Ayurvedic self oil massage
Express self-love and self-respect by lovingly anointing yourself from head to toe with warm oil. This practice is called Abhyanga.
A daily Abhyanga practice enhances well-being and longevity.
Abhyanga especially encourages lymphatic drainage, blood circulation, feeds the microbiome living on your skin and most notably, pacifies the nervous system. Your skin is your largest organ plus it has more nerve endings than any other part of your body. So when you anoint oil on those nerve endings and massage them, it helps ground and strengthen the nervous system.
If there is stress, sleep issues or energetic sensitivity, abhyanga will help relieve the body of these stressors.
The ancient Ayurvedic sages held the practice of Abhyanga in great esteem, to support the adaptability of one’s nervous system to deal with stressors and ultimately live a radiant life…
Massage oils to use
- Sesame oil in winter/cold climate
- Coconut oil in summer or for those with sensitive skin
- You can also use other oils like almond and macadamia, but the former two are primarily recommended by Ayurveda
- Warm up your massage oil. This will increase the effect and nourishing quality as the oil can penetrate deeper into the skin and tissues
“The truth is that stress doesn’t come from your boss, your kids, your spouse, traffic jams, health challenges, or other circumstances. It comes from your thoughts about your circumstances.”
How to perform full body self-abhyanga
Find a comfortable and warm place to sit. Sitting on a towel as if you were doing yoga asana sitting down works well.
Anoint your body with oil as if you were moisturising generously. Start with the head and move down to your toes.
General stroke principles:
- Long strokes up and down on the limbs
- Circular motions on joints, organs and vital points (clockwise direction is best)
Once you’re well lubricated, begin the massage.
First is the head (to activate the whole body). Massage the head as if you were vigorously washing your hair. Then move down the body.
Massage the face in circular motions and the forehead sideways with your hand.
Massage inside the ears, the ear lobes and behind the ears.
Neck – Massage in upward direction on all surfaces of neck and throat. With finger pads, massage cervical spine up and down.
Upper chest – Circular motions on and around the chest. Especially on the sternum and solar plexus.
The abdomen – Gently massage around the navel and your whole abdomen in clockwise motions.
Back – Do as much as you can without straining. Massage your spine up and down as you can reach. Massage circular motions on the lower back and hips with both your palms. Massage the shoulders and the upper back as much as you can reach.
Arms and hands
- One arm at a time. Women start with left arm, men start with right
- Circles on shoulder joint
- Circles in and around the arm pit
- Long strokes up and down upper arm
- Circles at elbow joint
- Long strokes up & down forearm. Stronger pressure on downward strokes
- Circles on and “grabbing” the wrist
- Massage palm of the hand with other hand (and back of hands)
- Massage finger webs and down in between the “top of hand bones” (metacarpals)
- Gently pull fingers (from base to tip)
- Repeat this sequence for the other arm and hand
Legs and feet
- Left leg first for women, right leg first for men. This is similar to the arms and hands
- Massage around hip joint and groin with both hands
- Long strokes up and down the thigh. Stronger pressure on downward strokes
- Circles around the whole kneecap. Firm strokes with finger pads around the circumference of the knee joint. Gently massage behind the knee joint
- Long strokes up & down on lower leg (calf). Emphasis on downward strokes
- Massage circular motions on ankle joint with both palms and finger pads
- Foot: Massage in-between toe bones (metatarsals) on top of foot
- Massage the sole of foot with more pressure – Heel, sides of foot, ball of foot, under toes
- Massage in-between webs of toes
- Toes – Pull each toe from base to tip
- Repeat sequence for other leg and foot. – Finish with this
How to perform short version of self-Abhyanga (less than 1 minute)
This is better than not doing any abhyanga at all and is beneficial for the nervous system. We should adopt the habit of applying oil to the vital points of the body on a daily basis.
- Crown of head – Dip your fingers in oil and rub on head in clockwise motions
- Ears – Dip fingers oil and put inside ears
- Hands – Massage oil onto your hands
- Feet – Massage feet
Notes on performing self-Abhyanga
- The main purpose of the strokes is to soothe and stimulate the tissues gently and pacify the nervous system. This also influences the connections the skin has to all the inner organs and systems
- Be gentle, not too deep or strong. Studies show light touch is more effective than deep pressure massage for the nervous system
How long to leave the oil on for
- Aim to leave to oil on for at least 10-20 mins, and up to 45 mins (this time is ideal) at the most. Minimum time to leave the oil on for is 8 minutes
- While you wait in between your abhyanga and washing it, you can do activities like meditate, yoga, exercise, read, prepare breakfast, clean the house, any activity that won’t get anything too oily
- Washing oil off or bathing – it is important to wash or wipe off the oil afterwards so that the toxins that have been pulled out by the massage are not reabsorbed. For this reason, leave the oil on for no longer then 1 hour
When Abhyanga should be avoided
Don’t do abhyanga when you are sick with fever or cold.
Enjoy the nourishment you endow to your nervous system.
- Altern Ther Health Med. 2012;18;960;11-18