One of the greatest expressions of self-love is to anoint ourselves with warm oil and massage from head to toe – this practice is called Abhyanga. A daily Abhyanga practice restores the balance of the doshas and enhances well-being and longevity. Regular Abhyanga practice is grounding and relaxing for imbalances in Vata dosha, however everyone can benefit from this practice.
In Sanskrit the word sneha can be translated as both “oil” and “love”. There is a connection between the two words in ayurveda, enveloping the body in oil is enveloping the body in love. The experience of abhyanga can give deep feelings of stability, warmth and comfort.
Benefits of Abhyanga:
- Nourishes the entire body
- Imparts muscle tone and vigor to the tissues of the body
- Imparts a firmness to the limbs
- Lubricates the joints
- Increases circulation throughout the body
- Stimulates the internal organs of the body
- Assists in elimination of impurities from the body
- Aids in detoxification by moving lymph
- Increases stamina
- Calms the nerves
- Aids in a better, deeper sleep
- Softens and smoothes skin
- Pacifies Vata and Pitta while it stimulates Kapha
How to practice Abhyanga on yourself:
- Find an oil right for your dosha, if you are unsure use Jojoba oil which is good for all three doshas
- Warm around ¼ cup of your oil, place in an easy to access vessel such as a coffee cup. Test the temperature of the oil by putting a drop on your inner wrist, the oil should be a comfortable temperature.
- Sit or stand comfortably
- Apply the oil first to the crown of your head, work slowly here moving in circular strokes, then move to massaging the entire scalp (you may choose to skip this first step).
- Face: Massage in circular motions on your forehead, temples, cheeks, and jaws, use an upward movement.
- Use long strokes on the limbs, and circular strokes on the joints, always massage in the direction toward your heart.
- Finish the massage by spending a few minutes massaging your feet.
- Sit with the oil on the body for 5-15 minutes so the oil can penetrate into deeper layers of the body
- Enjoy a warm bath or shower after your massage, when you are finished dry off gently, avoid rubbing your body vigorously.
Enjoy the feeling of anointing yourself with love, having nourished the mind and body.
written by: Kennedy Long
resources: Banyan Botanicals Practical Ayurveda, Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center