As those who attended the Pranayama class can attest, I can go on and on about what and why. I’ll try to keep it simple.
WHAT is is? Abhyanga is a daily self massage with an herbalized oil done before your shower or bath (be mindful of the slippery-ness of oils in your tub). The heat of the water drives the oil into the skin and tissues. Your skin uptakes anything you put on it, even into the bloodstream. That’s why Ayurveda says to never put anything on your skin you wouldn’t eat.
WHY should I do it?
–Healthy, beautiful skin, of course.
–A healthy, calm nervous system. There are a lot of intense, on-fire, fried nerve endings at the skin: calm them, sooth them and you calm and sooth the entire nervous system.
–Oil balances Vata derangement.
–Cooling oils soothe out of control Pitta.
–Lubricates, warms, and feeds the tissues of the joints to keep them moving free and easy.
–Nourishment from the outside in. There are a ton of different oils to feed and balance a whole range of issues and imbalances…you name it, there’s an oil for it.
–Self massage with oil hits many of the Marma (or accu-pressure) points of the body.
–You are taking time for your own health, which has amazing psychological effects.
–I don’t think this is in the Classic texts, but I’m a New Englander. It’s a great way to check for ticks! I often bookend my days during tick season with a shower and/or self massage for just this reason. (There’s even an oil option that ticks don’t love and it’s cooling for summer, oh, and even has mild sunscreen properties).
One of the terms for an oil massage is Snehana, which also translates to ‘love’. You are taking time out to love yourself.
HOW do I do it?
–Take a bottle of oil (sesame is lovely or choose an herbal oil suited to your body type or to balancing your current imbalance).
–Warm the bottle of oil (in a water bath or in a tea pot over a tea light)
–Apply the oil generously to your skin with long strokes on the long bones and circular strokes on the joints. Take your time. Luxuriate and focus on self care and self love.
–I usually suggest starting with your sore, tender, or unhappy areas then oil the whole body from head to toes and end by coming back to those tender areas.
–Follow with heat: shower, bath, or (ahhh) sauna. NO HOT TUBS. Follow with a gentle soap to reduce any excess oil (oil is cleansing and naturally antibacterial).
Cheater’s Tips for busy days:
–Shower. Soap and shampoo and rinse. Clip up hair (this is a great time to apply an herbal hair rinse, but that’s a subject for another day). Turn off water. Apply a light coating of oil to your whole body. Linger as long as possible. Rinse with warm/hot water. This can easily be done every day instead of using moisturizer. A little bit every day is better than done perfectly once a month.
Of note: Ayurvedic Herbal Oils are herbs cooked in a base oil until the beautiful constituents of the whole herb are extracted into the oil for easy digestibility through the skin into the bodily tissues. This is not the same as essential oils, which (depending on the potency of herb extracted and when used in excess) might not be easy to digest. This is not to say that EOs are not beautiful when used appropriately and wisely.
I carry sample size bottles and can help direct you to your perfect oil. Your needs may shift seasonally. I can always guide you toward an herb, but for best results, sometimes it is helpful to have a consult so that I get a full picture of what’s going on for you. We are all unique with unique needs.
Abhyanga treatments here at Trillium.