Ayurvedic Self Massage
Abhyanga (Ayurvedic Oil Massage) – What is it?
Abhyanga is a type of self-massage that is encouraged as a daily practice in the ancient Indian health system known as Ayurveda (also known as the sister science to yoga). This type of massage is recommended as part of a daily ritual to maintain vibrant health and promote longevity.
Let’s dig in!
Self-Massage has many benefits including:
● Stress relief and tension release - it can be very meditative
● Providing you with the space to slow down enough to tune inward and listen to what your body and soul need
● Proper circulation and lymphatic drainage
● Bowel regularity
● Tones and invigorates tissues
● Whole body nourishment - lubricates your joints and tissues
How to select your oil?
Decide your current constitution - also known as your vikriti or dosha. VATA is represented by elements of Air and Ether. It’s qualities are cold, dry, mobile, clear, rough, light, and subtle.
Which can show up as…
irregular appetite, thin physical build, dry skin and hair, constipation, nervousness, indecisiveness, tendency to be cold, creativity-minded, social, quick learner, forgets easily, loves change
Recommended oil(s) - Sesame Oil (non-toasted)
PITTA is represented by the elements Fire and Water. It’s qualities are hot, sharp, spreading, light, liquid, and oily.
Which can show up as…
Intense appetite, steady eyes, muscular build, tendency to sweat easily, loose stools, intelligence and drive, competitiveness, liking to plan and organize.
Recommended oil(s) - Sunflower or Coconut Oil
KAPHA Is represented by the elements Earth and Water. It’s qualities are dense, stable, heavy, dry, slow, cool, smooth, gross, oily, and cloudy (sticky).
Which can show up as…
Thick, soft, smooth hair and skin, steady appetite, groundedness, stubbornness, thriving in routine, resistant to change.
Recommended oil(s) -Sesame or Almond Oil (or silk glove - no oil)
How to Practice Abhyanga
Set Up Your Space
Fill your sink with warm water and place your massage oil container in the water to heat up. I usually fill my sink up enough so that my jar of oil is 90% submerged to ensure no leaking or wasted oil down the drain. Once the oil is warm, you can begin your massage. The more you practice abhyanga, the more you’ll get a feel for how much oil you need. I typically refill my palm each time I transition to a new area. Some areas may need more, some less; it’s less of a science and more of an art! You know your body better than anyone, so feel it out 🙂
Make sure you set aside a time where you can be uninterrupted and try to create an environment where you minimize distractions. You’ll need at least 15 minutes for the self-massage, but the longer you focus on each area, the better!
I like to lay out a big towel on my bathroom floor and sit for the massage - the towel so your floor doesn’t get all oily and sitting down so that your muscles begin in a more relaxed state.
You’ll want to start with the upper extremities and work towards the center of the body. Beginning with the head, moving to each hand and arm, then you can move into the trunk and lower body, ending with the toes.
You’ll fill your hand with your warm oil and begin working into your first area - coating your skin to begin, then working into the muscles. You’ll notice that the drier your skin, the more the oil soaks in. This is a good thing! This absorbed oil is incredibly nourishing to the tissues, bones, and joints. You’ll want to massage until each area feels warm and relaxed before moving to the next.
After you finish your whole body, allow yourself at least 5 minutes to notice a shift in your physical and mental state. This time also allows the oil to absorb into the deeper layers of the skin, which promotes even deeper nourishment! I like to lay in savasana for 10 minutes or so following my abhyanga practice.
You’ll then want to take a warm shower and use soap only sparingly to keep from stripping the newly applied oil from the skin. When drying off, use a towel you don’t care too much about and gently pat dry.
Places I recommend spending extra time:
Massaging your head is a very meditative process, so you’ll want to take some extra time here. This is also very nourishing for your hair. Work into your scalp by focusing on areas that feel like they need it most; finding places of tension and massaging until the area feels warm and relaxed.
Show some extra love to your jaw, as we tend to hold a lot of tension in this area. Massage each side of your jaw, from up under your ear all the way down to your chin, spending extra time where needed. Once your jaw feels amply relaxed, you can then work into the neck, starting with the occipital / upper cervical area (right at the base of your skull) and work down through the back of the neck and throat.
● Hands and Feet
Our hands do so much for us every single day, they deserve some extra attention. Your hands (and feet) have many reflexology points and working into these points can promote relaxation, detoxification, and tension release throughout the entire body (for more on reflexology, check out our last blog post by our LMT Amanda Rae!).
● Abdomen and hips
Being someone with a digestive disorder, this is the area that I put the most energy into. I work in downward strokes on my low back and obliques, while still seated, and then I lay down on my back to better access my belly. I like to work in a clockwise motion (visualizing 12 o’clock directly below your navel if you’re looking down at your own belly). You can also use something like a lacrosse ball to really work into the deeper abdominal muscles. After your lovely little belly massage, you can work into the hips, glutes, and thighs. This area, along with the low back and belly, is especially helpful if you are experiencing constipation or long period cycles. Working in downward motions and circling under each leg to the glute and back up through the hip is incredibly nourishing to the downward flow of energy. This encourages bowel movements, lymphatic flow, and can promote blood flow to the uterus. This physical promotion of downward energy aligns with the Ayurvedic downward-moving breath called Apana Vayu, which is responsible for elimination.
This lovely self-care practice can be done as frequently as desired, but I find it to be a nice weekly ritual to tap inward and ground myself. We have a nice selection of body oils in the office, including our new selection of Lunar Logic flower-infused oils, so make sure to check them out next time you’re in!
Rooting for you always!
Ally (aka glasses girl)