“The body of one who uses oil massage regularly does not become affected much even if subjected to accidental injuries, or strenuous work. By using oil massage daily, a person is endowed with pleasant touch, trimmed body parts and becomes strong, charming and least affected by old age”
Charaka Samhita Vol. 1, V: 88-89, one of the Great ancient texts of Ayurveda
Regular self-oiling is especially grounding and relaxing for dryness related conditions (Vata dosha imbalances), but everyone can benefit from this practice. Routine self-oiling is excellent as preventative medicine.
Try to work Abhyanga into your schedule (especially during the dry seasons), once a week and see how that small but powerful change makes a difference in how you feel. For a stronger effect, commit to self-oil every day for just one week. The physical and mental changes you will feel can be quite dramatic.
Benefits of Abhyanga
Nourishes the entire body: decreases the effects of aging and increases stamina.
Calms the nerves and subdues anxiety: oil seeps into your skin all the way to your nerve endings, delivering the message of stability, warmth, and calm to your mind.
Benefits sleep: Sleep deeply as you calm your nervous system with Abhyanga. Oil massage is heavy, stable, warm, calm, and grounding – all the qualities of sound sleep! After only a day or two of self-oil massage, you will be sleeping better. If you find yourself lying in bed consumed by churning thoughts, just hoping for sleep to overtake you, evening oil massage can help you to fall asleep and stay asleep all night long.
Relief pain in your muscles and joints: Dryness and cold create tight, painful muscles and joints. Oil massage softens your tight muscles and even nourishes dried-out joints. Massaging your muscles unblocks stagnation, allowing important circulation of nutrients and oxygen to reach painful places in your body. Oil seeps in and lubricates dry, painful joints so that they can move freely.
Relief from gas and constipation: Constipation, especially during times of stress, can be due to a contraction of your abdomen, low belly, and even as deep as the smooth muscle that lines your small and large intestines. Daily oil massage encourages the soft release of these muscles, bringing ease back to your bowel movements. If you suffer from constipation, spending extra time on your abdomen during your self-massage practice will encourage regular elimination of stools.
Softens and smoothens skin: Daily application of oil makes your skin soft and supple. Thanks to this added hydration and lubrication of your skin, you may notice increased resistance to dryness, cracking, and even bruising. Self-oil massage is a powerful anti-aging practice that increases the strength of the fragile skin of the elderly and helps younger skin adapt to the aging process more gracefully.
Assists in elimination of impurities from the body: Moves the lymph, aiding in detoxification.
Why Not Just Use Lotion?
Your skin is absorbent. It absorbs the elements, qualities, and chemicals of every product you apply to it. That’s why it’s so important to use pure oils instead of lotions that contain parabens and other chemicals. Another important reason for using oil is because oils sink down through the layers to truly hydrate and nourish your skin on a deeper level, while lotions remain on the surface of your skin, creating the illusion of moisture.
Abhyanga Routine and Oils
Abhyanga requires a minimum of 25-30 minutes, the more time you have to spare, the better. The application of oil takes 5-10 minutes and the time left is needed for the oil to be absorbed, while you are relaxing. Below are the recommendations for frequency and oil type, based on the Doshas:
Vata Dosha: 4-5 times a week using sesame oil
Pitta Dosha: 3-4 times a week using a coconut oil or almond oil
Kapha Dosha: 1-2 times a week using sesame oil
Steps to follow for morning Abhyanga
Warm the oil, approximately 1/4 – 1/2 cup, using a baby-bottle warmer to heat oil in pump or squeeze bottles, a coffee-cup warmer for ceramic or metal cups or by placing it in a small bowl, in a pot of water at boiling temperature. Before using make sure it’s not too hot!
Spread an old towel on the floor in a warm room. The bathroom is great because it’s small and holds heat well.
Sit or stand comfortably
Apply oil first to the crown of your head and work slowly out from there in circular strokes—spend a couple of minutes massaging your entire scalp.
Face: Massage in circular motion on your forehead, temples, cheeks, and jaws. Be sure to massage your ears, especially your ear-lobes.
Use long strokes on the limbs (arms and legs), from the center of the body towards the extremities (the same direction of body hair growth). Use circular strokes on the joints (shoulders, elbows, hips and knees).
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.
Sit or lie down on your back on a soft and thick towel and relax with the oil for a minimum of 15 minutes, so that the oil can absorb and penetrate into the deeper layers of the body
Enjoy a warm bath or shower. You can wash yourself thoroughly, or, just use anoiled based soap on the “strategic” areas (arm pits and groin), in order to leave some oiliness on your body. End your shower while you still have a little bit of oil left on your skin and you won’t need to apply any lotion.
When you get out of the shower use a towel and 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.
Night Time Abhyanga
For many people morning Abhyanga is not realistic, except for the weekend.
The alternative, which is also very good, it to perform Abhyanga before bedtime, and then go to sleep oiled.
First take a shower and dry yourself well, heat the oil and apply as explained above, but skip the head. Apply the oil from your shoulders down only. Once you are oiled and done, wear long sleeved pajamas and socks, so all your oiled body I totally covered. Slip into bed and good night!!
During autumn and winter it is a great idea to warm your covers in advance by slipping a hot rubber bottle inside. The oil and the heat will melt you into nirvana J
You can arrange for an extra sheet to protect your bed mattress from oil, although rarely does the oil go beyond the pajamas. Your pajamas on the other hand will never be the same again… so don’t pick your favorite. They can be used over and over for this purpose.
In the morning you do not have to shower. The oil is mostly absorbed during the night and it’s a great benefit to keep what’s left on.