Abhyanga: The Practice of Ayurvedic Self-Massage

Abhyanga is the ayurvedic practice of self-massage that can offer you a moment of pause to honor self. A daily Abhyanga practice can reassure your sense of strength, restore balance, and reinforce your overall well-being. Especially when implemented at the start of your day, a regular Abhyanga practice can help alleviate anxiety by slowing the heart rate and relaxing the body.

According to the ancient texts, Abhyanga nourishes the entire body- invigorating the muscles and tissues, lubricating the joints and increasing circulation. If done repeatedly and patiently, it can stimulate the internal organs, assisting in digestion, moving the lymph, and eliminating toxins (ama).

“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 affected by old age”

Charaka Samhita Vol. 1, V: 88-89 (One of the Great ancient texts of Ayurveda)

One of the benefits of peaceful abhyanga is the soothing relaxation it provides. While increasing circulation, it still calms the nerves, improves sleep and encourages mindful breathing. Using the correct oils, it has the additional benefit of softening and smoothing the skin, and during the scalp massage, stimulating hair growth.

In the tradition of Ayurveda, the oil used is based on your dosha, or innate tendencies. Dr. Vasant Lad has a post in Healthy.net that reviews the doshas in depth.  View more

For now, a quick recommendation is:

  • Vata Dosha: a relaxing oil such as sesame or almond
  • Pitta Dosha: a soothing oil such as coconut or sunflower
  • Kapha Dosha: an invigorating oil such as safflower
  • Good for all Three Doshas: Jojoba oil

Try this Method of Self-Massage:

  • Carefully warm the oil
  • Begin massaging at the top of your head (adhipati marma) and massage in a circular motion throughout your whole scalp, touching on the many marma points, or energy points, in the head
  • Move onto your face: continue in circular massage over your temples and forehead then down to your jaw and cheeks, and then to your earlobes
  • Move to your abdomen, with increased pressure, slowly moving up on the right side of the belly, then across, then down the left side, following your digestive path
  • When you reach your limbs, move in fast upward brush strokes on the long bones, briskly stimulating circulation with a firm touch
  • When you reach joints, return to circular movements, as if cupping your joints in your hand
  • When you reach your feet, push deeply with your fingers into the balls of your feet and then the heels, then separating your toes briefly and push your fingers between the toes (Your feet hold many energy points and the nerve endings are close to the surface and easily accessed by pressure)
  • Sit for some moments with yourself, letting the oil soak in

A Morning Routine:

Abhyanga is meant to be easily integrated into your morning routine. There are immeasurable benefits to a morning routine. To  learn more about the benefits of a morning routine.  

But realistically, it is very important that the time commitment does not feel daunting. Ideally you would dedicate 10-15 minutes to the abhyanga  practice; but if you only have 5 minutes, focus on the scalp, earlobes and jaw, and the feet. And use more oil if you have the time to let it really absorb into the skin  in a relaxed manner. You will start your day with a renewed sense of equanimity! Enjoy!

To learn more about Dr. Natalie Geary and her work, visit https://VedaHealth.com

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Written by Natalie Geary MD

Explore Wellness in 2021