Abhyanga, or “oil massage” is an important part of the Ayurvedic routine of keeping the body in balance and the systems healthy. Self-massage can be a very relaxing and productive aspect of your own routine as it brings many benefits, both physical and psychological. You can do a full body massage every night and a shorter version every morning for optimum effect, or you may wish to do a full massage only once or twice a week. You can, of course, also elect to go to a practitioner or therapist for the “full works” as part of your self-care routine.
It is best to use oils and techniques suited to your own constitution or predominant Dosha when performing Abhyanga, and it is also a good idea to vary your oils according to the season and your outward environment.
For sensitive or overheated skin (Pitta), use a cooling carrier oil such as olive, sunflower, coconut, or ghee.
Benefits of Abhyanga for Pitta Dosha
Because Pittas tend to be quite fiery in their nature, both in mind and body, when this Dosha is in balance they are energetic, joyful and exuberant. The digestive system will be strong and the mind clear and focused. However, if you have too much Pitta you may find that you are irritable, impatient, quick to anger, and hostile with others. You may also suffer from excessive sweating, have flushed skin, and experience inflammation of the joints or other areas of your body.
The benefits of Abhyanga for Pitta types lie mostly in the cooling effects achieved by gently massaging the entire body. This will loosen toxins and aid their elimination without creating too much heat. Moderate pressure should be used for Pitta massage, and the benefits include:
- Calming of the nervous system
- Strengthening of muscles and limbs
- Moisturization of skin that has a natural tendency to be dry
- Relaxation of tension in the scalp
- Lustrous hair
- Improved circulation and lymphatic drainage
- Better sleep patterns
Techniques of Abhyanga for Pitta Dosha
There is no room in this article to give all of the detailed instructions for self-massage or Abhyanga, although you can access videos and written instructions quite easily on the internet if you wish to pursue this further. Suffice it to say that Abyhanga consists of far more than simply rubbing oil into the main muscle groups or the back of your neck.
No matter which Dosha you are trying to balance or “pacify” the act of self-massage should be approached as an act of self-care and self-love. In this way you will build up a relationship with your own body, and your own unique constitution, which leads to feelings of stability, warmth and comfort.
Aim to use only moderate pressure when performing your massage routine and keep all movements slow and rhythmical. Use long, slow strokes when massaging your limbs and torso and do not be tempted to “scrub” your scalp. Keep the fingers relaxed and use your entire hand to smooth the oil into your skin.
Once you have applied the oil, take time to rest. It is best to lie on a towel at this point as the oil can be rather messy. Take a warm bath after your rest and remove all of the excess oil with a gentle soap scrub. Keep towels specifically for resting on and drying yourself after any oil massage.
Abhyanga Tips/Instructions for Pitta Dosha
Abhyanga can be a very useful tool when pacifying Pitta and bring it back into harmony with the other Doshas, whilst still maintaining your essential Pitta characteristics. Imbalances are treated with opposites in Ayurveda, and as Pitta is dry, hot, sharp, light and unstable it is essential that you choose massage oils and techniques that have the opposite qualities.
Choose a neutral oil as a carrier and add essential oils if you like. Cooling essential oils are peppermint, clary sage, licorice, and lavender. You can also buy massage oil ready mixed so be sure to choose the ones that are specifically designed to pacify Pitta.
Another good tip for Pittas who may be experiencing hyperactivity is to focus your attention on the face, ears, nose and scalp. Too much massaging of the larger muscles and torso may leave you feeling rather warm, if not hot, and we need the opposite when balancing Pitta. By keeping your massage movements small, and spending time slowly rubbing a cooling oil into your ears, around your hairline, through the hair and over and around your nose and cheeks, you will keep your temperature down and still receive all of the calming, soothing and relaxing properties that Abyhanga brings.
Finally, you may be tempted to use too much oil at first, thinking that this will benefit dry skin. Do not overdo it as you will end up rubbing too vigorously in an attempt to make your skin absorb all of the oil. Take it easy, apply a little at a time and give your body time to relax and your skin absorbs what it needs.