For many health-concious people, Ayurvedic self-massage is becoming a part of their daily ayurvedic lifestyle routine.
First, the appropriate oil is selected. (Choose an oil). Ideally, the oil is heated to slightly warmer than body temperature. It is then applied to the entire body, or to specific areas of attention.
Strokes should be towards the poles of the body, not across. The oil can either be left on, or washed off (after being allowed at least half an hour to absorb into the body).
A steam treatment or hot bath following the Abhyanga will magnify its effects, although in some cases heat treatment may be contra-indicated.
Often this is performed in the morning upon rising.
BENEFITS: It soothes the nervous and endocrine systems; encourages lymph drainage/circulation, promotes youthful and supple skin, increases oxygenation to the cells and tissues, tones the muscles, delivers herbs to the body via the oils, eliminates impurities, decreases vata and promotes a youthful supple body.
WHEN TO MASSAGE: Before breakfast, preferably before you bathe and meditate daily. Five times a week is good.
TIME INVESTMENT: Anywhere from 3-20 minutes, 5 days per week
OIL TO USE: Choose one of our herbal oil blends for your general body type or specific condition, or as advised by an ayurvedic practitioner. Coconut based oils are good for pitta. Sesame is good for vata and kapha. Cold pressed oils must be cured once a week i.e. heat to 100 degrees centigrade quickly.
BEFORE THE MASSAGE: Place a towel on the floor. Warm the oil. You may want to play some relaxing music and light incense or sip tea. Keep the bathroom warm, close the windows so you don’t get a cold draft. Turn phone ringers off.
WARM THE OIL: There are several methods you can use: 1. Place the closed container of oil it in a sink filled with hot water. 2. Heat a pot of hot water on the stove and place the closed container of oil in it. 3. Electric mug warmer with either A. placing the container of oil in a mug with water in it or B. pour oil directly in a small stainless steel measuring cup which is heated on the mug warmer. Warm ¼ cup of oil to body temperature or a bit warmer for Vata and Kapha types.
MASSAGE ROUTINE: Apply oil liberally to the following areas.
1. HEAD Using the flats of the hands, massage the head vigorously for about one minute
2. FACE 3 strokes down face. 3 circular strokes on temple.
3 around eye-sockets 3 gentle strokes on closed eyelids (careful to not get oil in the eyes).
1 swipe across upper lip. 3 strokes back and forth under chin.
3 strokes up and down on nose. 3 strokes back and forward on forehead. 3 strokes down face.
3. EARS Very important: Massage lobes well.
4. CHEST 5 circular movements clockwise and 5 circular movements counter-clockwise.
5. STOMACH 7 gentle slow circles clockwise.
6. STERNUM 7 up and down with fingertips. Steps 5 and 6 can be done together.
7. SHOULDERS 8 back and forwards over shoulders.
8. ARMS 2 circular strokes on shoulder joints. 5 up and down on upper arm. 2 circular strokes on elbow.
5 up and down on lower arm. 4 up and down on palms. Pull each finger.
9. KIDNEYS 4 small circles clock and counter-clockwise.
10. BACK 8 up and down with knuckles as far as you can reach.
11. LEGS Same as arms.
12. FEET Very Important: 10 up and down on soles. 5 up and down on Achilles tendon and heel.
Massage between each toe. Up to 60 strokes up and down on soles.
AFTER THE MASSAGE: Sit quietly for a few minutes before washing or bathing. Leave oil on at least 10 minutes, up to 30 minutes is great. Then take a hot bath or shower without using soap if possible, you can add water to chickpea flower to make a thick paste; then after allowing the warm/hot water to run on you in the shower, rub this paste all over. It will absorb the excess oil from your skin while leaving the good bacteria intact on your skin (most soaps deplete the good bacteria). You can apply shampoo directly to dry hair, this helps take the oil out.
GENERAL POINTS: If time is limited, do a mini-massage. Use 2 tablespoons of warm oil and massage scalp, face and ears. Gently massage back and front of neck. This same routine can be given to another person and repeated lying/sitting in different positions. Before bed, the feet and head benefit from massage giving more emphasis to the feet. Women should not massage while menstruating.
RECOMMENDED READING/RESOURCES: Perfect Health –Dr. Deepak Chopra. ISBN 055340324-9
Ayurveda, The science of Self-Healing – Dr. Vasant Lad. ISBN 0914955004