Daily self massage, or Abhyanga, is the keystone lifestyle practice for Autumn and Winter. Skin, and the tissues beneath, easily become dried out, cold, and delicate in the windy, dry fall season. Oil massage is a natural balancing practice to those depleting qualities.
I am often asked exactly how to practice.
- Choose an oil. Ideally you want a food grade oil that your body will recognize as food and optimally digest. At its simplest, you can choose sesame oil for fall, winter, & vata or coconut for summer & pitta. For fall and winter a thicker, heavier, warmer oil is best: choose Vata Daily Massage Oil, Mahanarayan Oil, Dhanvantaram Oil, or the like.
- Warm your oil. An easy way to do this is drop your oil bottle into a mug of boiling water. You can also use a tea pot and tea pot warmer for your oils.
- Apply warm oil all over your skin using long strokes on the long bones and circular motions over the joints. Take time to linger on any sore, tender, or weak spaces. You can oil your face and head as well.
- Allow time for the oil to soak into your skin, even five to ten minutes is great. If you have time, do some gentle stretches or sit in stillness (practice meditation or breathwork) while you soak up nourishment. This is perfect ‘multi-tasking’.
- Follow with a warm shower or bath. Use a gentle soap; your skin will have absorbed as much oil as it needs in the time you took to rest. If you leave too much oil on your skin it will begin to clog. You always want to find the point of balance: enough to bring you healthy nourishment, not so much that it becomes excessive (just because it’s good for you does NOT mean more is better; that notion is a bad habit we’ve gotten into).
In a rush? Replace your body moisturizer with oil. Apply every day before your shower. A little bit every day is better than perfectly done once a month.
Have extra time? Consider an Abhyanga Body Treatment. This is the traditional Ayurvedic oil treatment where warm oil is applied to the body with gentle pressure and motions designed to encourage the oil to penetrate into the skin and deep tissues. Warm oil encourages the body and mind to release tension to become calm and grounded. Gentle motions encourage the tissues to relax and release unwanted ama (gunk) from the blood, lymph, and other tissues to create wellness, harmony, and balance. This treatment is wonderful for any dosha or constitution, but it especially balancing for Vata and the Vata time of year (fall and winter).
Abhyanga is also called Snehana. Snehana means Love. Practice Self Love this Autumn and Winter!