Abhyanga is the practice of anointing one’s body with oil. The sanskrit word Sneha means both “love” and “oil”. The experience of oiling one’s body with oil can give feelings of stability, warmth, and comfort – similar to the effects of being saturated with love. Therefore, Abhyanga is considered a practice of self-love.
One of the classical Ayurveda texts, the Ashtanga Hridayam, suggests abhyanga be given daily to prevent and heal illness. It is considered the “king” of treatments to balance an aggravated Vata dosha. Abhyanga also stimulates the lymphatic system to carry nutrients to and toxins away from the cells.
Here is a list of 10 other benefits of Abhyanga:
- Decreases the effects of aging and nourishes entire body
- Aides vision
- Assists in elimination of toxins and repressed emotions
- Increases longevity and stamina
- Benefits sleep patterns
- Softens and lubricates skin reducing wrinkles and dryness
- Imparts firmness to the limbs
- Imparts tone and vigor to the dhatus (tissues) of the body
- Stimulates the internal organs of the body, increasing circulation
- Pacifies vata and pitta and stimulates kapha
- Vata dosha (dry, cold, fall, winter): Sesame oil is considered the “king of oils” and is the preferred oil because of its warming properties. Use untoasted and organic oil.
- Pitta dosha (hot, summer): coconut or sunflower oil for the cooling properties.
- Kapha dosha (cool to warm, Spring): Invigorating oils such as mustard or herbal infused oil to pacify kapha. For kapha predominate constitutions, massage with soft, fragrant powders is also an option. Because “like increases like”, using cool, non-herbal oil may increase kapha.
- Warm approximately 1/4c – 1/2c oil in glass or squeeze bottle in a pan of hot water. In the hotter months, room temperature oil is fine.
- Sit or stand comfortably in a warm room, on a towel that you don’t mind ruining with oil over time.
- Apply oil generously to your entire body and work oil into the body starting with the head and face, then extremities to middle of body, then feet.
- Scalp: place a few drops of oil at the crown of the head and massage in circular motion into scalp.
- Face: apply a few drops and massage in circular motion on forehead, temples, cheeks, jaw, and ears.
- Begin at the extremities and work towards the middle of your body, applying long strokes on the limbs and circular strokes at the joints. Go against the grain of your body hair.
- Abdomen: follow the path of digestion; moving up on the right side, then across below ribs, then down the left side.
- Feet: give a little extra attention to the soles of the feet as they are home to important internal organ pressure points.
- Massage the body for 5 – 20 minutes with love and patience, remembering you are nourishing your body, mind, and spirit.
- If possible sit with the oil for 5 – 15 minutes, possibly practicing meditation or asana
- Enjoy a warm bath or shower to let the oil nourish and detoxify all the tissue layers. You can use a mild soap on the “strategic” areas, but avoid vigorously rubbing the body with soap.
- When you get out of the bath or shower, pat the body dry gently with a towel. Consider a specific towel you don’t mind ruining due to the accumulation of oil overtime.
- Put on a pair of cotton socks or slippers to protect your environment from residual oil on your feet.
Rejoice in the nourishment you have provided yourself and carry this feeling throughout the day. This is the reason why we combine the Ayurvedic massage with our Gut Healing Protocol. Its essential that we do both, internal and external detoxification and lubrication.