abhyanga how to

Abhyanga: A Powerful Practice for Balancing the Nervous System

Being in the thick of the holiday season, we all could probably use a little Nervous System support. This time of year tends to be stressful for many - whether because of family, finances, the weather, or something different altogether. When we are highly stressed, our body's health and immunity are easily compromised.

Abhyanga is an easy, relaxing practice that can give our nerves the extra love and care they need to remain relaxed, content, and zen during this time of year. Abhyanga is an Ayurvedic oil self-massage technique that has been used for centuries to boost the health of our skin, lymphatic system, nervous system, and even our digestive tract.

There are at least 1,000 sensory neurons per every square centimeter of your skin. The neurons are constantly exposed to (and aggravated by) wind, clothes, pollutants, toxic skin-care products, and more. By giving yourself a full-body oil massage, you are nourishing an uncountable amount of neurons (at least 1-million in your arm alone!)

Furthermore, the simple act of touching your body has extremely calming, soothing affects on the mind. Our hands and feet are especially responsive to touch. The oil, which feeds good microbes on the skin, has been shown to increase production of oxytocin. Oxytocin is a hormone that facilitates love, care, and bonding. (Read more about this HERE.)

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How to Practice Step-By-Step:

A general rule is to circle the joints and stroke the bones. Instructions:

  1. Practice this upon waking and/or before bed. I find that practicing this massage before bed is particularly relaxing.

  2. Use an organic oil of your choosing. I recommend Dr. John Douillard's Tridoshic Massage Oil blend available for purchase here. You can also use an organic coconut oil for warm climates or seasons, and sesame oil for cooler climates or seasons.

  3. It is optional to warm the oil by placing it in a glass jar and setting it in a bowl of warm to hot water for a few minutes.

  4. Be careful and considerate that oil stains clothes and fabrics, and move any stainable items away from the oil.

  5. Begin with the legs and coat the body with a light layer of oil. Work up the extremities first, and then coat the abdomen, back, and neck. You may like to finish with applying oil on the hair and scalp.

  6. After applying the oil, begin the massage at the thigh. Create an obtuse “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. The more pressure and speed, the more heating and detoxifying the massage with be. A slower and gentler massage is more soothing and calming.

  7. Cup your hands over your knee and massage in a circular motion for 3-9 circles each direction.

  8. Use long strokes from the knee down to the ankle. Stroke 3-9 times in each region (front, back, and sides of the lower leg).

  9. Cup your hands over your inner and outer ankle bones, and massage in a circular motion for 3-9 circles each direction.

  10. Massage the entire 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.

  11. Repeat steps 6-10 on the second leg.

  12. Move up to the arms. Cup one hand over the opposite shoulder and massage in a circular motion for 3-9 circles each direction.

  13. 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.

  14. Cup one hand over the opposite elbow and massage in a circular motion for 3-9 circles each direction (for both the inner and outer elbow).

  15. Create a “C” shape with your hand and thumb to cup the forearm. Use long strokes from the elbow to the wrist. Stroke 3-9 times.

  16. Cup one hand over the opposite wrist and massage in a circular motion for 3-9 circles each direction (for both the inner and outer wrist).

  17. Massage the palm of the hand and fingers. Milk each finger and give a squeeze to the webbing between the fingers.

  18. Repeat on the opposite arm and hand.

  19. Squeeze and massage the upper traps and sides of the neck. Massage gentle circles with the hands up the spine of the neck.

  20. Massage the side hips and glutes in big circles with the hands, 3-9 circles each way.

  21. Make a fist with one hand behind the back. Grasp it with the other hand and massage the low back in a circular clock-wise pattern.

  22. Gently massage the abdomen clock-wise with the hands.

  23. Massage the breasts or chest in a circular motion with both hands.

  24. Massage the jaw, temple, and scalp in whatever way feels good and nourishing to your body.

  25. Finish the massage by rubbing a circle around the heartspace 3-9 times in each direction.

  26. Feel free to shower or bathe after 20-30 minutes. This time frame gives the skin ample time for absorption. If desired, you may wish to let the oil soak in overnight. Either way, allow your body to enjoy the feeling of relaxation that comes from this oil massage. When ready, shower with warm water, using soap only for the groin and armpits.

Abhyanga FAQ

 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 will resist 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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