Abhyanga self-massages have only recently started making the rounds in our modern world. And that includes India too, where this concept originated deep in the hills of the Indus Valley. Now, some may argue that self-massages are not an Indian concept – and I agree with that. What we are talking about here is the Ayurvedic approach to self-massages.
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How do you Perform an Abhyanga Self-Massage?
An Abhyanga self-massage is the act of using your own hands to massage your entire body. Abhyanga self-massages are also considered an act of self-love. You are showing your body (the only one you have) the immense gratitude you have for it. The act of touch is highly healing. Think of when someone sends you a hug emoji via text, versus giving you a real hug. You know the intention of both, but one has an exponential degree of love associated to it. Likewise, the same love can be given to yourself on a daily basis with the practice of the Ayurvedic massage. You perform this act of love with a few more ingredients discussed below.
A Customized Abhyanga Self-Massage
Abhyanga self-massages are customized according to each individual. This customization depends on your Ayurvedic blueprint – your doshic balance at birth. You want to get the most benefit of an Abhyanga self-massage by making sure you are using the right tools and tips that benefit your blueprint.
People may find it overkill to go see an Ayurvedic practitioner just to know what type of Ayurvedic self massage is best for them. So, we are going to do our best and break down every component of this practice based on what you need.
What Do You Need for an Abhyanga Self-Massage?
- Specific Ayurvedic oils
- Light soap
- Breathable clothes
- A calm environment
- 1 hour of the process from beginning to end
Types of Ayurvedic Oils for Your Abhyanga Practice
This one is interesting and also confusing. It is confusing because unless you know your Ayurvedic blueprint, you many not pick the right oils. And that is not what we want for you. To avoid that situation, let me list a few things to consider about what your body would want from the oil. Base your oil purchase on that.
1. Vata Oils
- If you are someone with variable qualities listed below, go for the slightly warmer oils
- Not sure about your life’s direction
2. Pitta Oils
- If you are any of the qualities below, go for the cooler oils
- Heated (in the mind or body)
- Super focused
- Always the ethical and dedicated one
3. Kapha Oils
- If you have some of the tendencies below, go for the heating oils
- Couch potato
- Sleepy most of the time
- No zest for life
- Conditional with your love
Now that you have an idea of what oils may be good for the individual you are, let’s talk about which oils to use.
1. Slightly Warmer Oils for Vata
- Almond oil – this is a great option and is light enough that its easily absorbed by the skin too. Since its slightly warming, you get a feeling of comfort during application.
- Sesame oil – sesame oils are used in a lot of Ayurvedic products and the Ayurvedic Abhyanga self-massage is one of them. It’s a great slightly warming oil that is good to increase heat (just a little) in the body.
- Ghee – since ghee is tridoshic (good for all Ayurvedic blueprints), you can use this “oil” too.
2. Cooler Oils for Pitta
- Sunflower oil – while I don’t recommend this oil in general, it is a cheaper and safe option for Pitta type people
- Coconut oil – I am a pitta/kapha person (mostly pitta) so I use coconut oil on my skin for both Abhyanga self massages and as a moisturizer after my showers
- Ghee – this might be expensive to use on your skin, but if you’re going through skin conditions that cause inflammation to the skin, this and the oil below are cooling and soothing.
- Neem oil – neem oil has been used in India for everything from growing thick hair, to helping the itch during measles’ outbreaks. This is another one that is GREAT for skin inflammations.
3. Heating Oils for Kapha
- Mustard oil – this is one of the most heating oils that you can find. This is great to invigorate a person during their Abhyanga self-massage.
- Safflower oil – another heating oil that is affordable and can get the body moving.
- Sesame oil – as mentioned above, since sesame oil is slightly heating, this is good for a kapha person as well
- Ghee – you know why now. If not, read above.
- Almond oil – again another slightly warming oil recommended above too.
What are the Benefits of an Abhyanga Self-Massage?
There are so many health benefits of the performing a self massage that go beyond just your skin. The first one is probably the main reason you should practice this amazing self-massage on a daily basis.
- Self Love –you know we all need it. The act of applying oils to your temple is an act of self-love and gratitude.
- Reduction in stress levels – as researched by the NIH, we see that the Abhyanga massage has a massive effect on reducing stress levels in the system. That goes beyond physical stress.
- Proper circulation and drainage of the lymphatic system. With the action of the massage, the pulling and stretching out of the skin helps with bringing “fresh” blood and energy through the lymph and blood.
- Nervous system health – massaging oils that seep deep into the layers of your skin, help hydrate your nervous system and improve your health too.
- Hair and scalp health – since you would be applying the oil to your scalp and hair, this nourishes your head with the moisture and other properties that your scalp and hair would not get otherwise.
- Softer and supple skin – daily Abhyanga self massages hydrate and nourish your skin. You will see the difference after just a few days.
- It’s a mini workout – trust me, doing this for 20 minutes every day is amazing but also tiring in a good way.
How to Perform an Ayurvedic Abhyanga Self-Massage?
The good stuff. 10 steps to self-love.
- Take about ½ cup (yea) of the selected oil and heat it up inside a pot of boiling or super hot water. Heat it up to a level that is warm to the touch. It does not need to be hot.
- Start with the top of your head and pour some on. Use your fingertips to massage it in circles all the way until you reach the ends of your hair.
- Continue to apply it on your face in an upward and outward motion.
- Note: Small strokes.
- Down your neck in a downward motion.
- Note: Small strokes.
- Down your arms, torso, and legs.
- Note: Long and slow stokes for Vata and Pitta types, small and fast strokes for Kapha.
- For your joints, use a circular motion and apply substantial amounts of loving oil. These areas are responsible for movement and being limber, so show some more love.
- For feet, again take your time. Those things carry the weight of your body. Massage the soles of the feet with extra loving oil. These are also the part of your body that absorbs faster than the rest of your body. Also home to important marma points.
- Once you are done with the entire process, leave the oils on for no less than 30 minutes so your body absorbs what it needs for the day.
- Take a shower, with a light soap that does not wash away all the oil. You could also go the Ayurvedic way and only soap your “important” areas only. Just wash off the rest with warm water and no soap.
- Wash your hair with your shampoo of choice. I usually have to shampoo it twice to get the oil out.
Things to be careful of:
- Towels will get oily
- Your clothes will get oily
- Everything will get oily
Be cautious about when and how you perform this practice. We want you to show yourself all the self-love, without having a slip n slide in your home.
I hope that you will take the journey towards better skin, hair, and overall health by performing just this single act of – let me say it again – self-love. Practice this Ayurvedic Abhyanga self-massage routine daily to see its benefits. It is recommended to start your day with this practice. However, since the world we live in is not conducive to morning massages that take an hour, I like to do mine before bed.
Are you going to practice this self-massage routine? Share your thoughts and results below. I’d love to hear how you like it.
Featured photo courtesy of unsplash.com