Abhyanga – the secret of ayurvedic oil massage
There is a reason why the Abhyanga oil self-massage has been an integral part of the ayurvedic daily morning routine for thousands of years. The whole-body massage with warm, cured sesame oil is not only the epitome of relaxation, it also strengthens the immune system and has a purifying and liberating effect on body and mind.
We will show you how to easily perform Abhyanga at home and how to integrate it into your morning routine. Set aside about fifteen minutes in the morning and take the time to enjoy the holistic effect on your body and mind.
What is Abhyanga?
Abhyanga originates from the old-Indian Sanskrit and means “oil massage”. Ayurveda recommends gently massaging the whole body every morning with warm oil – a real treat that you wouldn’t want to miss out on!
How does Abhyanga work?
According to ayurvedic teachings Abhyanga calms the Vata dosha and balances the doshas in case of excess Vata. Quite often we experience excess Vata during the winter Vata season, or notice it among Vata types and highly stressed individuals, who have difficulty falling asleep and who suffer from anxiety.
In addition, self-massage with oil made from sesame and ayurvedic herbal oils provides a soothing effect for every dosha type all year round. An Abhyanga cleanses, relaxes and is a boon for body and soul.
Using lukewarm oil (see instructions further below) and gentle massaging motions, we support the body throughout the cleansing process. We free it from toxins that have collected on the surface of the skin. Simultaneously, oil massage promotes blood circulation and stimulates metabolism and digestion.
Due to its wonderful cleansing effect the Abhyanga oil massage is an integral part of every Panchakarma treatment, which is the most important cleansing treatment in Ayurveda. Participants are pampered by the gentle massaging hands of two practitioners during a synchronized whole-body massage. A truly unique experience that provides for ultimate relaxation.
Enjoy this wonderful feeling every day - include Abhyanga as part of your daily morning routine. Thanks to a simplified version of the Panchakarma treatment, you can perform the whole-body massage effectively yourself.
This way you remove bit by bit some of your physical and mental ballast every day and allow yourself time to relax, which is such a gift. It’s easier to face daily challenges when the day itself starts so pleasantly.
Abhyanga calms and relaxes your nerves and can also improve your sleep.
Hint: Daily Abhyanga has a positive impact on potential sleep disorders. If you want to further improve your sleep, you can, in addition to the morning whole-body massage, also give the feet a little oil massage ("Pada Abhyanga") before going to bed in the evening. Apply a little warm oil to your clean feet and gently massage the soles for two minutes. An ideal oil for this soothing foot massage is the Vata massage oil enriched with Vata balancing herbs and flowers.
The reward for this brief ritual will usually be a relaxing sleep.
A boon for body & soul
A massage with high-quality, pure herbal oils not only nourishes and conditions the skin, but it is also a boon for the soul. When done regularly, the skin will also start to show visible benefits, such as appearing brighter, firmer and more toned.
Oil massage is no less important for the soul: Enjoy this valuable time alone. Use the 10 to 15 minutes to focus all of your attention and care on yourself and your body.
What a wonderful start to the day!
What should you pay attention to?
The morning is the best time for your whole-body massage - preferably before the yoga exercises that make up part of your ayurvedic morning routine.
The right oil
A good choice for the massage oil is cold pressed sesame oil that you briefly heat to about 108 °C. This cured sesame oil is suitable for every skin type and leaves the skin feeling pleasant.
Choose a high-quality massage oil with a base of cured sesame oil, that corresponds to your dosha type (or to the respective season). Our Vata, Pitta and Kapha massage oils, made from original recipes, cleanse and pamper the skin using purely natural ingredients and luxurious herbal extracts. The massage oils, refined with pure natural essential oils, exude a truly pleasant scent and also support the dosha balance.
Carefully warm the oil in a water bath until it is comfortably warm (ca. 37–38°C). To test the temperature, put a drop of the oil on your wrist before you start the massage. It should be pleasantly warm but not too hot. Then put some massage oil on the warm palms of your hands and gently massage your body, starting with your head (see below for instructions).
Proper hand position
Make your hand into the shape of a flat bowl. The thumb should be spread off to the side. Massage gently with the whole hand – not just with the finger tips or the palm.
The massage should be pleasant and not too forceful – in other words, with little pressure and no additional effort.
Move slowly and gently with your hands across the various areas of your body. The movement on the joints should be regular and circular in motion, and linear on the back and the limbs.
Instructions for self-massage: step-by-step massage of the whole body
You can perform the self-massage while sitting or standing – whatever works better for you. If you do the massage while sitting, your foot massage will be particularly relaxing. It is best to do the massage on a large towel spread on the floor. The room should be pleasantly warm.
Starting with the head, gradually massage the whole body until you get to your toes. Hint: Our Ayurveda expert will show you a simulated massage in the YouTube video "Abhyanga - The Secret of Ayurvedic Oil Massage".
Start your morning massage with your head (“Shiro Abhyanga“). Dip two fingers in the oil and apply it to the apex of your head. Then start gently massaging your scalp using circular motions. 1–2 minutes should be enough. For this part in particular, you can use dosha-specific hair oil to massage your scalp.
Put more oil on your palms and gradually massage your face, cheeks and ears using gentle circular motions.
- Neck and Throat
Put some more oil in your palms and gently massage your neck. Place both hands on your neck, bring them around to the throat, and then move them back to the neck. Move your hands in a circular motion.
- Chest and abdomen
Next, focus on your chest and abdomen. In this sensitive area the oil massage should be done with particular care: Massage gently in a circular motion, using large clockwise movements.
Put more oil in your hand and use it to massage your back as best as you can.
- Shoulders, arms, hands, legs and feet
Massage the shoulder joints in a circular motion, then the arms using long strokes, then the hands (circular motion around the wrist) and fingers, then the legs (using long strokes, circular motion around the joints). At the end, massage all parts of your feet: joints, back of the feet, toes - and especially the soles of your feet.
Allow enough time for the body to absorb the oil – up to 15–20 minutes. Depending on the time of year and your living environment, you may even be able to sunbathe or rest for a while before removing the excess oil with a paper towel.
Then take a warm shower or bath. We suggest that you pour some detergent into the drain before and after showering so that oil residues don’t clog the drain over time.
Hint: Even if you don’t have much time, there is no reason to fully miss out on the benefits of a morning oil massage. In this case, simply massage your scalp, ears and the soles of your feet.
Are you curious now? Then give it a try. Our YouTube-Video ”Abhyanga – The Secret of Ayurvedic Oil Massage“ will show you how. Dedicate 10-15 minutes to yourself every day, and you will reap the benefits.
We hope you enjoy the experience and wish you overall well-being.
Your Maharishi Ayurveda Team
Thank you to our experts Dr. Richa Shrivastava and Vaidya Dr. Saurabh Sharma for your expert support!
Abhyanga Info on YouTube
For those of you who want to know more about Abhyanga, visit our YouTube channel and watch the video "Abhyanga - The Secret of Ayurvedic Oil Massage" (17:38 min). Our Indian experts Dr. Richa Shrivastava and Vaidya Dr. Saurabh Sharma will show you what to pay attention to during the self-massage and how to do the massage movements.
Instructions for Ayurvedic self-massage
An Ayurvedic self-massage is a gentle but deep massage that is easy to perform. You feel 'protected' throughout the day and completely comfortable in your body. Try it for yourself!