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Abhyanga: Ayurveda Self-Massage


Self-abhyanga is the practice of massaging yourself with the aid of oils in order to assist in the balancing of your doshas. This essential practice in Ayurvedic teachings is not only a relaxing exercise that will help put your mind and body at ease; it is also an energizing and stimulating practice that gets your body prepared to perform at its absolute best. Although there are a whole host of benefits to doing self-abhyanga, the three main benefits of the practice are:
  • Nourishment of your entire body which decreases the effects of aging.
  • Stimulation of the internal organs and circulation for increased waste removal and cleansing.
  • Deeper, more restful sleep.

How to do Self-Abhyanga

1. Warm the Room The first step to doing abhyanga is to prepare your space for the practice. The goal here is to stimulate your body in a warm environment, so you’ll need to go into a space that’s warmer than usual and where you can sit comfortably, undisturbed for 15–20 minutes.

Preferably, abhyanga is done in the morning before your daily shower, but can also be practiced at the end of your day if you can’t find the time in the mornings.

2. Warm Your Oil The next step is to heat the oil you’ll be using to massage your body. To test the temperature of your oil, dip your forefinger into the oil and dab some onto your wrist. The oil should be warm and soothing, not painful. Make sure you don’t overheat the oil.

Although there are specific kinds of oil that will work especially well to stimulate and pacify each dosha (Vata: Warming oils like sesame; Pitta:  coconut or olive oils; Kapha: sesame used sparingly so as to not aggravate your oily qualities!), jojoba oil works very well for all three doshas respectively and is readily available at most grocery and health food stores.

3. Begin Your Massage

  • Scalp: Self-Abhyanga starts by taking some of your warm oil and rubbing it in gentle circular motions from the crown of your head outwards to the rest of your scalp. Spend a few minutes gently massaging your entire scalp.
  • Face: Massage your temples, jaw-line, forehead and chin in a gentle circular motion. Make sure that you’re moving in an upward motion when massaging this area of your body. Spend some time massaging your ears and ear lobes as well.
  • Chest: When massaging your chest area, move in a large, clockwise, circular motion and cover the entire chest area.
  • Abdomen: For your abdomen, it’s important to massage in the same direction of your large intestine. To do this you should move up the right side in a circular, clockwise motion, across the top of your abdomen and down the left side.
  • Limbs: When you focus on your limbs move down them in long, sweeping strokes. It’s important to also stimulate the joints. So, when you get to your elbows and knees, take some time to massage them in gentle small circles.
  • Feet: Your feet have healing properties that can be stimulated through massage. So, finish off your abhyanga with a thorough and gentle massage of the tops and bottoms of both of your feet.
  • Absorb: At the end of your massage, simply sit or lay comfortably for 5–10 minutes. This time will allow the oils to get absorbed into the deeper layers of your skin and for the tensions that you just worked out of your body to fully dissipate.
  • Shower: Once you’ve finished relaxing, take a warm, soothing shower. Make sure to not scrub your body vigorously or use too much soap. You’re not trying to completely remove the oils from your skin, just the excess. Keep this in mind when you dry yourself as well. You don’t want to vigorously rub your body dry but blot yourself gently with your towel.

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