How & Why To Do An Ayurvedic Oil Massage (Abhyanga)

 reading time: 4 min

Episode 13.

Today's blog post is all about my favourite of all the various daily self-care practices in Ayurveda, ever since doing my Ayurvedic cleanse last spring: Abhyanga
Abhyanga is a full body Ayurvedic self-massage using warm oil. Not only is it said to balance the doshas (the Ayurvedic elements in our bodies) by pacifying vata and pitta and stimulating kapha, but also to enhance well-being and longevity, providing a feeling of stability and warmth. To me, it is a powerful expression of self-love.

This practice is also great for glowing skin, and it's just the most luxurious way to start your day – or to end your night. It's best to do this before showering, either on an empty stomach in the morning, or in the evening shortly before bedtime.

So if you've got some time on the weekend and really want to pamper yourself, then treat yourself to this deeply soothing self-massage with warm oil!

This massage can last as short as 10 minutes and as long as 60 minutes.
Although it is quite time-consuming I really love doing this once or twice a month, or even once a week, especially during the autumn and winter months when the ungrounded vata energy is particularly high.

It is no coincidence that the word sneha in Sanskrit translates to both "oil" and "love", which teaches us that through the act of oiling our bodies, we are also practising self-love through loving touch and care. So enjoy this time of self-love and nourishing! Plus, the oil will provide your dry skin with extra nutrition, and protect it against the harsh winds.

I am not a physician, and the information provided on this blog is for informational purposes only. No material on this site is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

What You Will Need For This Method

  • 1/4 cup organic, raw and unrefined oil * 
  • optional: mild natural soap
  • your body

* Use only organic, raw and unrefined oil as the properties go directly into your largest organ – your skin. Use plain, untoasted sesame oil or almond oil for vata, coconut oil or sunflower oil for pitta, and safflower oil, almond oil, or corn oil for kapha. Jojoba oil also works for all three doshas.

The Benefits of an Ayurvedic Oil Massage

  • moisturizes the skin
  • improves blood circulation 
  • stimulates the internal organs of the body
  • promotes natural lymph drainage
  • helps grow soft, thick, and lustrous hair
  • imparts a firmness to the limbs
  • strengthens and tones body tissue
  • prevents signs of aging
  • improves musculoskeletal health
  • keeps joints flexible
  • helps move out emotional and physical toxins
  • assists in elimination of impurities from the body
  • calms the nervous system
  • increases energy
  • builds stamina and endurance 
  • nourishes the entire body and mind
  • promotes sound sleep

How To Do An Ayurvedic Oil Massage

1. WARM UP THE OIL by either placing the entire bottle in hot water or filling 1/4 cup of oil into a 1/2 cup measuring cup and heating it on the stove on the lowest heat setting until the oil is pleasantly warm. The following massage should take about 10-20 minutes.

2. UNDRESS. Sit or stand comfortably in a warm room. I place an old towel in front of the sink in our bathroom to stand on – that way, the floor doesn't get all oily.
3. Begin to APPLY THE WARM OIL with love and patience, starting with the top of your head, your crown. Massage your face and neck, and don't forget about your ears as well, especially your earlobes which are home to many nerve endings and pressure points. I also really enjoy taking a few minutes to do an abbreviated lymphatic drainage facial massage here (always moving in an upwards motion to prevent skin-sagging) as well as a bit of a scalp massage for hair growth. At least once per week I suggest completely slathering your scalp in oil, it gives some great shine to your hair and is extremely nourishing!

4. Apply the warm oil in long strokes up along your arms, working TOWARD YOUR HEART, and in clockwise circular motions on your chest, your abdomen, your back and the joints. I also include a brief hand massage as well as a little breast massage and a loving belly rub at this point.

5. Next I oil-massage my feet, spending a couple of minutes there to stimulate the reflexology zones, working my way up the legs, to the thighs, the buttocks, and the hips.

6. LET THE OIL ABSORB for at least 5-15 minutes before showering so the oil can penetrate into the deeper layers of your body. I like to spend this time oil pulling, brushing my teeth, doing a nasal rinse, and even meditating (sitting on the towel). If you find that you're getting too cold, cover yourself with a designated "oil towel" or old clothes during this resting time.

7. ENJOY A WARM SHOWER or bath. Use a bit of mild natural soap to rinse off any excess oil. I like to end on a cold shower, but that's up to you of course.
8. When you get out of the shower or bath, KEEP WARM. Maybe put on some nice cosy socks and snuggle up on the sofa to journal or enjoy a cup of tea before going on with your regular day.
TIP: If you like, dry-brush your body before doing the oil massage, for some extra circulatory stimulation and exfoliation.

How Often Should You Do An Ayurvedic Oil Massage?

In Ayurveda, the practice of Abhyanga is recommended daily. However, make sure to listen to your own body intelligence. Maybe once a week or even once a month will be enough for you in the long term.
When doing a full Ayurvedic cleanse (panchakarma), make sure to do this daily.

Do NOT do an Abhyanga oil massage when you are pregnant! It is also best avoided during your menstrual cycle or during an acute illness.

Have you done an Ayurvedic oil massage before? How do you feel about it? 
Let me know in the comments!