“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
What a bold statement! It almost sounds too good to be true – the proverbial oil fountain of youth. Although it may seem a little far-fetched that self-massaging with oil causes such drastic transformations, this tradition does boast many lasting benefits if used regularly.
The grounding practice of self-massage called abhyanga is rooted in Ayurveda, the ancient health and wellness system based on the five elements. Abhyanga is the perfect off-the-mat compliment to practicing yoga. As the winds of change carry us into the cooler, drier months of fall and winter, our skin craves the extra attention. Massaging your body with certain oils, either in the morning or at night before showering keeps your skin radiant and revitalized. Abhyanga soothes the nervous system, supports healthy sleep patterns, reduces stress and removes toxins. Rubbing the skin with oils decreases anxiety and eases overwhelming feelings that sometimes arise when vata is in excess, or when movement is present.
• Find a warm, inviting space in your home and establish an area for your self-massage.
• Gather your oil, a glass bottle, a pot of warm water and a towel to begin.
• Pour the oil into the glass bottle and set the bottle in your warm vessel of water. While you wait for the oil to warm up, take a couple of slow, deep breaths with the eyes closed.
• Starting with the scalp, massage the top of the head and flow outwards from there.
• Rub the face, neck and shoulders gently.
• Sweep clockwise over the torso with long, circular strokes throughout the chest and belly. • Moving down the legs and arms, use long strokes over the long bones of the body. While rubbing the joints, you’ll want to use circular motions.
• Without creating tension, try your best to massage your back.
• Pay special attention to the feet, massaging the soles of the feet and toes thoroughly.
Take a moment after the massage to savor the solitude. Before transitioning, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Then, carefully step into the shower and bathe with warm water. If you’re massaging in the morning, a gentle yoga class is a peaceful way to flow into your day. Reading a book, practicing a short yin sequence or heading straight to bed is a great transition for massaging at night. Abhyanga is a truly nourishing gift we can offer ourselves as time permits.
Types of oil to use (based on your dosha):
*Make sure to use organic, cold-pressed and unrefined oils
• Vata Dosha – sesame or almond oils for balance and calm
• Pitta Dosha – coconut or sunflower oils are best for cooling
• Kapha Dosha – safflower oil for stimulation
Tips and Cautions
1. Keep a separate towel as it is will get oily over time and use.
2. Apply shampoo before wetting your hair, cutting the oil and leaving a less oily residue.
3. Take a warm bath or shower after massage. The oil will penetrate the skin to soften and cleanse.
4. Minimize the use of soap during your shower or bath, the oil and water will carry away any dirt or impurities.
5. Take caution walking with oil on the feet in the shower as well as stepping out. Spraying an all-purpose cleaner in the shower and rubbing the floor with your feet will get rid of excess oil.