If you feel like you don't know where to start with your self love practice, Abhyanga (the Ayurvedic practice of self-massage) is a fantastic place to begin.
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.
This self-massage technique isn’t exactly muscular, but it does work on a cellular level. It nourishes the body, spirit, and mind while also detoxify the body, increasing circulation (like facial Gua Sha), enhancing relaxation, and restoring vigor and stamina to the body.
According to the Chopra Center these are the benefits of Abhyanga:
- Nourishes the entire body—decreases the effects of aging
- Imparts muscle tone and vigor 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 and disappear
- Pacifies Vata and Pitta and stimulates Kapha—to learn more about Doshas.
Your Abhyanga routine
You will need:
A pot of warm water to heat the oil
A towel to sit on
A bottle of body oil (Sesame or Almond is traditional and recommended for Vata Dosha; Sunflower or Coconut oil to balance Pitta Dosha, or Safflower to invigorate Kapha)
If you don’t know your Dosha Jojoba oil is good for all 3
These are the steps to follow:
- Warm the oil: boil a pot of water, let it cool down to a warm temperature, then place the bottle of oil into the warm water for a few minutes to let it heat up.
- Then, find a serene, comfortable space in your home where you can be alone and sit down, or stand up, on your towel.
- Apply oil first to the crown of your head (adhipati marma) and work slowly out from there in circular strokes—spend a couple of minutes massaging your entire scalp (home to many other important marma points—points of concentrated vital energy) Try some extra TLC with our Jade Comb here!
- Face: Massage in circular motion on your forehead, temples, cheeks, and jaws (always moving in a upward movement). Be sure to massage your ears, especially your ear-lobes—home to essential marma points and nerve endings
- Use long strokes on the limbs (arms and legs) and circular strokes on the joints (elbows and knees). Always massage toward the direction of your heart
- Try smiling and sending loving intentions to your organs.
- 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
- Finish the massage by spending at least a couple of minutes massaging your feet. Feet are a very important part of the body with the nerve endings of essential organs and vital marma points
- Sit with the oil for 5-15 minutes if possible so that the oil and love can be absorbed and penetrate into the deeper layers of the body
- Enjoy a warm bath or shower. You can use a mild soap on the “strategic” areas, avoid vigorously soaping and rubbing the body
- When you get out of the bath, towel dry gently. Blot the towel on your body instead of rubbing vigorously
Enjoy the feeling of having nourished your body, mind, and spirit and carry that with you throughout your day.
These are some exceptions when Abhyanga is not recommended
- During the menstrual cycle: Massage with deep pressure during the menstrual cycle is not advised in Ayurveda, as it can initiate a release of ama (toxins) from deep tissues at a time when the body is already a bit taxed. Some people don’t like to stop Abhyanga during their cycle because they have very dry skin. If you choose to do it during your cycle, it is best to apply the oil gently and for only about five minutes.
- During pregnancy: The reasoning is similar here. It is not a good idea to stimulate any sort of detox process during pregnancy. This precaution protects the growing embryo and fetus against any unnecessary exposure to ama.
- Over swollen, painful areas or masses on the body (Or do so only with the knowledge and consent of your health-care practitioner).
- Over infected or broken skin
- When there is high ama or great physical discomfort. A thick, white coating on the tongue often indicates high levels of ama.
- During any sort of acute illness such as fever, chills, flu, or acute indigestion
- Directly after taking emetics or purgatives
- When you have a medical condition (Unless your health-care practitioner says it is okay to do Abhyanga).
< Pictures via Pinterest - unknown author but would love to give credit. >