In Ayurvedic Medicine, this whole body massage is known as the “King of the King that controls Vata.” Practicing abhyanga is a big ritual that brings life back into your life. Abhyanga is a practice of snehana, which in Sanskrit has two meanings: oleation and love. Therefore, abhyanga is a practice of self-massage and self-love.
Abhyanga has become a part of my personal dinacharya, the daily routine that is practiced according to the daily cycle of the doshas (yes, the timing of our routines is so important because specific times of the day define when vata is most prominent, when pitta is prominent and when kapha is prominent). It is recommended to practice abhyanga first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. However, it can be practiced in the evening to help calm the mind and promote sound sleep at night.
Practicing abhyanga regularly offers tremendous benefits for your mind and body. Abhyanga prevents aging, strengthens your body by increasing stamina and toning your muscles, nourishes your skin and prevents wrinkles, calms the mind, helps promote sound sleep, improves vision (especially if applied on the soles of your feet - there is an intrinsic connection between our eyes and feet), pacifies Vata dosha, decreases pain in the body, and brings your body weight to balance. Needless to say, I love practicing abhyanga and I hope that you enjoy it as much as I do!
HOW TO DO ABHYANGA
Choose your oil. Traditionally, abhyanga is practiced using warm sesame (for vata and for kapha), coconut (for pitta) or sunflower oil (for pitta) based on your body-type or current state of imbalance.
Warm your oil. To warm your oil, you may use the double boiling method or simply boil water in a pot, remove the pot from the heat, and place your bottle of oil in the warm water for a few minutes or until delightfully warm.
Sit or stand, without clothing, on a towel that you do not mind ruining with oil accumulation. I recommend practicing in a warm, comfortable and serene environment.
Place a few drops of oil in the palms of your hands and rub them together. Apply the oil to your entire body (every crevice!) moving from head to toe, focusing on three key areas: your head, your ears (use your pinky finger to apply oil to the inside of your ears) and your feet.
Types of strokes: use light, Swedish-style strokes on your limbs and use a circular motion when massaging your joints. Anuloma, stroking in the direction that is away from the heart, is cleansing. Pratiloma, stroking in the direction towards the heart, is nourishing.
Allow the oil to absorb into your body for 15-20 minutes. Place socks over your feet to avoid slipping!
Take a shower to rinse off the remaining oil. Again, use caution when entering and exiting the tub with oil on your feet and use towels that you do not mind getting oil on. Enjoy!