Abhyanga (Ayurvedic warm-oil massage) is not a luxury, it’s essential. That’s not from me, it’s from the ancient Ayurvedic texts:
‘Abhyanga should be resorted to daily. It wards of old age, exertion and aggravation of vata. It bestows good vision, nourishment to the body, long life, good sleep, good and strong healthy skin.’ Astanga Hrdayam, 1:2:8-9
Our skin is our largest organ, is the first line of defence for our body and is a seat of vata. It needs protection, nourishment and care. If not daily, then at least a few times a week before our shower or bath, we should do a quick self-massage with an oil that suits our doshas. This could be sesame, coconut or mustard for example or a herb-infused variety of the same – in Ayurveda nothing is put on your skin that cannot be put in your mouth.
Through the oil and the touch of the massage,come many benefits:
Beyond the physical benefits of oil massage, there are those of the mind, heart and soul. Touch affects us at a profound level and often we need to bypass talking and the intellect and use touch to bring about change. Now and again it is good to have a thorough massage from someone else, to melt into the relaxation and bliss of a massage. The word for oleation (application of oil) in Ayurveda is sneha which is, not coincidentally, also the word for love. There is nothing like an Ayurvedic oil massage to get a dose of unconditional love. I feel a great deal of love arises while giving a massage – in fact, it came as a complete surprise to me and is a wonderful balance to the more cerebral side of Ayurvedic practice.
Having evolved over 5000 years, Abhyanga is an art form. It moves energy around the body using long flowing strokes with the hands never leaving the skin. The massage releases build up of toxins in the body and the mind leaving you with the seemingly paradoxical situation of being deeply calm yet vividly aware. The oil and the pattern, direction and pressure of the strokes are chosen to fit the dosha of the person being massaged. A good Ayurvedic oil massage is always followed by svedana (therapeutic heating) where heat is applied to ensure the pores open and oil is absorbed into the deepest level of the skin for greatest vata pacification.
So, take a few minutes in the morning to apply some oil and if you fancy a touch of bliss through an Ayurvedic massage, do get in touch with me.
Till next time, take care of yourselves.
Author: Kate Siraj, Ayurvedic Practitioner, BSc Ayurveda, MChem (Oxon), MAPA.
© The Ayurveda Practice