Abhyanga: Ayurvedic Oil Massage
Abhyanga is the anointing of the body with oil. Often medicated and usually warm, the oil is massaged into the entire body before bathing. For thousands of years people have used abhyanga to maintain health, benefit sleep patterns, increase longevity. It has also been used as a medicine for certain disorders. Abhyanga can be incorporated into a routine appropriate for almost anyone.
The Sanskrit word sneha can be translated as both “oil” and “love”. It is believed that the effects of abhyanga are similar to those received when one is saturated with love. Like the experience of being loved, abhyanga can give a deep feeling of stability and warmth. Sneha is subtle; this allows the oil/love to pass through minute channels in the body and penetrate deep layers of tissue.
In Ayurveda, it is believed that there are seven layers of tissue in the body (called dhatus). Each successive layer is more concentrated and life-giving. For sneha to reach the deepest layer, it is believed that it must be massaged into the body for 800 matras, roughly five minutes. To give this kind of attention to your entire body, you may need about fifteen-minutes. Considering the benefits that have been gained by people for thousands of years, fifteen-minutes per day is a minimal amount of time.
Benefits of applying oil to the body (Abhyanga):
- Produces softness, strength and color to the body
- Decreases the effects of aging
- Bestows good vision
- Nourishes the body
- Increases longevity Benefits sleep patterns
- Benefits skin
- Strengthens the body’s tolerance
- Imparts a firmness to the limbs
- Imparts tone and vigor to the dhatus (tissues) of the body
- Stimulates the internal organs of the body, including circulation Pacifies Vata and Pitta and Harmonizes Pitta
Benefits of applying oil to the scalp (Murdha taila):
- Makes hair grow luxuriantly, thick, soft and glossy
- Soothes and invigorates the sense organs
- Removes facial wrinkles
Benefits of applying oil to the ears (Karna purna):
- Benefits disorders in the ear which are due to increased Vata
- Benefits stiff neck
- Benefits stiffness in the jaw
Benefits of applying oil to the feet (Padaghata):
- Coarseness, stiffness, roughness, fatigue and numbness of the feet are alleviated Strength and firmness of the feet is attained Vision is enhanced Vata is pacified Sciatica is benefited Local veins and ligaments are benefited Sneha (oil) affused [sic] on the human organism imparts a tone and vigor to its root-principles (Dhatus), in the same manner as water furnishes the roots of a tree or a plant with the necessary nutritive elements, and fosters its growth, when poured into the soil where it grows. The use of sneha at a bath causes the sneha to penetrate into the system through the mouths of the veins (siras) and the ducts (dhamanis) of the body, as also through the roots of the hair, and thus soothes and invigorates the body with its own essence.
By using oil massage daily, a person is endowed with pleasant touch, trimmed body parts and becomes strong, charming and least affected by old age.
Put about cup oil in an 8 oz. squeeze bottle. Make sure the oil is not rancid.
Place the bottle of oil in a pan of hot water until the oil is pleasantly warm Sit or stand comfortably in a warm room, on a towel that you don’t mind ruining with oil accumulation. Make sure you’re protected from any wind.
Apply the oil to your entire body.
Massage the oil into your entire body, beginning at the extremities and working toward the middle of the body. Use long strokes on the limbs and circular strokes on the joints. Massage the abdomen and chest in broad, clockwise, circular motions. On the abdomen, follow the path of the large intestine; moving up on the right side of the abdomen, then across, then down on the left side. Massage the body for 5-20 minutes, with love and patience.
Give a little extra time and attention to massaging the oil into your scalp, ears and feet, at least once a week. Apply oil to the crown of your head (adhipati marma) and work slowly out from there in circular strokes. Oil applied to the head should be warm but not hot. Put a couple drops of warm oil on the tip of your little finger or on a cotton ball and apply to the opening of the ear canal. (If there is any current or chronic discomfort in the ears don’t do this without the recommendation of your health care practitioner). When you massage your feet, be sure to wash them first when you shower, so you don’t slip.
Enjoy a warm bath or shower. You can use a mild soap on the “strategic” areas.
When you get out of the bath, towel dry. Keep a special towel for drying off after your Abhyanga because it can eventually get ruined, due to the accumulation of oil.
Apply a dosha-appropriate essential oil to your wrists and neck.