the art of self love: self abhyanga

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Life is busy enough for most of us and planning to have some self-nurturing time often is simply a passing thought that we never really get around to doing. Abhyanga warm oil massage is a way of treating yourself single everyday.

"The body of one who uses oil massage regularly does not become affected much even if subjected to accidental injuries, or strenuous work. 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." 
- Charaka Samhita Vol.1, V88-89

Abhyanga is an Ayurvedic healing and detoxing experience that is calming for the mind, relaxing for the body and soothing for the soul. Perfect for releasing stress, and nourishing and re-energising your body in a synchronised manner to restore the flow of vital energy.

It's important that you know your Ayurvedic body-type and imbalances and use the appropriate healing oil. 

Cold-pressed sesame oil is best for pacifying vata which is the main purpose for abhyanga, however if you find sesame too heating (increases the pitta), then coconut is best. many pitta types have skin conditions caused by too much heat in the body.

in general, coconut is recommended in warm seasons for it's cooling effect, and sesame in cold seasons for its warmth. 

Massage Procedure

Warm about 1/4 cup of oil safely and gently either by sitting a cup of oil in a larger bowl of hot water or in a pot on the stove. (coconut oil should never be heated on the stove). 

Be in a warm room free of cold drafts. You can choose to sit on a towel that you don’t mind getting oily or you can also apply in the bathroom.

start by applying oil over your entire body including the scalp. 

Procedure Summary:

  1. Head
  2. Face & Neck
  3. Chest
  4. Abdomen
  5. Back
  6. Arms & Hands
  7. Legs & Feet

General principles: straight strokes up and down on the limbs, neck and spine. Circular motions on joints and marmas (temples, heart, stomach, shoulders, knees and ankles)

1. Head

Start by applying the oil to your head, and gently massage the oil into your scalp using fingers and palms. Massage the whole scalp from the centre and towards the ears. Like washing your head.

2. Face & Neck

Gently apply the oil to your face and neck, front and back. Massage 3rd eye. With palm of hands, massage cheeks and temples in circles and up and down. Dip fingers in oil and put into ears. Massage ear lobes and behind ears. Massage the neck in upward direction on all surfaces of neck and throat.

3. Chest

Circular motions on the chest, especially at heart (4th chakra). Massage first the marma then can massage chest sideways with palm. Circular motion in ‘butterfly direction’ around the breasts (up and out).

4. Abdomen

Pour massage oil directly into belly button. With the fingers, gently massage the area clockwise. Then using the palms make the circles slowly bigger until you have massaged the entire abdominal area then reverse the whole process back to belly.

5. Back

Using your palms, massage up and down the whole lower back area and up the spine as far as you can reach. Massage the shoulders and the upper back as far down as you can go. If you have someone nearby who can do this for you, even better. 

6. Arms & Hands (left side first for ladies, right side first for men)

  1. Circles on shoulder joint.
  2. Massage in and around arm pit (great for moving lymph).
  3. Long strokes up & down upper arm
  4. Circles on elbow joint
  5. Long strokes up & down forearm
  6. Circles on wrist joint (with thumb and fingers)
  7. Circles on palms and back of hands.
  8. Gently in-between fingers (at webs) then pull fingers (from base to tip).
  9. Repeat sequence for other arm and hand.

7. Legs & Feet (left leg first for ladies, right leg first for men), similar to arms.

  1. Massage around hip joint and groin with two hands.
  2. Long strokes up and down on thigh, stronger on downward strokes.
  3. Circles around the whole kneecap.
  4. Long strokes up & down on lower leg (calf muscles), emphasis on downward strokes.
  5. Massage circular motions on ankle joint.
  6. Foot: Massage in-between toe bones (metatarsals) on top of foot.
  7. Massage sole of foot with more pressure – top/centre of sole, ball of sole & heel.
  8. Massage in-between webs of toes.
  9. Toes: Pull each toe from base to tip. 
  10. Repeat sequence for other leg and foot.  

Aim to leave to oil on for at least 10-15 minutes, and up to 50 mins.

It is very important to wash or wipe off the oil afterwards to remove toxins that have been pulled out through the skin. 

Benefits of Abhyanga Massage

  • Nourishes the entire body - decreases the effects of aging
  • Enhances the complexion and the quality of the skin giving it great lustre in appearance
  • Imparts muscle tone and vigour to the dhatus (tissues) of the body
  • Imparts a firmness to the limbs
  • Lubricates the joints
  • Increases circulation
  • Stimulates the internal organs of the body
  • Assists in elimination of impurities from the body
  • Moves the lymph, aiding in detoxification
  • Increases stamina
  • Calms the nerves
  • Benefits sleep - better, deeper sleep
  • Enhances vision
  • Makes hair (scalp) grow luxuriantly, thick, soft and glossy
  • Softens and smoothens skin; wrinkles are reduced

References:

- dr raju, self abhyanga, drraju.com