Abhyanga is an Ayurvedic oil self-massage practice used to help nourish the skin, muscles and bones of the body for increased longevity. It also deeply benefits the lymphatic system, which is the drainage system of the body that must be manually moved either through exercise or massage to cleanse and drain. The lymphatic system is directly connected to our menstrual fluids, digestive system, brain, and skin. When the lymph is backed up, we can experience more menstrual cramping, brain fog, a weakened immune response, poor digestion, and more inflammation in the body.
Aside from the many physical benefits of Abhyanga, this self-massage technique is equally beneficial to the heart and mind. The simple act of bringing our hands to our own bodies is healing and nourishing for body image and self-esteem issues. Self-massage increases our sense of beauty, acceptance, and self love. It is also balancing for the nervous system to experience touch. Feel good hormones are released that decrease excessive stress, loneliness, and anxiety.
A general rule for your Abhyanga practice is to circle the joints and to stroke the bones. I recommend doing this practice daily, upon waking or before bed. You’ll want to use an organic, cold-pressed oil based on your dosha and the season.
Sesame Oil for late autumn/winter and vata dosha (warming and grounding qualities)
Coconut Oil for summertime/early autumn and pitta dosha (cooling and refreshing qualities)
Safflower Oil for late winter/springtime and kapha dosha (light and warming qualities)
You may optionally wish to warm your oil by placing it in a glass jar and setting it in a bowl of warm to hot water for a few minutes. Be careful and considerate that oil stains clothes and fabrics, and move any stainable items away from the oil. The more pressure and speed you decide to use, the more heating and energizing the massage with be. A slower and gentler massage tends to be more soothing.
Begin by coating the entire body in a light layer of oil. You may like to finish with applying oil in the hair and on the scalp.
Begin the massage at the foot: pressing into the arches, stretching, pulling and massaging the toes and using the hand to stroke up and down the sole and top of the foot.
Make a cup shape with your hands, fingers touching. Circle the hands over the ankles in both directions, for 3 - 9 circles each way.
Use long strokes from the ankle up and down the shin on the front, back and sides. Stroke 3 -9 times in each region.
Make a cup shape with your hands, fingers touching. Circle the hands over the knees in both directions, for 3 - 9 circles each way.
Create a “C” shape with your hand and thumb to cup the thigh. Use long strokes from the hip crease to the knee joint on the front, back, and sides of the thigh. Stroke 3 - 9 times in each region.
Repeat on the second leg.
Move to the upper extremities. Massage the palm of the hand and fingers. Milk each finger and give a squeeze to the webbing between the fingers.
Bring your “C” shape to frame the wrist and gently twist the wrist from left to right to stimulate the joint. Then, draw circles over the inner and outer wrist joint with your opposite fingers, for 3 - 9 circles in each way.
Make a cup shape with your hands, fingers touching. Begin circling the shoulder joint in both directions, for 3 - 9 circles each way.
Create a “C” shape with your hand and thumb to cup the lower arm. Use long strokes from the elbow to the wrist. Stroke 3 - 9 times on the lower arm.
Make a cup shape with your hands, fingers touching. Begin circling the inner and outer elbow joint in both directions, for 3-9 circles each way.
Create a “C” shape with your hand and thumb to cup the upper arm. Use long strokes from the shoulder to the elbow on the triceps and biceps. Stroke 3 - 9 times in each region.
Squeeze and massage the upper traps and sides of the neck. Draw gentle circles with the hands up the spine of the neck.
Repeat on the opposite arm and hand.
Massage the side hips in big circles with the hands, 3 - 9 circles each way.
Scoop the flesh of the buttock with the hands, right near the sitz bones. Lift upwards and release 3 - 9 times on each side.
Make a fist with one hand and use the other to help massage the low back in a circular clockwise pattern.
Massage the abdomen clockwise with the hands.
Massaging the breasts or chest in a circular motion with both hands.
Massage the jaw, temple, and scalp.
Finish the massage by rubbing a circle around the heartspace 3 - 9 times in each direction.
Sleep in the oil to absorb overnight or let the oil soak in for 20 - 30 minutes. Then shower with warm water, using soap only for the groin and armpits.
Removing Oil from Hair: When showering, apply shampoo to your hair while it is dry, then rinse and repeat shampooing 1 - 2 more times normally. This should bind to and remove excess oil, whereas washing with wet hair resists the oil.
Removing Oil from Clothes: If there is a stain, this usually can be remedied by scrubbing the material with a combination of baking soda and dish soap before washing.
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