Science reveals a wealth of benefits relating to massage. Massage helps to reduce stress and inflammation. It eases joint pain. It helps the lymphatic system function properly, bringing improved health to the entire body.
The Ayurvedic medical system has known about these benefits for thousands of years. In the Ayurvedic system, an oil massage is known as Abhyanga. It is generally recommended to be practiced daily.
Because few of us have the money or time to visit an official health center to have a practitioner work on us every day, the best solution is to learn how to perform Abhyanga on yourself. That way you can maintain your own health in the privacy of your own home.
Benefits of Abhyanga Self Massage
Our body’s tissues are bombarded by pollution every day. We live in a global atmosphere, one where toxins released in China get blown onto the west coast of the United States. Even if one lived inside all day long, the out-gassing from carpets, from wallpapers, from couches and cleaning products all impact our heath. Our skin is our largest organ and its purpose is to protect our interior from all of these harmful products. We need to do everything we can to keep that skin working properly.
The Abhyanga oil massage cleanses and heals our skin and tissues. The massage releases toxins the skin layer has trapped. It helps to melt away any secretions which have gotten gummed up. It brings the skin into the best health it can have, so that the skin does its job.
In addition, the act of massage benefits the lower layers as well. The joints. The muscles. The lymphatic system.
The Three Doshas
To begin determining what type of Abhyanga is best for you, it’s important to determine your energy type. In Ayurveda these are called doshas. There are many other sub-aspects to a person, but for now we will simplify to make this easier.
The three doshas are:
Vata – this dosha relates to air and space. Someone who tends toward the vata dosha is generally full of energy and active. This can lead to a high exposure of a variety of toxins. It can also lead to great wear and tear on the various body systems. Muscles can be overused. Tendons can be stretched.
Pitta – this dosha relates to water and fire. A person with a tendency toward the pitta dosha can often have strong emotions which can sometimes overflow. This tension and emotion can manifest itself in a variety of ways in the body. Maybe the shoulders and neck get tense and strained. Maybe it manifests in headaches.
Kapha – this dosha relates to earth and water. This is generally a quieter, more subdued dosha. This can lead to a more sedentary life. Study after study find that being sedentary can cause a variety of harmful effects. The lymphatic system is not properly primed by motion to work effectively. Muscles atrophy and grow lax. Digestion stutters. If the person becomes mostly house-bound, it creates a situation where the person is exposed to those household toxins for long periods of time.
It’s important to regularly review your dosha balance. We all change over time. It could be that you were more heavily pitta as a youngster and have tended into the kapha direction as you’ve aged. Review your dosha status regularly.
Each dosha has a style of Abhyanga which suits them best.
Abhyanga Self Massage for Vata
People with a tendency toward vata dosha tend to be higher-energy and tense. The very act of Abhyanga itself is naturally soothing and relaxing. The massage can ease tight muscles and relax joints.
Add in an oil with a soothing, relaxing scent. Every one of us has a different type of scent we enjoy for this purpose. Many people like lavender, but some people hate lavender and prefer rose or violet. Find the scent which is most calming to you.
Perform your Abhyanga slowly, meditatively, and with focused attention. Breathe.
If you use music, have it be something slow, relaxing, and without words. Let it draw you into a deeper state.
Abhyanga Self Massage for Pitta
A person with a tendency toward pitta can be drawn toward deep, powerful emotions. These can create tensions in the body. Each of us carries those tensions in a different way. Some develop tight muscles in the shoulders and upper back. Others develop tension in the stomach. Yet others are plagued with headaches.
For a pitta person, find an oil scent which creates a comforting feel. Many of us are drawn to scents reflecting our childhood, to create that nurturing sense that everything will be all right. Others are drawn to a scent which reflects a dreamed-of future. Perhaps in your case a tropical floral scent will lift you out of the emotions which trouble you. Experiment to see which aroma does the job best of soothing the rough emotions.
With a pitta challenge, perform the Abhyanga with loving care. Every one of us deserves compassion and peace. Every one of us is worthy of health and tenderness.
If you use music, play something calming and soothing. Something with a message of love and comfort.
Abhyanga Self Massage for Kapha
A person with a tendency toward kapha can often become stuck in a situation. They can become so used to the way things are that they lose incentive to change. Their muscles can become tight. Their systems are often used in a way which overtaxes some aspect and neglects others.
For the kapha person, look for a scent which is energizing and refreshing. Often citrus and spice do well in this area, but each of us is unique. Find a scent which brings you joy. Which lifts you up. Which makes you smile.
The Abhyanga for a Kapha person should be warmly energetic. If possible, stand for the activity. Use long, strong strokes. Twist and turn as you reach your various body parts.
If you use music, play something uplifting. Something motivational. Something which inspires you to reach for your dreams.
A daily practice of Abhyanga can bring better health into every person’s life. Our bodies are meant for motion. The act of moving, of twisting and turning, keeps our muscles limber, our joints functioning, and our lymphatic system in motion. The cleansing of our skin is a critical part of daily self-care. Our skin is our first line of defense against toxins, bacteria, illnesses, and much, much more.
Find a way to incorporate Abhyanga into your regular routine. Whether you do it in the morning, afternoon, or evening, the critical thing is that it gets done. It doesn’t have to be a long, drawn-out process if you simply do not have time for that. It is better to do what you can than to not do anything at all. The investment is small. Just some healthy oil, a towel or two, and some fragrance or herbs if possible. The process itself is easy. Any person can learn the steps in a few minutes and adjust them for their own body limitations and situations.
The benefits that Abhyanga bring are immense. Just a few minutes a day can add energy, focus, and health to a life.
Invest in yourself. Bring Abhyanga into your way of life.