Abhyanga is a daily oil massage often infused with herbs. Sneha is a Sanskrit word which has two meanings – oil and love. Isn’t it interesting that rubbing your body with oil as good as saturating yourself with love.
So whenever you do abhyanga, it is advisable for you to love the act of giving yourself an oil massage.
Advantages of Abhyanga:
- Nourishes the entire body
- Decreases the effects of aging
- Lubricates joints
- Increases blood circulation
- Stimulates the lymphatic fluid
- Calms the nerves
- Relieves fatigue
- Promotes a good sleep
- Promotes longevity
How to perform Abhyanga:
- Warm the oil – I keep my oil in a plastic flip top cap bottle and use an electric bottle warmer. You could also put the oil bottle in warm water in a bowl. After about 5 minutes, test the temperature by putting a drop of oil on your wrist; it should be warm but not too hot.
- Sit or stand in a comfortable warm room.
- Start with the crown and work slowly outwards in circular motion. Do this with or without oil depending upon whether or not you are going to wash your hair.
- Take some oil in your hand and using your fingers, massage the forehead, temple, cheeks, nose, lips and chin, all in a circular and upward motion; gently massage the complete outer lobe and around the ear. Take a drop of oil on your pinky finger and gently massage the ear canal . You should use additional oil anytime you feel the need, i.e. when the skin feels dry.
- Next massage the neck and collarbone, always towards the heart as the lymphatic fluid drains into the heart. Remember, the motion should be gentle and done so with love; when you do this, you help the lymphatic fluid to circulate and drain toxins from the cells.
- Use long strokes on the limbs – arms and legs, and circular motion on the joints – elbows, knees and wrists. Massage your hands, knuckles and fingers. Always remember to enjoy massaging yourself.
- Massage the chest and abdomen in large clockwise circular motion (right to left), the direction of the intestines.
- Finish the massage by spending a considerable amount of time on the feet. The feet have the nerve endings of a lot of organs. Massage back and forth and over the sides of the feet.
Abhyanga is usually done for 5 to 15 minutes; if you do not have enough time, do it for as long as you can.
Enjoy a warm shower after completing the above routine. You can use a mild soap in some areas, but there is no need to soap the whole body every day.
A gentle massage helps the skin, the largest organ, to perform efficiently. The more attention, love and awareness you deliver with each stroke, the more powerful the results.
Even science suggests that such a massage helps the body release “oxytocin”.
Oxytocin – Also known as the cuddle hormone, oxytocin is produced in the hypothalamus and stored in the pituitary gland of the brain. It is a naturally rejuvenating and rebuilding hormone. Oxytocin is produced when you give, love, bond, breast feed, touch, and care for others. The catch is that you must do it unconditional, without any expectations. When you practice abhyanga, you are indulging in a selfless love that helps your body produce oxytocin. It has an anti-anxiety effect as well and helps promote feelings of love, bonding, empathy and trust.
What oil to use for Abhyanga:
Remember, you are applying the oil to the largest organ, the skin, constantly protects you from harmful toxins in the environment. By massaging you increase the efficiency of the lymphatic fluid, help your body produce oxytocin and develop a more a supple skin.
To maximize the benefits of abhyanga, you should get cold pressed oil as opposed to refined oil. Refining oil damages the essential fatty acids, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients in the oil making it less viable for skin care/health when applied topically.
Use a medium to light weight oil, like sesame oil, which has better warming and penetration qualities; the heavier the oil the less the penetration. I prefer organic ,cold pressed sesame oil infused with herbs.