With the weather cooling down and the fall season moving in, now is the perfect time to find a new way to stay energized and warm. As with most things, Ayurveda has an answer for this: self-massage, or abhyanga. An essential part of your daily Ayurvedic routine, abhyanga can restore both your physical body and emotional wellbeing.
The benefits of self-massage have been recognized within Ayurvedic traditions for centuries. In fact, the Sanskrit word sneha can be translated as both “oil” and “love.” Thus, practicing a daily massage with warm oils is a profound act of self-love and care. While it may seem intimidating to start practicing abhyanga, the benefits are certainly worth it. Below, we’ve outlined some steps to get you started, as well as the many reasons you should add self-massage into your routine.
How to Practice Self-Massage
To begin your own self-massage practice, you should ideally allow for an extra 15-20 minutes in your morning routine. When massaging with warm oils, this will give you enough time to attend to every part of your body and give the oils a chance to fully absorb through the layers of tissue.
Start by heating one quarter-cup of an essential oil of your choice (more on the ideal types of oil to use below). Test the temperature with a few drops on the inside of your forearm — the oil should be warm, but not hot.
Then, go into a warm, dry room. Bring a towel you don’t mind oil accumulating on. Pour a little bit of warm oil into your palm, and start your massage at the top of your head. During your massage, you should use long strokes and circular movements to work the oil into your skin. Move in an upward, clockwise motion as you massage, and don’t forget to work your earlobes as you move down your body. If this feels a little awkward at first, it’s okay to focus on just one area of your body (such as your feet) and build up to a more involved routine over time.
When you’re done, it’s helpful to rinse off the excess oil in a warm shower or bath. Make sure you don’t use soap, as you want the oils to fully absorb instead of being scrubbed away. If possible, try to practice this on a daily basis. You’ll soon feel the benefits of self-massage in many areas of your life.
How to Choose the Right Oil
When practicing self-massage with an essential oil, it’s important to understand your dosha, the season and if you have any imbalances you’re trying to correct. Warm oil massage, being a hot, moist practice, is especially well-suited for correcting a Vata imbalance. Since fall is the season of Vata, this is an opportune time to start practicing self-massage.
While abhyanga is naturally beneficial for curbing Vata, with the right approach and an informed selection of essential oils, you can utilize self-massage with any dosha.
Oils for Vata: Just about any abhyanga practice will benefit this dosha, but in particular, plain sesame oil is considered the traditional oil for this dosha. You can also consider warming mustard oil or a neutral almond oil.
Oils for Pitta: Since Pitta is already a fiery dosha, you’ll want to steer towards cooling oils. Additionally, try to heat the oil until it is barely warm, avoiding adding too much heat. For this practice, use coconut, sunflower or avocado oil.
Oils for Kapha: Because Kapha shares many qualities of abhyanga (oily, slow, soft) you’ll want to use a small amount of an invigorating essential oil, such as calamus or rosemary. Neutral oils like sesame and almond can also work with this dosha.
Reap the Benefits
There’s no wrong way to practice self-massage (other than not doing it at all). Whether you start small, or dive in with an intricate daily routine, self-massage has many benefits to offer. According to traditional Ayurvedic wisdom, the following are some of the benefits you can expect from your practice:
- Tones the body’s tissues
- Lubricates joints
- Improves circulation and lymph drainage
- Softer skin
- Healthier hair
- Decreased stress
- Improved sleep
- More graceful aging
Some sources even suggest that daily self-massage can improve your vision or contribute to increased longevity. For nearly any area you want to improve, a robust self-massage practice can help.
As you begin to reap the benefits of self-massage and essential oils, you may want to incorporate essential oils into other areas of your routine. YouVeda’s selection of essential oils can be used to improve everything from your mood to your digestion and joints. Take some time to show yourself a little self-love today, and see how abhyanga can help you.
Author: Alexandria Baker (YouVeda Wellness Contributor)