In this blog, we discuss the importance of Abhyanga (an Ayurvedic Oil Massage) which is one of the best overall remedies for Vata (Air energy) constitution and is also suitable for both other constitutions (Pitta – Fire and Kapha – Water Energy).
Ayurveda is most often referred to as the science of life and is a knowledgeable guide and blueprint to achieving a completely balanced state of body, mind, and spirit.
All of the treatments, dietary, and lifestyle recommendations that form the basis of Ayurveda are entirely individualised for the person’s physical constitution.
To quote Thomas Edison “The doctor of the future will give no medicine but will interest their patients in the care of the human frame, in diet, and in the cause and prevention of disease.”
The Daily Routine Called Dinacharya
Ayurveda recommends practising a daily routine (called Dinacharya) to maintain a youthful body and a clear mind. Abhyanga is a part of this daily routine and is a form of Ayurvedic self-care that involves massaging the body with dosha-specific warm herb-infused oils.
The oil is usually pre-mixed with herbs for specific conditions. The Abhyanga massage forms a part of the Dinacharya specified by the Brhat Trayi and Laghutrayi series of Ayurvedic textbooks to maintain good health and well-being.
Ayurveda practitioners know that Abhyanga aids in joint health nourishes the dhatus (tissues of the body) and brings aggravated doshas back to balance. It also improves the condition of dry, coarse hair and flaky skin.
Abhyanga can be performed as part of the steps of Panchakarma therapy; the famous Ayurvedic detoxification and rejuvenation treatment, especially in the primary stage: Purva Karma (pre-treatment), or is performed as a treatment its own right.
Swedana therapy (sweating) or a warm bath often follows it. Abhyanga may be performed by one or more therapists working in synchronisation, but it can also be done by oneself.
The Benefits of Abhyanga
The Abhyanga as prescribed in the Brhtatrayi and Laghutrayi texts is a robust massage and is designed to open up the minor Srotas, remove ama accumulations (toxins) through the skin, melt kleshma (fat secretions blocking the srotas), and both cleanse and moisturise the skin.
But Abhyanga can also be used to soothe a Vata imbalance which will bring deep relaxation to the body and a peaceful mind.
Abhyanga nourishes and strengthens the body, stimulates our internal organs, enhances blood circulation, and can significantly reduce vata.
The Oils Of Abhyanga Massage
The oils used can vary depending on the season and individuals constitution.
Ensure that the oil is still fresh and not rancid. Place about 1⁄4-1⁄2 cup of the oil in a bowl.
For Vata, it’s recommended to use warm sesame oil. For Pitta, it’s recommended to use warm coconut oil and for kapha, it’s recommended to use warm mustard oil.
Place the bowl of oil in a pan of hot water until the oil is pleasantly warm to the touch; do not heat the oil directly.
Then drizzle the oil over your entire body. Rub the warm oil over the head and body. A gentle, daily oil massage of the scalp encourages happiness, as well as prevents headaches, baldness, premature greying of the hair, and a receding hairline.
Additionally oiling your feet will help induce sound sleep and help to keep the skin soft.
The Following Steps Should be Performed.
Massage the oil into your body, beginning at the extremities and working toward the middle of your 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 stomach, then across, then down on the left side.
Massage the body for 10 – 15 minutes, practising the technique with love and patience.
Devote a little extra time and attention to massage the oil into your scalp, ears, and feet (do this at least once a week.)
Any oil applied to the head should be warm to the touch but not hot.
Enjoy a warm bath or shower once you have finished your Abhyanga, ensuring you do not remove the oil altogether from your skin. You should have a thin film of oil remaining on the skin once you have finished your bath or shower, the skin will absorb that.