Massage can help with everything from detoxifying the body to toning the muscles to resetting the nervous system.
Unlike Swedish-style massage, whose aim is to release tension and stress from the muscles and fascia and induce relaxation, Ayurvedic massage, called Abhyanga, is intended to stimulate the lymphatic system (which eliminates impurities from the body), sooth and relax the nervous system, balance the doshas, rejuvenate the skin, tone the muscles and strengthen the body’s overall functionality. A tall order indeed!
In Sanskrit, the word for “oil” (sneha) can also be translated as “love.” And self-love is actually at the core of Abhyanga, which provides a deep feeling of security and warmth.
This is why Ayurvedic practitioners recommend making a daily practice of performing Abhyanga on one’s self. While it is beneficial for everyone, it’s especially good for Vata types and anybody with increased Vata because it is grounding and relaxing.
Benefits of Self-Massage
Performing self-massage is like changing your car engine’s oil. You know that’s one of the things that keeps it running efficiently—and what happens if you don’t. Here are some specific benefits associated with daily performance of abhyanga.
- Nourishes the entire body, softens and smoothes skin and decreases the effects of aging, including the appearance of wrinkles
- Imparts muscle tone and vigor to the tissues and a firmness to the limbs
- Lubricates the joints
- Increases circulation
- Stimulates the internal organs
- Moves the lymph, aids in detoxification and assists in elimination of impurities
- Increases stamina and calms the nerves
- Induces deep, restful sleep and enhances mental clarity throughout the day.
What oils to use
Ayurveda recommends personalized solutions for each individual. And those solutions take different factors into consideration including your body type, health challenges you face to determine the type of oil you can use.
In general, for people who generally have dry and rough skin (Vata skin-type) it is good to use sesame oil. For people that have red, sensitive or oily skin (Pitta skin-type) it is good to use almond, sunflower or olive oil. And for people with thick or moist skin (Kapha skin-type) it is good to use sesame or safflower oil.
Jojoba oil is good for all skin types.
How to Perform Self-Massage
Abyanga is traditionally done in the morning, before your bath or shower, to facilitate the release of toxins that may have accumulated during the night.
When you do self-massage, make sure to use circular motions over rounded areas, such as your head and joints, and long, straight strokes on straight areas like your arms and legs. Always move in an upward direction.
- Warm approximately ¼ cup of desired oil. Test the temperature by putting a drop on your inner wrist: Oil should be comfortably warm and not hot.
- Remove clothing. Sitting or standing comfortably in a warm room, begin applying oil to the crown of your head and slowly work your way down with circular strokes. Spend a couple of minutes massaging your entire scalp, which is home to many other important points of concentrated vital energy.
- Massage your face in a circular motion, moving from forehead and temples to cheeks and jaws. Be sure to massage your ears, especially your lobes, where many important nerve endings are located.
- Massage the abdomen and chest in broad, clockwise, circular motions. Follow the path of the large intestine by moving up the right side, then across, then down the left side. Always massage in the direction of your heart
- Finish by spending several minutes massaging your feet—a key area containing the nerve endings of essential organs and vital energy points
- When you’re done, sit for five to 15 minutes to absorb the oil and allow it to seep into the deeper layers of the body. The longer the oil is on, the more deeply it penetrates.
- Clean yourself with a mild soap in a warm bath or shower, being careful to lather up and towel-dry gently, not vigorously.
- Enjoy the feeling of having nourished your body, mind and spirit and carry that with you throughout the day.
I invite you to do this self-massage practice and experience the results for yourself.
What do you do to rejuvenate your body and mind? Enter your comments below and I’d be happy to provide you any insights.