back and any other areas that feel tense.
Massage your buttocks, down yours legs and your feet. Really focus massaging the soles of the feet.
Wait for 15-20 minutes for the oil to penetrate the skin and then bathe with warm water.
Close the ritual with gratitude, love and kindness for yourself and your body.