There is one thing you can do to lower your blood pressure, reduce stress and slow the aging process. If you desire health, beauty and well-being, this is the one Ayurveda ritual to adopt as part of your self-care routine. If done on a daily basis, it has the potential to change your life.
The Sanskrit word for oil application, or self-massage, is Abhayanga, whose syllables specifically refer to the movement of sustenance toward all the body tissues so that they radiate health. This sustenance comes through therapeutic oils, our healing touch, our intention, and our own energy.
Ayurveda recommends warming oils to a pleasant temperature and massaging them into the body with light, firm strokes. When the body is gently anointed with warm oils, dryness is counteracted, the joints are lubricated, and the skin shines and glows with inner health. And besides all this, a warm oil massage is relaxing. What a beautiful way to begin our mornings!
Abhayanga or self-massage has a plethora of transformational benefits. Here are six of them:
1. It slows aging.
The health of skin and organ tissue is promoted by oil massage.
2. It counteracts fatigue.
Pain in your calf muscles, neck, and shoulders are signs of exhaustion. These symptoms can be reduced and normalized by a relaxing oil massage.
3. It helps prevent injuries.
Oil massage helps minimize the dryness and brittleness that can make us more vulnerable to falls and other physical injuries.
4. It nourishes all skin types.
Dull, dry skin makes us look older, while youthful, happy skin shines with radiant health. Nourishing the skin with oils creates that glow of youth and beauty throughout our lives.
5. It can improve your sleep.
Applying warm, calming oils like sesame before bedtime will induce a deep, restful sleep. Sleep is crucial to our health and gives our bodies time to regenerate and heal. Without sleep, we age prematurely.
6. It will make your skin more beautiful immediately and over time.
After daily oiling, you will notice an improvement in your complexion and more color in your skin. Your skin will appear smoother and be much softer to the touch.
How to do it:
In daily self-massage, the strokes are deliberately kept light (as if you are gently caressing yourself), and the hand pressure is almost imperceptible. The benefits of Ayurvedic self-massage do not accrue only from skillful manipulation of the muscles but come as well from the application of the oil. For these reasons, only natural oils such as sesame are used in massage.
Favorite essential oils can be added directly into the main massage oil, if you wish. There are no specific strokes prescribed for self-massage. I encourage each person to use their intuition and do what feels best.
Types of oils preferred for Abhayanga:
1. Sesame oil:
Organic, cold-pressed sesame oil is revered in Ayurveda. It balances the doshas, so it's great for everyone. Warmed sesame oil counteracts pain and inflammation and prevents premature aging. A daily sesame massage will make you look younger and feel energized.
2. Coconut oil:
Pure, organic coconut oil is rich food for the skin. Regular use will do wonders for your complexion and fight early signs of wrinkles. It helps fight rashes, even itchiness and calms redness and blotchiness. It will make your hair more lustrous and even prevent split heads. You can mix it with sesame oil for great results.
3. Almond oil:
Almond oil is a bit expensive for daily use, but it will leave your muscles, nerves and entire body revitalized. It is grounding and has anti-aging qualities. Almond oil can be mixed with sesame for daily use as well.
Ready to try it?
To perform Abhayanga, you only need ten minutes. Make it part of your morning routine. This is also ideal because you won't have eaten yet, and it's important that your stomach is empty. You can drink water right before a massage, but you should wait at least two hours after eating to massage.
1. Take half a cup of oil, warm it gently in a tiny crockpot or oil warmer, and lavishly apply it to your body. You can also use a squeeze bottle and heat the oil by placing the bottle in warm water.
2. Close your eyes, slow your breath, and focus on the sensation as you massage your body with gentle strokes.
3. After you have covered your body with oil, shower with hot water (or, if you have time, take a hot soak). It might sound weird, but Ayurvedic practices suggest self-massaging with oil before we bathe, not after. This is an important part of the treatment.
The oil will come off with any natural soap or scrub. I especially recommend Green Mung lentil flour.
If you can't practice self-massage daily, do it once a week, but spend a bit more time with the process—at least 25-30 minutes. Oil your scalp on weekends, or whenever you have extra time. Massage oil into your hair, including the ends. It will condition your hair, nourish your roots, and reduce frizz and split ends.
Ayurvedic massage works, first and foremost, at the energetic level—the prana. It soothes the nervous system and mind, which is then borne out in all of the other systems of the body. This is why daily Ayurvedic massage releases emotional tension, discharges pent-up memories, and leaves you feeling cheerful, optimistic, and deeply relaxed.
The calm you experience after an Ayurvedic massage stays with you throughout the day, and when you do it over time, it can even lead to an enduring change in attitude. Even outsiders may begin to observe that you have become more trusting, optimistic, and better equipped to endure the ups and downs of life with ease and grace.