The magic healing power of Ayurvedic oily massages, called Abhyanga

Daily massage with medicated oils is highly recommended in the Ayurvedic texts dating over 5,000 years ago as a form of prevention, detoxification and cure for many body and mind ailments. We in the West, view it as a luxury or a once in a while treat on birthdays and holidays.

Oily massages are called Abhyanga in Sanskrit.

Abhi = towards
Anga = movement

Abhyanga is part the Ayurvedic lifestyle and greatly assists the body in fluxing away toxins accumulated through diet and stress. When we flush toxins out of the body regularly and relatively quickly after they are ingested, we maintain our body healthier and disease free. 

One does not need to go for an Ayurvedic massage, as an Abhyanga can be done at home in the form of self-Abhyanga. 

Warming your choice of oil in bain-marie and applying the warm oil to the skin of your body with love will deliver many benefits.

I would like to share with you some of the proven benefits of regular massage to our body and mind.

  • Delay old age by providing nourishment to the whole body;
  • Strengths the nervous and immune system by enhancing circulation of blood, lymph and hormones;
  • Removes fatigue as it helps to remove accumulated toxins;
  • Balances Vata by balancing the wind element;
  • Improves eyesight by balacing alochaka pitta;
  • Increases longevity by creating an eletrochemical balance in the body, as well as reduging stress, anxiety and anxiety;
  • Induces sleep and dreams by soothing the nervous system;
  • Strengthen the skin particularly when vata (air and ether) is out of balance;
  • Strengthen immunity by stimulating the production of antibodies;
  • Soothes disorders caused by excess wind and mucus as it grounds air and ether. It is the quickest way to calm Vata down;
  • Improves the colour and texture of skin by nourishing it deeply;
  • Deliver medicine to the body without taxing the liver as it bypass digestion. Transdermal application of herbs and medicated oils is highly recommended in Ayurveda.

Which oils to use?

Sesame seed oil is one of the best oils available as it is balancing for all 3 doshas. It is cheap and easily available. Choose organic and untoasted sesame seed oil and before using it, always check for allergies.

Coconut oil is also a good option for hot climates and Pitta excess.

Mustard oil is great for Kapha imbalance and to activate the lymphatic system. 

Medicated oils for specific needs are a great addition to any household. Triphala oil is balancing for all 3 doshas but my favourite is Mahanarayana oil which is amazing for balancing Vata and dealing with nervous disorders, body aches and pains.

Abhyanga or self-abhyanga can be performed at any time of the day, but it is important to observe a few things:

Apply the warm oil on your skin in long and calm strokes (avoid the face) and let it sit on your skin for at least 30 minutes. Wrap yourself on a robe or old t-shirt and avoid exposure to wind and cold drafts. You may leave the oil for longer but avoid sleeping with the oil on your skin. This is due to the detoxification process and you wanting to rinse off any impurities that the oil brought up to the outer layer of the skin.

Shower normally and enjoy a skin that is beyond soft, nourished and rejuvenated.

When not to perform Abhyanga

  • During your menstrual cycle
  • When you have an acute illness or severe medical condition
  • When you have a fever
  • After eating 
  • In the first trimester of pregnancy (there are ways to gently massage the body but stay away from a full abhyanga session)
  • If skin is broken, sore or there in inflammation (consult an ayurvedic practitioner)

I include self- Abhyanga at least twice a week in my morning routine and ALWAYS before my shower. I warm the oil in a candle burner (Triphala, sesame seed or Mahanarayana oil depending on a few factors), apply a thin layer to my whole body including scalp, ear lobes and feet. Cover myself with a robe to keep me warm and shower after an hour. 

I mainly do it on the weekend, when I have more free time in the morning. Sometimes, I do it in the evening before a night shower. 

I tend to do more Abhyanga in the autumn as it is the season that affects me the most, unbalancing my Vata and leaving me a bit dry and scattered. 

Read More:

Cultivating Sattva in our lives

Cultivating Sattva in our lives

Cultivating vitality and well-being with Ayurveda by understanding the three gunas (qualities) present in our mind and the foods we eat. Learn the impact that they have in our body and mind and how to balance our lives by making the right choices.