You Have to Try an Abhyanga Self Oil Massage
The practice of oiling one’s skin is called abhyanga (pronounced ah-bee-yuh-ng-ah). This practice comes from the tradition of Ayurveda, which translates to mean the science of life. Many Ayurvedic texts and practitioners recommend that if you're going to do one daily self-care practice (dinacharya), do this one.
You might be wondering… daily?
I know. That might seem like a lot for some of us and that’s okay. Self-care shouldn’t stress us out more than we already are. It’s personal and it should work for you! If daily is too much, shoot for once a month, on the new or full moon, or simply when you have a free night and want to get super cozy and relaxed. While this practice can be done in 5-15 minutes as part of a daily shower routine, if I have the time, I like to give myself a good hour from start to finish.
The Benefits of Abhyanga
Abhyanga is intended to be a self-massage, which in itself is a beautiful and stabilizing practice to reconnect with our bodies in a nourishing and supportive way.
By oiling the full-body, we stimulate our circulation and that keeps our inner body vital and strong. As we age we lose moisture, which in turn causes us to slowly lose function. By stimulating our circulation, abhyanga helps us to stay vibrant, bright, and healthy by maintaining strong and mobile joints, supporting the movement and integration of nutrients and hormones as well as healthy elimination of waste – all of which supports our immune system.
Abhyanga is also a wonderful gift to our largest sense organ, our skin - particularly in the dry, cold seasons of fall and winter. Our skin is our first line of defense to interpret and experience this world. Not only will oiling the body will help you to maintain healthy, strong, and luminous skin, but it will also help you stay protected against all those bugs and sticky energies trying to invade your space. Think of an oil massage as a sweet aprotective layer surrounding our bodies.
Lastly, abhyanga has deep emotional benefits, as it introduces the stabilizing, dense, slow, and soft qualities of which so many of us need more. It is an incredibly effective tool for stress reduction, balancing, and grounding.
What You Need for Your Abhyanga Oil Massage
A towel that you don’t mind designating for your oil massages. This towel should be kept separate and hung to dry. Oily towels in the dryer can be a fire hazard!
Organic sunflower or almond oil. While there are other options for use, both of these are light and keep the body temperature neutral.
Space heater, essential oils, candles, music, or whatever else you need to set your vibe!
How to Perform an Abhyanga Oil Massage
While you prepare your bathroom and undress, warm up approximately ½ cup of oil in a small container in a pot of water on the stove.
In the bathroom, lay out your towel and place some paper towels nearby. (I like to put my space heater on while I’m getting ready so my bathroom is nice and warm for me.)
If it’s a quicker practice, you might skip the ambiance, but if you’re going for a full self-care treat, light some candles, put on some sweet tunes, maybe distill some essential oils… whatever makes you feel nourished and supported.
Once your space is ready and your oil is warm, take a seat and enjoy a few deep breaths. Starting at the feet, work your way up the body with love and care. Use long strokes on the bones, circular strokes on the joints, and wide clockwise circles on the chest and abdomen. Finish with your face, nostrils, ears, and scalp. Half a cup of oil will feel like a lot - it is. But stick with it and apply generously.
Once you’ve applied all the oil, take 5-15 minutes to let it soak in. This is a great time to meditate, practice some breathing techniques, or simply lie back on your towel and relax as the oil absorbs into your skin and body.
When you are finished, enjoy a hot, steamy shower.
Pro-tip: Oil down the drain will eventually clog it. Before you shower, use the paper towel to dab off the excess oil on your body. Take your time, and let this be just as gentle and precious as the massage. Take extra care with wiping your feet so you don't slip. When you're in the shower, do not soap off. The hot water will open your pores and penetrate the remaining oil under the skin. Enjoy this sensation, and release down the drain anything you no longer need.
Be mindful when you step out of the shower and gently pat yourself dry. Once you’re done, you might wipe the shower floor down as it will likely be a bit slippery still.
At this point, I like to saunter my way right into bed!
May you enjoy this beautiful practice, absorb its benefits and allow yourself to feel nourished, revitalized and vibrant from the inside out.