Abhyanga is the Ayurvedic term for a warm oil massage. Applying your chosen oil to the skin has many benefits. Abhyanga has been used for thousands of years to maintain health, increase longevity and promote more beneficial sleep patterns. Abhyanga can easily be done at home by yourself and incorporated into your daily routine.
Some of the benefits of Abhyanga as outlined in Charaka Samhita, an ancient Ayurvedic text, are;
- Decreases the signs of ageing
- Nourishes the body
- Benefits the skin
- Imparts a firmness to the limbs
- Helps tone the dhatus (tissues) of the body
- Stimulates the internal organs, increasing circulation
- Bestows good vision
- Produces softness and strength to the body
Benefits of applying oil to the scalp (Murdha Taila)
- Helps hair grow more luxuriantly, thicker, softer and glossier
- Soothes and invigorates the sense organs
- Removes facial wrinkles
Benefits of applying oil to the ears (Karna Puran)
- Benefits disorders in the ear which are due to increased vata
- Helps relieve stiffness in the neck
- Benefits stiffness of the jaw
Benefits of applying oil to the feet (Padaghata)
- Coarseness, stiffness, fatigue and numbness of the feet are alleviated
- Strength and firmness of the feet is improved
- Vata is pacified
- Sciatica can be alleviated
- Local veins and ligaments are benefited
How to perform Abhyanga
Make sure you’re in a warm room with no draughts. Use a towel that you don’t mind getting oily. Warm the bottle of oil by holding under a warm tap of running water or placing the bottle in a pot of hot water. Stand or sit comfortably on your towel. Take a small amount of oil in your hands and rub together. Start by massaging your scalp using your fingertips to work the oil in.
With each step apply more oil to your hands as you need it. Pay attention to your ears, massaging the whole outer ear then placing a small amount of oil on your little finger to gently massage the opening of the ear canal. (If there is any current or chronic ear discomfort do not do this without the recommendation of your health care provider). Move your hands to your face making circular movements over your forehead and temples, cheeks, nose, upper lip and chin. Use long strokes to massage the neck and the collar bone, then the back of the neck and the upper shoulders. Massage the length of the arm using long strokes and small circular motions over the joints. Ensure you massage the hand, wrist and each finger individually. Complete one arm then the other.
Move on to your torso and gently massage the chest with circular motions. Massage the armpits towards the centre of the body to increase lymph drainage
and circulation. Continue to the abdomen by lightly and gently massaging from the right side to the left in a circular motion, (this follows the direction of intestines and supports healthy bowel function). Massage the sides and back of the body without over-stretching, do what you can comfortably reach. Extend the strokes to the hips and buttocks. Massage the legs with long strokes and circular movements on your joints. Massage the feet paying attention to the sole and the toes (always take care when walking with oil on the feet – be careful not to slip).
Now your massage is complete, sit and relax for a few minutes to allow the oils to be further absorbed into the skin before you have a bath or shower. Abhyanga is very beneficial as part of a daily routine but even two or three times a week will have a great effect.