Self-Oil Massage Benefits in Ayurveda
Abyangha: Ayurvedic Self-Oil Massage
If we were to give one single recommendation for you to jump start your healing practice, self-oil massage would be it. Today’s lifestyle, characterized by fast-paced living, erratic schedules, excessive travel, and prolonged screen time, invites an abundance of Vata dosha into our bodies. These circumstances stretch our physical and emotional limits, often exceeding our comfort zones.
While the luxury of receiving a massage from another person is undeniably useful, there’s a unique and empowering dimension to embracing self-oil massage. This practice offers a direct path to self-healing. It invites you to participate in an act of self-love, affection, attention and nourishment, which can be surprising and challenging for some at first. There are a multitude of healing benefits which blossom from this practice and radiate from within.
Vedic texts extol the virtues of daily self-oil massage (abhyanga) as stimulation for the circulatory system. This gentle practice cleanses the lymphatic system, nourishes the internal organs, fosters the growth of healthy tissues, and significantly mitigates stress and anxiety.
As we advance in age, our tissue health inevitably declines, resulting in a loss of suppleness. Regular internal and external oiling can play a crucial role in preserving our youthfulness – not only in our physical appearance but also in our internal physiology.
Contrary to the common perception of applying oil or lotion post-shower, this method emphasizes pre-bathing warm oil massage. The logic behind this approach is straightforward: steam or hot water exposure opens up the pores, enabling the oil’s restorative properties to seep through the skin into the body’s deeper layers, maximizing its healing potential.
“One who does oil massage daily will be endowed with supple skin, a nourished strong and well-formed body, be young and pleasing to the eye and live a long life.”- Charak Samhita
Benefits of Self-Oil Massage
The practice of self-oil massage, is an integral component of the daily regimen known as Dinacharya. Encouraged and celebrated by the Vedic scholars, they regarded this ritual as a cornerstone of longevity and robust health. However, contemporary lifestyles often deviate drastically from these harmonious, nature-aligned routines, creating a disconnection with our bodies and the world around us. It’s becoming increasingly essential to carve out moments in our day to truly check-in with ourselves.
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By tuning into how your bodily systems are running and how you physically feel, you can receive swift insight and detect imbalance in the initial stages. This approach empowers you to address issues without troubleshooting or chasing symptoms that have manifest and spread throughout the entire being. By slowing down and observing your physical and mental state, you may even discern subtle signals and trends that could point to a larger health concern.
Investing time in practicing self-oil massage not only helps to stimulate the bodily systems and promote longevity, it nurtures an intimate connection beyond just our physical body. It’s not just a routine but a transformative practice which can provide deeper understanding of our emotions and our mind.
How to do Ayurvedic Self-Oil Massage
For an effective self-oil massage that promotes detoxification, we suggest adhering to the directional pattern shown below. Employing light circular movements paired with elongated strokes directed towards the abdominal area can significantly aid in the expulsion of bodily toxins. This will also enhance circulation around the joints and increase the digestive function.
The practice of self-oil massage can be a leisurely, unhurried process. If time is of the essence, it can be completed in as little as five minutes.
Building this into a daily ritual can yield profound benefits over time.
- Choose/create a relaxing environment.
- Warm the oil.
- Begin at the head working in light circular movements downward, reference diagram above or video below.
- After applying the oil you can leave it on the skin for a few moments/minutes. Then proceed to the steam, shower or bath.
- As you transition into the shower take a moment to pause, appreciate and sit in the steam. This heat helps open your pores, inviting the nourishing oils and herbs to penetrate deep into your skin and the deeper tissue layers.
- Once in the warm water, massage the oils into your skin again, following the same pattern as before. There’s no need to use soap on the larger areas of your body. A simple rule of thumb is to apply soap only to the areas that aren’t exposed to the sun.
- Be mindful of your balance as you exit the shower.
When guiding our clients, we believe in gradually easing them into spending more time on self-care practices. Initially, the simple act of applying oil and rinsing it off might suffice. Yet, as you get more comfortable with the process, it becomes a beautiful act of self-love to dedicate more time to this practice. Ideally spending up to 15 or even 30 minutes at least once a week.
This extended, mindful engagement provides valuable insight into how your body genuinely feels. It fosters an internal culture of self-inquiry, a vital tool often neglected in the rush of daily life. By regularly using your senses and tuning inward, you gain a deeper understanding of your physical, emotional and mental state. This enables you to respond more effectively to the needs of your body and your mind.
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Regular practice supports radiant skin, reduced stress, improved sleep quality, proper digestion and graceful aging.
To elevate the experience, consider creating a tranquil environment for your abhyanga. Soft music, aromatic incense or candles, and soothing aromatherapy can transform your routine into a serene ritual. This time is your personal sanctuary for daily or nightly connection with yourself. Aim to make the experience as enjoyable as possible.
In Sanskrit, the word for oil, ‘sneha,’ also translates to ‘love’. This dual meaning underlines the essence of self-oil massage: it’s a tangible expression and experience of self-love. You can practice this every day to foster a deeper, more compassionate relationship with yourself.
What Oil is Best for You?
You have likely heard of the terms Vata, Pitta and Kapha Dosha in relation to Ayurvedic practices. These doshas play an integral role in Ayurvedic understanding. Our approach encourages you to begin understanding Ayurveda by focusing on how you feel ‘right now’. This keeps you anchored in the present moment. Allowing you to adapt and respond to changes in the season and your environment.
If you are:
- Feeling cold, experiencing dry skin, anxiety, stress, irregular digestion, elimination or thought patterns, or being overly sensitive to your immediate environment, you may have an excess of Vata Dosha. In this case, using warm, heavier oils like sesame (not toasted) could be beneficial.
- Feeling warm or intense, dealing with skin irritation, heightened emotions or thoughts, burning sensations, or feeling agitated by your immediate environment, you may have excess Pitta Dosha. In this situation, cool, lighter oils such as coconut could help restore balance.
- Feeling cool or slow, grappling with sluggish digestion, elimination or thought processes, or feeling stagnant in your immediate environment, these could be signs of an excess of Kapha Dosha. Warm, light oils like flaxseed or even mustard seed oil might be beneficial in this case.
When in doubt, we generally recommend sesame oil for dry or cold climates and seasons. And coconut oil for warm or humid environments and seasons.
What about Herbal Oils?
One of the most delightful and interesting aspects of practice we like to share is the use of herbs and flowers we grow in our garden! Our 500 Hour Professional Ayurveda Program offers students a unique opportunity to learn how to create potent and concentrated herbal healing oils at home.
If you are looking to try some special blends, these are our favorites:
Sore Muscles and Joint Pain- Banyan Botanicals Mahanarayan Oil
Building a Healthy Strong Body- Banyan Botanicals Ashwagandha Bala Oil
Relaxation- Banyan Botanicals Brahmi Oil, Banyan Botanicals Sleep Easy Oil
Daily Massage- Banyan Botanicals Daily Massage Oil, Pure Sesame Oil
We’ve created a FREE GUIDE crafted just for you! It’s filled with detailed information on herbs, oils and self-massage techniques tailored for each Dosha. This is a valuable resource. Download the guide and start your daily practice today!
Looking for Additional Support?
We are here to help! Maha Vidya Ayurveda offers a comprehensive suite of care offerings designed not only to initiate your healing journey but also to provide an enriching learning experience. Keep abreast of our latest insights and program updates by subscribing to our newsletter.
If you are looking for personalized guidance and custom-crafted plans along your self-care path, consider an Ayurvedic Consultation OR immerse yourself in the profound knowledge of Ayurveda by enrolling in our esteemed 500 Hour Professional Ayurveda Program with Dr. Amruta Athale. You will the cultivate skills and comprehensive knowledge to care for you, your family and even the community.
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