Abhyanga - The Ayurveda Massage
"Abhyanga" the ayurvedic oil massage is an integral part of the daily routine recommended by this healing system for overall health and well-being. "Give yourself a full body oil massage on a daily basis. It is nourishing, pacifies the doshas, relieves fatigue, provides stamina, pleasure and perfect sleep, enhances the complexion and the luster of the skin, promotes longevity and nourishes all parts of the body".
Here are some of the benefits traditionally associated with regular performance of this pleasant daily ritual:
- Increased circulation, especially to nerve endings
- Toning of the muscles and the whole physiology
- Calming for the nerves
- Lubrication of the joints
- Increased mental alertness
- Improved elimination of impurities from the body
- Softer, smoother skin
- Increased levels of stamina through the day
- Better, deeper sleep at night
Abhyanga provides the means for trans-dermal absorption of the healing qualities of the material used in the massage, and it helps the skin, which is the largest organ in the body, perform its diverse functions efficiently, whether it is allowing toxins to be released from the body or nourishment to be absorbed by the tissues. It is like oiling the engine of your car -- if you do it regularly, your engine will be in peak condition, and give you years and years of trouble-free performance.
The main purpose of Abhyanga or oil massage as part of the Ayurvedic daily routine is to assist in preventing the accumulation of
physiological toxins (Āma) and to lubricate and promote flexibility of
the muscles, tissues and joints. Once applied to the skin, the oil
passes quickly through the various layers of the skin and the
underlying connective and fat tissues. The oil combines with any
toxins present there, especially those that are fat-soluble. Within
several minutes of massaging the skin, the oil becomes expelled
through the skin along with the toxins.
The classical texts of Ayurveda indicate that daily oil massage
promotes softness and luster of the skin, as well as youthfulness. The
skin is a major producer of endocrine hormones and is connected to
every part of the body through thousands of cutaneous nerves. Daily
oil massage can, therefore, balance the two master systems of the body
- the nervous system and the endocrine system.
The ayurvedic massage is traditionally performed in the morning, before your bath or shower, to facilitate the release of toxins that may have accumulated during the previous night. You can use cured sesame oil, an herbalized massage oil, or an aroma massage oil.
Unless specific oil has been recommended for you, cold-pressed (also called expeller-pressed) and unrefined sesame oil (not roasted sesame oil) should be the preference. Although sesame oil is suitable for all body types (for external use), if you find it irritating to the skin, you may try olive oil or coconut oil as an alternative. To purify the massage oil, 'cure' it by heating it to about 100 degrees Celsius, the boiling point of water. Add a drop of water to the oil at the beginning, and when the water begins to splutter, you will know that the proper temperature has been reached. You may prepare the entire contents of the bottle at once or do so as needed.
Of course, you should observe safety precautions when curing oil. All oils are highly flammable. Use low heat, and don't leave the oil on heat unattended.
Herbalized massage oils contain a blend of carefully chosen herbs known for their ability to strengthen the physiology and balance the mind. So the daily massage with an herbalized massage oil has twice the beneficial power -- the benefits from the performance of the actual massage and the added healing wisdom of the herbs. Herbal oils aids the body's natural ability to withstand stress and helps balance the mind and emotions.
Aroma massage oils deliver double the benefit -- the healing aromas in the massage oil blend, if properly chosen, are particularly effective in balancing the mind and emotions while the act of the massage works on both body and mind. Coconut oil, for example, is a cooling base oil. When combined with a relaxing aroma oil such as lavender, this massage oil will be effective in cooling down the mind, body and emotions. For special needs, ayurvedic vaidyas formulate even more targeted massage oils.
How is the ayurvedic abhyanga done?
Use comfortably warm massage oil. (Store your massage oil in a plastic flip-top and warm it by holding the container under running hot water for a few minutes or take required amount of oil in a small bowl.keep the bowl in hot water) Dip your fingertips into the warm oil and apply it lightly to the entire body. Wait for 4-5 minutes to let some of the oil be absorbed by your skin. Then massage the entire body, applying even pressure with the whole hand,palm and fingers.
Apply light pressure on sensitive areas such as the abdomen or the heart. Use more oil and spend more time where nerve endings are concentrated, such as the soles of the feet, palms of the hands and along the base of the fingernails. Circular motions over rounded areas such as your head or joints, and straight strokes on straight areas such as your arms and legs, work best.
After you're done, relax for 10-15 minutes, letting the oil and the massage do their magic. The longer the oil is on, the deeper it penetrates. During this time you can read something relaxing. Dab excess oil off with paper towels if you like, then follow with a relaxing warm bath or shower.
Use soap only on the genital area and under the arms. This will leave a thin film of oil on the skin that is very beneficial for toning the skin and keeping the body muscles warm throughout the day. If, however, you have applied too much oil, a mild soap made from natural ingredients can be used to wash it off. Sesame oil in particular has a disinfecting action, which helps to ward off harmful microbes. When you come out of the bath you will feel a great sense of rejuvenation and relaxation. If your schedule doesn't allow for a daily massage, try and squeeze it in at least three or four times a week. You'll find it's worth it.
Enjoy the benefits of Abhyanga and become Healthy