How to do the Abhyanga or Ayurvedic Self-massage
I love massages, I ask my son to give me small massages with his little hands every time I catch him off guard, in exchange for whatever he wants... Giving me a massage makes me a happy woman.
When we think of self-care, images of elaborate spa rituals come to mind, where one person massages your head, while another works on your feet, and you see someone completely ecstatic. It's what the movies and TV shows have led us to believe, but the truth is, you don't need a battalion for self-care, it's called "self" for a reason.
Your happiness is in your hands, just like the well-being of your body.
Self-massage or Abhyanga has been used in Ayurveda for many years. A daily practice of Abhyanga restores the balance of all biological agents and improves well-being and longevity.
Your skin is the largest organ in your body and has more nerve endings than any other part. When you rub oil on those nerve endings and massage them, it helps to ground and strengthen the nervous system.
Benefits of self-massage:
- Nourishes the entire body and slows the effects of aging.
- Provides muscle tone and vitality to body tissues.
- Provides firmness to the extremities.
- Lubricates the joints.
- Improves circulation.
- Stimulates the internal organs of the body.
- Helps remove impurities from the body.
- Moves the lymphatic system, helping in detoxification.
- Increases resistance.
- Calm the nerves.
- Improves sleep, making it deeper and more restful.
- Improve vision.
- It grows hair (scalp) luxuriously, thick, smooth and shiny.
- Softens and smoothes the skin; reduces and eliminates wrinkles.
- It pacifies Vata and Pitta and stimulates Kapha.
Oils you can use:
- Organic black sesame oil in winter or cold climates.
- Coconut oil in summer or for those with sensitive skin.
- You can also use other oils like almond and macadamia, or any other that is grown locally, but the first two are mainly recommended by Ayurveda.
If you can get a suitable Ayurvedic medicated oil for you, that will be beneficial.
Heat your massage oil. This will increase its effect and nutritional quality, as the oil can penetrate deeper into the skin and tissues.
Abhyanga falls under the "Sneha" category of Ayurvedic treatments, Sneha can be translated as "oil" and "love". So in Ayurveda, there is an inherent connection between wrapping the body in oil and wrapping it in love. Ayurveda recommends daily black sesame oil massage for thirty minutes before your hot shower for best results.
If you are wondering how you can give yourself a massage, there is an answer for that too, and it is called Abhyanga or Self-massage, an oil massage that you can do to yourself.
Oil massage may sound like a messy and complicated process best left to the spa, but once you learn the basics, oil self-massage becomes natural and well worth the effort.
How to do your Self-massage or Abhyanga:
Self-massage or Abhynaga has invigorating results if done in the morning instead of at night. At night it will induce sleep.
- Heat the oil (pour about ¼ cup into a mug and heat using a coffee mug warmer). Test the temperature by putting a drop on your inner wrist, the oil should be comfortably warm, not hot.
- Sit or stand comfortably in a warm room.
- Begin the massage by spending at least a couple of minutes massaging your feet.
- The feet are a very important part of the body, with nerve endings for essential organs and vital marma points.
- It uses long movements in the extremities (arms and legs) and circular movements in the joints (elbows and knees).
- Always massage from the feet towards the direction of your heart.
- Massage the abdomen and chest in wide circular movements in a clockwise direction.
- In the abdomen, it follows the path of the large intestine; moving up on the right side of the abdomen, then across and down on the left side.
- Face: Massage in circular motions on the forehead, temples, cheeks and jawline (always moving upwards). Be sure to massage your ears, especially the lobes, where essential marma points and nerve endings are located.
- Apply oil to the crown of your head (marma adhipati) and slowly work from there in circular motions. Spend a couple of minutes massaging your entire scalp (where many other important marma points, points of concentrated vital energy, are located).
- Sit with the oil for 5-15 minutes, if possible, so that the oil can be absorbed and penetrate into the deeper layers of the body.
I usually put on a robe (which I only use for my massages) and make breakfast for my son, or just sit in meditation.
Enjoy a hot bath or shower. You can use a mild soap in the "strategic" areas, avoid vigorously rubbing the body.
When you get out of the bathroom, gently towel dry yourself. Dry your body by patting instead of vigorously rubbing. Enjoy the feeling of having nourished your body, mind and spirit, and carry it with you throughout the day.