Abhyanga – Oil Massage
During the cold, dry, rough, and windy winter season, our skin adopts the qualities of nature and can become very cold, dry and rough. In Ayurveda the practice known as Abhyanga, daily oleation of the skin, is held in very high regard. This practice nourishes the body from the outside in, through the largest organ which is the skin.
It is recommended that you only put on your skin what you would put in your mouth, as the skin is a digestive organ (pitta), and whatever is applied to the skin is digested by the body. Any oil you would cook with and eat is fine for body oiling. Those who need a warming oil can use sesame (as long as you are not allergic). Those who need a cooling oil can use coconut or olive (as long as you are not allergic). You can also find blends specific to your dosha – I like the ones from Solavedi Organics and Banyan Botanicals. The more sensitive skinned folks tend to benefit from coconut oil use – especially on the face.
Oil massage strengthens and protects the skin and tissues. It improves immunity by stimulating the lymphatic, circulatory, and eliminatory systems. It is also soothing for the nervous system as it harmonizes the flow of vital energy (prana) and is nurturing. If you can, this is a great practice to do on a regular basis – even daily.
Tips for Abhyanga:
- Use old towels for oleation. They are likely to get a little spotted/stained. To wash the oil out of your towels add ‘washing soda’ to your wash load.
- You can abhyanga with room temperature or warm oils. To warm mine I put the small bottle in a cup, and fill the cup with hot water.
- If you’re not sure about putting oil all over your whole body (yes, the whole entire body), you can start by oiling your feet before bed. Start with a dime to nickel sized amount in the palm of your hand. Rub your hands together to warm the oil, then apply it to your feet. As you need more, use more. Once you’re done put some socks on and enjoy a restful sleep 🙂
- When massaging use:
o Circular motions at the joints, and
o Up and down motions over the long bones and torso.
- There are two approaches to daily oil massage:
- Apply the oil before showering. If you choose this option, after you oil yourself wait 5 to 15 minutes before going into the shower or tub. Once in the shower/tub, do not soap off the oil, instead allow the warmth of the water to drive the oil deep into the skin and tissues. Soap and wash the hair portions of your body (arm pits and groin). Once done, pat dry.
- Apply the oil after showering. If you choose this option you will want to make sure the color of the oil does not stain your clothing. Wait at least 5 minutes after applying the oil to get dressed. And use smaller amounts of oil when applying.
I hope you enjoy this wonderfully grounding and nurturing practice! Happy oiling 🙂
Mona teaches Ayurvedic Yoga at the Janati Yoga School in Kingston Ontario, where she lives with her wonderful husband, their enthusiastic dog, and ninja kitten. When she’s not teaching, practicing or talking about yoga, you might find her enjoying a good meal, kayaking, climbing a mountain in Ireland, or zip-lining over a forest in Costa Rica, Roatan, or Whistler BC.