Abhyanga: Therapeutic herbal oil massage which is deeply calming and relaxing to the senses, and leaves the skin silky smooth. In Sanskrit, it is translated to mean ‘glow on limbs.’
In each of the previous ‘Into Balance’ writings, I’ve mentioned the importance of ‘opposite qualities’ in the practice of Ayurveda. Whether in our diet— for maintaining proper digestion of equilibrium according to our body type, or in various areas of our lifestyles— like physical exercise. This all comes back to one big question…
Why does Ayurveda suggest implementing these opposite qualities into our lives?
The answer is to balance out our mind and body elements that can become unbalanced due to certain ways in which we are living.
Today I want to share with you a little more information about an easy practice you can do to introduce this concept of ‘opposites’ into your routine. I also offer this stress-reduction practice at Omkar.
Learning More About ‘Abhyanga,’ or Oil Massage
Abhyanga is an ancient Ayurvedic practice and one of Ayurveda’s recommended daily routines, or “Dinacharya,’ as skin is our largest and most accessible organ. The oil that is used as the main medium in these therapies is very beneficial to one condition in particular that many of us face in today’s age of busy schedules, and the stress that accompanies them.
Abhyanga pacifies Vata, and we are living in the age of Vata
To understand this a little more— Vata Dosha influences our sense of touch, as it is represented by Air and Space elements. Vata is continually in a state of fluctuation with our daily hectic lifestyle, and therefore is subject to becoming imbalanced quite easily. It is the most ‘delicate’ of the doshas in other words.
Consequences of increased Vata include…
Sleep issues, digestive issues like constipation, bloating, dryness of the skin.
And on a mind level…
Focus issues like trouble staying on the subject for long (monkey mind!)
Since Vata is characterized by its dry, cold, rough, light, and mobile qualities, it is pacified by the opposite qualities of oil— which are warm, heavy, lubricating, grounding, and smooth.
What Specific Benefits Does this Provide?
1. Regularly applying oil to the skin strongly affects our psychosomatic well-being— reducing physical and mental stress by pacifying Vata.
2. Tonifies skin and muscles of the body
3. Nourishing to the skin and body, and hence rejuvenating
4. Sleep inducing
Some Technique Hints for Abhyanga
Choose the Oil
It is practically challenging to do daily self-massage, but doing it 2-3 times a week has the desired effects. Here’s what you’ll want to do:
Sesame oil is recommended, although those who run hot may prefer coconut oil. Mustard oil is preferred by people of the Kapha constitution because of its heating quality.
Warm the Oil
Even though oil is warm by nature, warming it further enhances its benefits. The best way to do this is by warming a jar of oil in a hot water bath.
How To Do the Massage
Start by massaging warm oil on the soles of the feet. Start with vigorous strokes and slow down to gentle massage. This creates a passage for Vata to move through and then pacifies it with gentle strokes. Massage in the direction of hair growth on arms and legs – going straight down. On the abdomen apply oil in a circular motion in a clockwise direction. Massage can be done in 10-15 minutes.
Wondering if you could benefit from a professional Abhyanga session? Ask Nina if this is for you!
Some May Want to Be Cautious About Abhyanga’s Effects
- If you’re experiencing Kapha aggravation of heaviness or mucilaginous qualities– like cough, cold, asthma, indigestion, swelling, itchiness— you will not want to increase Kapha through an oil massage.
- If you are under a fever, your body’s digestion capacity is already diminished. Since oil application on skin requires ‘digestion,’ it would only worsen your condition.
- If you are in your menstrual cycle you’ll want to avoid this – as oil pacifies Vata, which in turn would hamper natural flow of Vata at this time.
Conclusion: An oil massage is nourishing to the body and calming and grounding to the senses. Ayurveda places special emphasis on feet, ears, and head, as oil application to these areas, in particular, is especially helpful in pacifying Vata and hence inducing sleep.
Wondering if a certain symptom of stress could be helped with Abhyanga? Or, want to learn more about what this session entails?
I would be happy to answer any questions– simply email me below.