Self Oil Massage — Abhyanga
A full body, warm oil massage before showering in the morning is recommended for almost everyone. This is one of Ayurveda’s most powerful rejuvenation and prevention procedures. Abhyanga helps to reconnect the physiology with its underlying biological intelligence through enlivening circulation and the sense and touch. Abhyanga has many other benefits as well:
- Massage helps maintain or restore circulation in the body. Commonly a part of the body that has become stiff or flabby has poor circulation and little feeling. Massaging these areas can help re-establish proper circulation and nervous system activity.
- Massage provides a purifying and cleansing influence to the physiology. When we rub and press our skin and body we help break up the accumulated deposits of toxins and impurities that have localized in the tissues and are upsetting the delicate biochemistry. Massage also creates heat and friction and increases the flow of fluids through the blood and lymph vessels. This helps to cleanse and open these important channels of circulation.
- Massage maintains the suppleness and youthfulness of the skin. When warm oil is massaged into the body, some of it is absorbed by the skin. Even after showering there remains a softness and suppleness to the skin. Oil massage helps prevent the skin from becoming dry and helps to maintain its youthfulness.
- Massage provides a stabilizing and balancing effect on Vata. Sesame oil is one of the most balancing of all substances for Vata. Classic symptoms of Vata imbalance are fatigue, spaciness and feeling uncentered. When the entire body surface area has absorbed sesame oil from massage these symptoms are reduced and there is greater eveness, strength and stability during the day.
- Massage increases the secretion of hormones from the skin. These hormones, like growth hormone, endorphins, etc., help confer strength and immunity on the system.
Abhyanga is usually performed with sesame oil or sesame oil with Vata, Pitta or Kapha balancing herbs cooked into it. The doctor will provide you with the recommendation for which oil to use.
- Unless a specific oil has been recommended for you, sesame oil should be used for the daily massage. If you find sesame oil unsuitable in some way, you may also try olive oil or coconut oil as alternatives. To purify the massage oil, “cure” it by heating it to about 212 degrees Fahrenheit (100° C), the boiling point of water. By adding a drop or two of water to the oil in the beginning, you will know when the proper temperature has been reached, as the drops of water will sputter and pop. We suggest curing about one quart or liter of oil at one time as this will provide enough oil for at least fifteen abhyangas. Most oils purchased from www.mapi.com have already been cured. Olive oil does not need curing. Note: Please be aware that sesame and other oils are flammable, for this reason they should be cured in the following way:
A. Always heat oil on low heat, never on high heat.
B. Oil should never be left unattended while heating.
C. Once oil reaches the proper temperature remove it from the heat and store it in a safe place to cool.
- In the morning heat about 1/4 cup of cured oil to slightly above body temperature. The massage should be done with the open part of the hand rather than with the fingertips. Start by massaging the head. Place a small amount of oil on the fingertips and palms and begin to massage the scalp vigorously. Since the head is said to be one of the most important parts to be emphasized during Ayurvedic Daily Massage, spend proportionately more time on the head than you do on other parts of the body.
- Next apply oil gently with the open part of the hand to your face and outer part of your ears. You do not need to massage these areas vigorously.
- Massage both the front and back of the neck, and the upper part of the spine.
- You may want to now apply a small amount of oil to your entire body before proceeding with the massage. This will allow the oil to have maximum amount of time in contact with the body.
- Next massage your arms. The proper motion is back and forth over your long bones and circular over your joints. Massage both arms, including especially the hands and fingers.
- A very gentle circular motion should be used over your heart. Over the abdomen a gentle, clockwise circular motion should also be used, following the colon from the right lower part of the abdomen, moving towards the left lower part of the abdomen.
- Massage the back and spine. There will be some areas which you may have difficulty reaching.
- Massage the legs. Like the arms, use a back and forth motion over the long bones and a circular motion over the joints.
- Finally, massage the bottoms of the feet. The feet also are considered especially important, thus proportionately more time should be spent here than on other parts of the body. Use the open part of your hand and massage vigorously back and forth over the soles of the feet.
- Ideally, about 10 to 15 minutes should be spent each morning on the massage, but it is better to do a briefer massage than to skip it altogether.
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Oil Massage: Practical Points
- The complete oil massage usually takes 10-15 minutes, however it may be performed in only about 5 minutes by reducing the number of strokes in each position. This is an adequate amount of time to spend on a routine basis and will give rewarding benefits if done regularly.
- For another time-saving technique, transfer a 3-4 day’s supply of oil to a small, plastic flip-top bottle (available in most drug stores.) Heat in the bathroom by running hot water over the bottle into the sink. Let it sit for a minute or two and warm up while you brush your teeth, etc.
- Apply the oil to all parts of the body before you begin the massage strokes. This will allow the oil to be on the body for a maximum amount of time before taking your bath or shower.
- Ideally, leave the oil on for up to 20 minutes after massaging before taking your bath or shower. However, if time does not allow you to leave the oil on, you may bathe or shower immediately afterwards.
- If you do not usually wash your hair daily, you may do the oil massage daily to all parts of the body other than the head. Massage the head with oil on days you wish to wash your hair.
- The oil massage may also be done in the evening, if the morning time is not possible for you.
Regarding Cleaning Issues:
Oil may tend to build up on towels and in the drain after some time of doing regular oil massage. This can be prevented, and treated, by the following measures:
Wash your towels separately in hot water using your regular detergent plus1/2 cup Arm and Hammer Super Washing Soda (available in your local grocery store.) For very oily towels, add one full cup of Arm and Hammer Super Washing Soda. Oily towels are a fire hazard and should be treated regularly in this way. Use medium or low temperature setting when machine drying towels.
To prevent clogged drains:
- Use a “hair catcher” over the drain opening.
- Use a liquid bath soap rather than a solid bar soap.
- Use an oil other than coconut or sesame for least clogging effect.
- Wipe off excess oil with a paper towel before showering.
We have found this combined approach to be effective at preventing the buildup of oily clogs in the pipes.