Abhyanga – Ayurvedic Oil Massage
- Condition : New
The body of one who uses oil massage regularly does not become affected much even if subjected to accidental injuries, or strenuous work. By using oil massage daily, a person is endowed with pleasant touch, trimmed body parts and becomes strong, charming and least affected by old age.
Charaka Samhita Vol. 1, V: 88-89
Abhyangais the anointing of the body with oil. Often medicated and usually warm, the oil is massaged into the entire body before bathing. For thousands of years people have used abhyanga to maintain health, benefit sleep patterns, increase longevity. It has also been used as a medicine for certain disorders. Abhyangacan be incorporated into a routine appropriate for almost anyone.
The Sanskrit word sneha can be translated as both “oil” and “love”. It is believed that the effects of abhyanga are similar to those received when one is saturated with love. Like the experience of being loved, abhyanga can give a deep feeling of stability and warmth. Sneha is subtle; this allows the oil/love to pass through minute channels in the body and penetrate deep layers of tissue.
In Ayurveda, it is believed that there are seven layers of tissue in the body (called dhatus). Each successive layer is more concentrated and life-giving. For sneha to reach the deepest layer, it is believed that it must be massaged into the body for 800 matras, roughly five minutes. To give this kind of attention to your entire body, you may need about fifteen-minutes. Considering the benefits that have been gained by people for thousands of years, fifteen-minutes per day is a minimal amount of time.
Benefits of Abhyanga (applying oil to the body)
(Outlined in: Charaka Samhita, Sushruta Samhita and Ashtanga Hrdayam)
Benefits of applying oil to the body (Abhyanga):
- Produces softness, strength and color to the body
- Decreases the effects of aging
- Bestows good vision
- Nourishes the body
- Increases longevity
- Benefits sleep patterns
- Benefits skin
- Strengthens the body’s tolerance
- Imparts a firmness to the limbs
- Imparts tone and vigor to the dhatus (tissues) of the body
- Stimulates the internal organs of the body, including circulation
- Pacifies Vata and Pitta and Harmonizes Pitta
Benefits of applying oil to the scalp (Murdha taila):
- Makes hair grow luxuriantly, thick, soft and glossy
- Soothes and invigorates the sense organs
- Removes facial wrinkles
Benefits of applying oil to the ears (Karna purna):
- Benefits disorders in the ear which are due to increased Vata
- Benefits stiff neck
- Benefits stiffness in the jaw
Benefits of applying oil to the feet (Padaghata):
- Coarseness, stiffness, roughness, fatigue and numbness of the feet are alleviated
- Strength and firmness of the feet is attained
- Vision is enhanced
- Vata is pacified
- Sciatica is benefited
- Local veins and ligaments are benefited
Sneha (oil) affused [sic] on the human organism imparts a tone and vigor to its root-principles (Dhatus), in the same manner as water furnishes the roots of a tree or a plant with the necessary nutritive elements, and fosters its growth, when poured into the soil where it grows. The use of sneha at a bath causes the sneha to penetrate into the system through the mouths of the veins (siras) and the ducts (dhamanis) of the body, as also through the roots of the hair, and thus soothes and invigorates the body with its own essence.
Under the circumstances, affusions [sic] and anointments of the body with oil or clarified butter should be prescribed by an intelligent person with due regard to one’s habit, congeniality and temperament and to the climate and the season of the year as well as to the preponderance of the deranged Dosha or Doshas in one’s physical constitution.
Sushruta Samhita, Vol.2, ch24:21
These passages make it clear that we should consider our Prakriti (constitution), Vikriti (current condition) and our external environment in deciding which oils are best for us and how often we should perform abhyanga.
Ayurvedic literature states that it is beneficial to follow a Vata-pacifying abhyanga if your Vata is currently high or it is the dominant dosha in your Prakriti. The same holds true for Pitta and Kapha. (You can take the Prakritiand/or Vikrititests if you would like to determine these conditions).
If you have more than one dominant dosha in your Prakriti, you will want to pacify doshas according to season. If you are a Pitta-Kapha combination, pacify Pitta during the warm weather and Kapha during the cold weather. If you are a Pitta-Vata combination, pacify Pitta during the warm weather and Vata during the cold weather. If you are a Vata-Kapha combination, pacify Vata during cold or dry weather and during the change of seasons and pacify Kapha during cold or wet weather. More extensive guidelines for each dosha are outlined below.
Vata Pacifying Abhyanga
qualities of vata are dry, light, cool, rough, subtle and mobile. Most of these qualities are opposite to those of oil. This is why warm oil is especially good for pacifying vata.
If your vata is high, either in your Prakriti or Vikriti, doing abhyanga daily can be highly beneficial, even life-changing. Sushruta says, “The deranged vayu [vata] of the body is restored to its normal condition by the help of Udvartana (massage).” (Sushruta Vol.2, 24:28) Just be sure to do the abhyanga in a warm place and avoid getting chilled afterwards.