Charaka Samhita volume 1, verse 88-89
Abhyanga is the anointing of the body with warm oil, from the head to the toes. It is a highly prized component of Ayurvedic daily practices known as dinacharya. Regular abhyanga nourishes the skin, relaxes the nervous system, removes impurities from the blood and lymph and feeds the inner tissues as the oil deeply penetrates all layers of the skin and can even go into the bones when left on the body for at least 20 minutes. It tones the muscles, and revitalizes and energizes us on a cellular level. It is like a tune up for the functioning of internal organs as well as optimizing the body’s natural ability to flush and remove toxins. It can even support more restful sleep! It is a tri-doshic healing treatment and is especially good for relieving excess Vata dosha.
Sneha is a Sanskrit word that means "oil" or "love". It is believed that the effects of abhyanga are similar to when one is saturated with love! It may provide feelings of stability and warmth. Sneha is subtle and this creates an environment for the oil to pass through minute channels in the body. It maintains elasticity of the skin and creates a youthful glow. This is a self care and self nurturing practice. Maintain a loving and nurturing attitude toward yourself AND YOUR BODY while performing abhyanga.
Make sure your space is warm and not drafty for optimal comfort!
Use a towel and robe that you use only for this treatment so you don’t ruin all your linens.
Vata pacifying oils: sesame, almond, mustard
Pitta pacifying oils: coconut, sunflower
Kapha pacifying oils: mustard, sesame
Add essential oils of your choice:
- Vata: Tulsi (holy basil), rose, lavender, nutmeg, cedarwood, frankincense or vetiver.
- Pitta: Sandalwood, rose, geranium, lemongrass, jasmine, ylang ylang, lavender, or mint.
- Kapha: Cinnamon, rose, myrrh, clove rosemary, thyme, basil, citrus oils or eucalyptus.
- Bring water to a boil then take off heat. Put oil of choice in a glass bottle and place that in a pot, for at least 5 minutes. Test the oil temperature as you would test the temperature of liquid in a baby bottle. A drop on your wrist.
- While the oil warms, use a sea sponge or loofah to vigorously dry brush the skin to remove dead skin cells and open the pores to receive the oil. This stimulates lymphatic flow and helps to clear toxins. Work from the top of the body to the feet. From the Central line of the spine outward.
- Gently massage the warmed oil into your hair from scalp all the way to the ends.
- Gently massage the warmed oil onto your face. Use your oil fingers to oil inside your nostrils, around the outside of your ears, and gently inside your ears.
- You can “oil pull” here as well. This is another Ayurvedic Cleansing Practice that removes ama or toxins, which is any undigested substance, whether food or emotions, from your mouth. Swish the oil in your mouth like mouth wash for the duration of the abhyanga. DO NOT SWALLOW this oil as it will become white and cloudy as it pulls toxins from your mouth. Spit it in the toilet or outside when finished. (5-20 minutes).
- Use long, upaward strokes to massage your neck and collarbones.
- Use circular strokes around shoulder joints, elbows, wrists.
- Use firm, long strokes to help move lymph to drain toxins, along the long muscles of the body on arms and legs. Methodically work down your body covering all areas lovingly.
- Then move from the outer body toward the inner, to bring fluid and lymph back into circulation.
- Massage your hands, the wrists (circular motions), the palm, knuckles and each individual finger to the nails. Massage one arm then the other.
- Move to the chest and women should pay close attention to the breasts. (This is a great time for a self breast exam, becoming very familiar with the natural lumps and bumps so you will notice any changes that may occur with time and age.) This will drain lymph and help keep the tissue healthy.
- Move to the stomach, use circular large motions over the entire area starting at the bottom right, moving up left and down to the right again following the natural movement of the digestive tract. Promotes healthy bowel movements. Massage under the rib cage to reach liver, spleen and pancreas.
- Move to the sides and back covering as much area as you can using long strokes.
- Move to the buttocks using long strokes and circular motions and with fingertips and thumbs to release tension.
- You can even massage the oil into your anus and your vagina (if you have one). This ensures these openings of the body tissue here are kept moist and healthy. It tones and nourishes!
- The massage one leg at a time to the foot, using long strokes over the long muscles and bones and circular motions over the joints.
- Pay particular attention the feet: the ankles, top, arch, sole and each individual toe and nails, as you did the fingers.
- Then massage the other leg and foot.
- Meditate while the oil penetrates your skin for up to 15-30minutes.
~Apply shampoo to oily hair and lather before getting it wet! Then shampoo it again using organic shampoo.
~Take a warm bath or shower after using lepas (see recipe in my next blog post) to reduce your use of drying soaps which are harsh on the skin.
~Use caution when walking in your bathroom and in the shower or tub as your feet are extra slippery!!!!
Enjoy and share your experience with us if you wish!