Oil massage known as Abhyanga in Ayurveda provides great nourishment and comfort especially in the vata aggravating seasons of fall and winter. If you don’t have the budget to try an Abhyanga from an Ayurveda practitioner, you can do it yourself at home. Self-oil massage soothes and grounds you, calms the nervous system and turbulent emotions especially when done every day. It takes only 5-10 minutes, but it is fine to spend longer too. The daily repetition has a deep cumulative affect and restores healthy vibrant skin, improves digestion and organ function, and primarily soothes away stress balancing light and dry vata symptoms.
Supplies you need:
- sesame oil for vatas and most body types in the cold weather
- coconut or sunflower oil for pittas in hot weather
- sunflower for pittas in freezing weather
- sunflower, grapeseed or mustard oil for kaphas
- large old towel
- small glass or plastic bottle for warming the oil
- large mug of very hot water
Check out the video I made for my Ayurveda school in Milwaukee Kanyakumari Ayurveda & Yoga Wellness Center with my Ayurveda body therapies instructor CAP Corinna Maharani:
Have you tried a self-abhyanga? Do you like to shower before or after?
How does it affect your stress level?
Want it written out?
1) Place your oil bottle in a cup of hot water to heat it up. I keep my massage oil in a glass bottle which I insert into a large mug of hot water. You want to warm the oil so it feels good on your skin. In hot weather it’s fine to squeeze or pour a small amount of oil in your palms and warm it in your hands as you apply it.
2) Place your designated large “oil towel” on a stool, the edge of your bathtub, or over the bath mat so you can sit comfortably on it.
- Start with your head and work downwards. Pour some warmed-up oil into the palm of your hand and rub it into your scalp. Massage with the palm of your hand in circular and/or back and forth motions. Removing oil from hair may take 2-3 shampoos and it is okay to reserve this portion of the massage for 1-2x/week and the other days start with your face/neck/shoulders instead.
- Next massage your face, neck and shoulders using your palm. Use your fingers for your ears, nose or eyes.
- You can add oil inside your ears and nose with your fingers (wash your hands after).
- Massage your chest in a circular motion. When you reach your stomach, be sure to rub clockwise following the direction of digestion/elimination.
- Do the best you can with your back without straining.
- For arms and legs, use long strokes on your bones and circular strokes on your joints.
- Using your palm, vigorously massage the bottom of your feet. Let your massage be firm enough to move your lymph along.
- Spend the most time on your head, feet, hips, and other areas you experience tension.
3) Though not necessary, it’s beneficial to leave the oil on for 15 to 20 minutes. I sometimes use this time to start breakfast. Follow your oil massage with a warm shower or bath, using only minimal soap. Traditionally this is done in the morning, but it’s fine to do it in the evening. Clothes and towels you use after this self-massage will become saturated with oil over time, so it’s good to have designated oil towels and clothes.
This soothing oil massage ritual takes very little time everyday (5-15 minutes), but will pay you back by relieving anxiety, increasing circulation and relaxation. It will nourish you, balance you, promote healing, keep you well grounded, calm your brain and combat insomnia. Enjoy!