Oil Massage (Abhyanga)
Abhyanga is one of the several purification techniques known as pancha karma. Applying oil to your skin lubricates, protects, detoxifies, and rejuvenates your skin and nervous system, while soothing your endocrine system.
The best time to do self massage is before bathing in the morning, or at bedtime. Empty your bladder before massage and never massage directly after meal, while menstruating or have severe weakness, emaciation, constipation or fever.
Vata types can do self-massage comfortably up to two times a day, although evening massage is most useful for Vata disorders such as insomnia and anxiety. Large amounts of warm (not hot) Sesame oil and gentle touch are most suited for Vata types.
Pitta types generally require less frequent massage. Moderate amounts of cooling oils such as Olive in winter and Coconut in summer should be applied with medium stroke.
Kapha types can do with the least frequent massage – one or two times a week – and will benefit more from the morning Abhyanga, as they need some stimulation to get going. They need much less oil and fast vigorous stroke. Mustard, Flax seed and Sunflower oils are good for Kapha.
How to massage yourself.
To begin warm the oil to skin temperature or slightly warmer. Put some oil into the palm of your hand. Begin at the top of your body and work your way down: (face, ears, scalp, neck, shoulders , arms, back, chest, abdomen, hip joints, buttocks, legs, and then the soles of you feet) doing clockwise circular strokes on joints and stomach, up-and-down motions on the limbs and body, upward strokes on the hands and feet, and upward or sideward on the neck and face.
Scalp massage is highly recommended but it is not always suitable for someone with long hair. In that case you can give your scalp invigorating oil-free massage instead.
Abhyanga can take 10 to 20 minutes. If you are pressed for time you can go for a short version, massaging just your ears, forehead and feet.
Take a warm shower. Leaving a thin film of the oil on the body is said to be beneficial. For better results you can use a home sauna.
TODAY’S TIP : Abhyanga is not about massage technique – it is about oliation.