The Art Of Abhyanga (Ayurvedic Self Massage)
By Leanne Gray
If you are anything like the majority, you probably feel as if you don't have as much time as you like to find moments
for yourself. The busy lifestyle takes over and you might end up consumed by this rush of modern life. Without even noticing,
the day has gone and you're left to pick up again the next day. It's common for such a lifestyle to build stress and this is something
that we may deal with at any stage of our life, any day of the week. This stress can often show up in our body as pain,
dis-ease, fatigue, a compromised immune system, as well as accelerated aging.
Abhyanga ( ah-bee-yan-ga ) is a traditional Ayurvedic longevity practice that has been around for years, literally meaning 'massage with oil'. This act of anointing yourself with warm oils can also be called 'snehana' which means 'to nurture or to self love'. According to ancient texts, regular self massage can naturally support us with many of the issues we face, including stress, yet it's so often overlooked.
While a lack of time can be a major factor in why we don't set aside this time for self care, many of us may also not have the spare income for similar, more expensive forms of treatments or therapies that can support such issues. Abhyanga is something that can be done in the comfort of your own home, with minimal expense or effort. As such a simple act, it's a lot easier to fit into your morning or evening routine - you'll even begin to look forward to this time for yourself as not only does it feel good for you, it does good for you!
Why should you try self massage?
With work, family and busy lifestyles, our bodies are often left to heal themselves in a rush, especially when we don't get the appropriate amount of sleep we need. We feel the effects of this as an imbalance where stiffness, aches, pain and fatigue tend to set in. Days of hard work, endless deadlines and family pressures can leave you struggling to find energy.
According to ancient texts, self massage as a regular routine is one our golden keys to greater health and overall well being, yet
it is so easily overlooked. See and feel how regularly setting aside 10 minutes for your self massage can
The benefits of Abhyanga:
1. Slows down the aging process
2. Improve circulation
3. Strengthen nerves, skin, muscles, blood vessels
4. It’s known to nourish and increase the resiliency of the body and nervous system
5. Eliminate fatigue
6. Lubricate joints
7. Increase circulation
8. Moves the lymph, aiding in detoxification
9. Calms the nerves
10. Improves sleep quality
11. Add lustre and glow to skin
12. Pacifies Vata and Pitta, and stimulates Kapha
Here’s how you can give yourself these benefits from the comfort of your home:
What do I need to get started?
- A room/bathroom that is warm, cosy and free from drafts.
- A warm towel or low stool to sit.
- Warmed oil. (We recommend organic black sesame oil for all doshas, however you can use other oils such as almond or jojoba. Heat this oil in a dish or place the oil bottle in hot water to heat. For oils that are more tailored to your skin type, have a look at our Dosha specific massage oils which are infused with therapeutic herbs.)
How should I do it?
Prepare the room and remove your clothes before you begin.
Breathe deeply into your belly and give thanks for this time you have for yourself.
Beginning with your feet, use careful, firm movements with your thumbs in circular strokes with a focus on the soles. Press the skin between your toes and pull gently on each toe from bottom to top. Your feet contain many important marma points which should be the focus for your feet.
Moving towards your legs, use upward strokes with your hands. Repeat each movement at least three times as the oil is smoothed into your skin. Be generous with your use of oil.
Around your knees and other joints, use circular movements.
Continue your repeated gentle upward strokes on your thighs, hands, arms, torso and chest. Give special care to each part of your body.
Working your way up your neck to your head, use your fingers to make gentle upward circles on the skin, around your temples and behind your ears.
Take a warm shower or bath (avoid hot showers)
If you're tight for time, even 5 minutes of massage and a shower can be beneficial!
Using upward strokes lifts your skin and moves toxins towards your lymph nodes which aids in detoxification.
When should I do it?
- In the morning (best time to detoxify)
- In the evening to improve sleep and relaxation (When adding this into your evening routine, we recommend doing this self massage before your shower as the oil is absorbed into your skin making it easier for exfoliation during your shower.)
- After travelling
- Anytime you have muscle pain
When should I not do it?
- During heavy days of menstrual cycle
- After a meal
- When there is heavy ama or indigestion
How often should I do it?
Ideally everyday - your body will thrive with an improved sense of well being. You can set a reminder on your phone or leave a sticky note in the bathroom to remind you. If you are pressed for time, you should still try for 2-3 days at least! Abhyanga is especially helpful in periods of high stress, more work or difficulty sleeping. A vata imbalance, pre and post natal, and weakened or strained nerves are very important cases for daily oil massage.
Pouring into your own cup by giving loving intention to every part of your body also supports connection with yourself - a meditative and transformative act of self love that can be encouraged from any age and with any gender.