Abhyanga is an important practice of self-care according to the science of Ayurveda. It is a powerful tool to soothe the nervous system, decrease the effects of aging, and enhance resiliency and energy. Oil is on the of the most effective medicines to calm vata dosha (the elements of air and ether in the body-mind), and the application of an appropriate oil to the skin is a potent method to impact vata throughout the entire system. The skin is the largest organ in the body, the doorway to the senses, and an oft-neglected organ of digestion. In Sanskrit, the word for oil, sneha, also means love; abhyanga is indeed a profound practice of self-love and nurturing.
*Organic food quality oil or herbal oil appropriate to your condition
*Old clothing and towels that you don’t mind getting oily
* Squeeze bottle with a cap
Abhyanaga can be done before bathing as a part of your daily routine. Ensure that the area is warm and free of drafts. Place on old towel on the floor to catch the inevitable drips.
1) Fill a squeeze bottle with oil and place it in a sink or bowl of hot to warm water to warm the oil. The oil should not be hot, just pleasantly warm.
2) Apply oil to the face, including the ears and nostrils. Avoid the eyes. (sesame oil burns the eyes)
3) Apply oil to the arms and legs. Use long strokes over the length of the limb followed by circular movements on the joints. Move slowly and thoughtfully.
4) Thoroughly massage the hands, using circular movements over each knuckle, the palm and the back of the hand.
5) Massage the feet, using circular motions on the ankles and each toe. (Alternately, oil the feet at night before bed and wear cotton socks to protect your sheets from the oil.)
6) Apply oil to the belly and chest, using gentle clockwise motions. Follow the large intestines; up the right side, across the navel, down the left.
7) At least once a week, apply oil directly to the crown of the head. Gently rub it into the scalp using a clockwise motion.
8) Allow the oil to penetrate for 15-30 minutes. Continue with other parts of your daily routine. You may wish to dedicate an old bathrobe for this time.
9) Be VERY careful stepping into the bath as your feet will be exceedingly slippery. Wash them with soap first.
10) Rinse the body with warm water, and wash the head and hair in cool water. Use soap sparingly so as not to remove all the oil. Blot your skin dry using an old towel.
Vata-Pacifying Oils: Sesame (not toasted),Ashwagandha, Dashamoola
Pitta-Pacifying Oils: Sunflower, Coconut, Olive, Safflower|
Kapha-Pacifying Oils: Sesame (not toasted), Mustard, Corn, Flaxseed
Contraindications – When NOT to do Abhyanga
a. During the acute phase of illness( when there is fever, chills, cough, runny nose, congestion or diarrhea)
b. During the menstrual cycle
c. During pregnancy
e. Insulin-dependent diabetes
f. Infected or open wounds
g. If you are under the care of a physician, you should consult your physician before doing abhyanga
Indications – When it’s helpful to do Abhyanga
a. Nervousness, worry or anxiety
c. Popping or cracking joints
d. Unfocused or scattered mind
e. Muscle soreness or over-exertion
f. Mental or physical stress
g. Insomina or restlessness
h. Emaciation or debility
i. Dry, rough skin
j. Most vata imbalances or disorders
k. Vata stage of life (over age 55)
l. In the vata season (fall or winter)
Benefits of Abhyanga
a. Can help all three doshas
b. Lubricated the skin, reducing dryness and effects of aging
c. Increases circulation and stimulates internal organs
d. Supports health of the skin by making it stronger, more supple and stronger
e. Helps to remove toxins from the body, nourishing all the cells, improving immunity
f. Promotes healthy appetite and digestion
g. Lubricates hair follicles and supprts the growth of soft, thick and healthy hair
h. Reduces joint pain, knuckle popping and muscle soreness
i. Calms the nervous system and sense organs, reduces anxiety, supports sleep
j. Gives sense of well-being, upbeat emotions and optimism
Clean up tips:
Over time oil may accumulate in your bath tub. Keep a bottle of environmentally safe “grease cutting” soap in the shower to clean the tub.
Caution: DO NOT DRY OILY TOWELS IN THE DRYER, even after washing them. The residual oil is very flammable and may combust in the dryer. Let them air dry.
Do not store oily towels in a closed container that gets heated (such as a hamper by the dryer or in the car). They can spontaneously combust.