Abhyanga is the ancient practice of applying oil to the entirety of the body with slow loving strokes. Literally, this practice is like bathing oneself in love and when repeated over time can bring with it an array of health benefits including the following:
Firmed muscles, ligaments and joints
Brightened and nourished skin
Increased longevity, decreased aging
Nourished and invigorated bodily tissues
What’s not to love about a warm oil massage ?
Our skin is our largest organ and according to Ayurveda, the subtle qualities of the oil can pass through the skin into the tissues. One of the main causes of aging is the drying of the tissues, which reduces the bodies ability to assimilate and distribute nutrients as well as flush toxic wastes out of the body. Anointing the body in the way described helps to support moisture in the tissues; and thus bathing the entire body in oil, including the head, ears and feet increases its benefits in the following ways:
Shiroabyhanga – oiling of the head
Helps to alleviate headaches
Strengthens hair follicles
Nourishes sense organs
Give the face a radiance that glows
Padabhyanga – oiling of the feet
Energises the feet
Decreases stiffness, hardness, fatigue and numbness
Nourishes veins and ligaments
The tissues (dhatu) most affected by Abhyanga
Rasa dhatu – Lymph provides nutrition and immunity for the body and the gentle action of self-massage moves and flushes the lymph. Walking, gentle Yoga and good rest also help this process.
Mamsa dhatu – Muscle tissues are greatly benefited with the stimulating and calming effect of self-massage. Lactic acid build up and tension are alleviated whilst body awareness is enhanced.
Majja dhatu – Nerves benefit from the soothing effects of massage and the oil itself is like food for the myelin sheath. With the skin being full of nerves, the soothing action of massage and the protective layering of oil can work wonders for bringing deep relaxation and nourishment to the nervous system.
What oil to use
Sesame oil is very good for all constitutions. Sweet Almond oil and coconut oil are also fine, however coconut oil is cooling in quality and is better used during the summer months. Always choose organic.
Oils for the Dosha’s
The following list oils can also be mixed according to your preferences. Herbal oils specific to each dosha can be purchased. If adding your own blend of pure Essential Oils, a 2% daily use dilution for a healthy adult is suggested.
Vata – Sesame oil (this goes to the deepest dhatu layer and reproductive organs).
Pitta – Coconut oil (does not go as deeply into the dhatu).
Kapha – Sunflower oil.
When to not practice Abhyanga
When sick or feverish
When pregnant *Abhyanga can be detoxifying – discuss with your Ayurvedic practitioner.
When there is infected or broken skin
Over swollen or painful masses in the body (unless otherwise advised by your Ayurvedic practitioner)
When Kapha is increased
How to make a full body Abhyanga (the quick guide)
Warm a bottle of oil ‘baby bottle’ style in hot water.
Massage the entire body with the warmed oil from the extremities towards the heart
Let the oil stay on your skin for 5-20 minutes or even up to 2 hours; wrapping yourself in a towel to keep warm.
Take a shower to allow the oils to penetrate the deeper layers of tissues.
Do not soap of the oil.
Pat your body dry and dress. There will be no oily residue, rather soft hydrated skin.
How to make a full body Abhyanga (extended guide)
Make sure you have chosen a suitable time and quite space (ideally in the bathroom) that is pleasant in temperature and without a draft as you don’t want to get cold !
Pour about ¼ - ½ of a cup of oil into a glass bottle and set in hot water to warm it up. A good idea is too decanter some oil each time into a smaller bottle and set that bottle in the water – maybe directly fill a little hot water into the bathroom sink and float the bottle in there to warm whilst you prepare.
Ensure an old towel or sheet is on the floor that can be used to catch any oil that spills, so you don’t slip on it.
Undress, sit down and enjoy 15-20 minutes of patiently, lovingly, adoringly and tenderly massaging your entire body with the oil.
An option is to apply the oil to the entire body at first and then add more each time you move to a new area.
Begin your Abhyanga by pouring a little oil on the crown of your head and massage into the scalp and all through the hair. (If you prefer, a friction rub without oil can done instead) Oil on the head should be warm but not hot.
Then continue massaging from the extremities and work your way up.
Start with your feet
Make circular strokes over the joints and long strokes up the bones.
Spend a little extra time massaging the hips, buttocks and belly – there can be a lot of tension stored in there.
When massaging the stomach begin from the lower belly on the right, massaging up then across then down the left side in a slow circular clockwise motion.
Pay particular attention to the breast/chest area and then continue along the arms to the hands.
Rub the sacral area and lower back.
Massage the face and neck, affectionately doting also to the top of the ears.
Option to also put a little warm oil on the tip of the finger and rub the insides of each nostril.
Note – if you are experiencing any congestion in the nose or ear don’t oil them, until it has passed.
After you have adoringly anointed your entire body for some time, keep warm and relax for up to 2 hours, or immediately enjoy a warm bath or shower. Soap only the small places of the body with hair that require it for cleanliness. The oil itself is purifying and will absorb into your skin not leaving you greasy.
If you have practiced Shiroabyhanga (oiling the hair) apply shampoo before you wet the hair, as this will make it much easier to rinse the oil out.
I recommend to keep a good quality dishwashing liquid in the bathroom to squirt onto the floor of the shower each time you practice Abhyanga – rub it in with your feet and the detergent will bind with the oil to protect clogging the drain. I use the doTERRA dish detergent and love the aroma it leaves as it cleans.
A few extra tips from my personal Abhyanga practice
I practice Abhyanga daily and find that a 10ml bottle of oil does my entire body in the warmer months and a 15ml bottle during Autumn and early Winter (excluding hair) - the aforementioned bottle is therefore filled up each morning and heated by placing in the bathroom sink with hot water.
Because I practice Abhyanga daily, I spend only up too 5 minutes with the massage and leave the oil on my skin for a shorter duration before showering.
About one time per week, I splurge and fill my 30ml bottle to the brim. This is ‘my’ time and I take the time to sit down and massage myself thoroughly, including oiling my hair. Once I am sufficiently saturated, I wrap myself in a bathrobe and let the oil absorb whilst I run a nice warm bath.
Bathing for 20 minutes is a good amount of time to relax and rub the oil deeper into the tissues. Focus on any sore muscles (that you might not have even known you had !) and breath in the aroma of the essential oils you added to the mix.
I add a 2-3% dilution of Essential Oils every day to my chosen Abhyanga oil, which is about 4-6 drops of essential oil into my little 10ml bottle. Depending on the day depends on the oils I choose to use !
Currently I am loving the following three blends;
This one I have used in my 10ml daily bottle recently and I call it ‘Playful Ease’ - excellent for Pitta Dosha.
& this one I adore in my 30 ml bottle currently. I call it ‘Cardamom Candy’ and I find it to be a wonderful sweet and scentually balancing treat for the Autumn season. Hello happy Vata !
& this one I created for the times when the mental fog is making my bones feel a bit heavy. You know those moments ? Here it is in a 2% dilution for Abhyanga. Try substituting the Clary Sage for Nutmeg and making in a roller bottle at 5% dilution for a deliciously warming and releasing perfume (like I did as a gift for the recent Bern Yoga Teacher Training trainees ;)
Enjoy your Abhyanga adventures - make every one as luxurious as possible, regardless the time or style !
Adding pure Botanical aromas to your oil certainly elevates the experience and can profoundly deepen the therapeutic aspect of the practice. Having worked with many different Essential Oil companies over the years, I landed with doTERRA and this partnering, this journey is HOME - the oils are extremely beautiful, from their cultivation all the way through. Certified Pure Tested Grade; they are safe and they work. It’s exciting.
Would you like to purchase the endlessly nourishing possibilities of doTERRA for your own ?
I’d love to support you on your journey :)