You know Ayurveda is a great alternative approach to better health and planet. You have been exploring more about Ayurveda and how to incorporate it into your everyday life. You have been looking to balance your energies and find a solution for your dry skin and anxiety. Ayurvedic self-massage is definitely your answer.
Ayurvedic self-massage ( known as Abhyanga in Sanskrit) is the technique of giving yourself an oil massage. The ayurvedic massage focuses on healing your body with a lot of love and removing emotional blockages from the body.
In Ayurveda, oil is known as Sneha which also translates as love. Enveloping yourself in a soothing and calming oil daily is nothing but an act of love.
When you massage your body with so much love, your tissues send this information to the deepest corners of your body and rejuvenates it.
Oil is extremely important in Ayurveda, for balancing your doshas or energies namely Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.
It is good especially for people with Vata dosha. Consuming and applying oil is of great significance to maintaining the basic functions of the body. This is a very important step in the Ayurvedic panchakarma treatment as well.
Read my guide on how to do a home-based Panchakarma here.
Though it might sound complicated to do it every day and creating a mess. It is however very easy once you set a process.
In this post, we will talk about how to set up a process for daily self-massage and how to enjoy it without getting worried about handling oil.
A daily self-massage balances your energies and keeps your body healthy and glowing.
Benefits of Ayurvedic self-massage
An ayurvedic self-massage is important to get our intrinsic energies balanced namely Vata, pitta, and Kapha.
We live under constant stress and our food is not as good and fresh as it used to be. This terribly affects our balance of the body mind and soul.
The three main doshas get imbalanced and create a lot of problems physically and mentally. Foggy brain and fatigue are two such problems.
However, with a constant practice of ayurvedic self-massage, one can balance these energies. You start feeling calm, fresh and focused.
It melts excess Kapha, allows excess pitta to move out of the body via sweat glands and removes excess Vata or wind from the body too.
Excess dryness, sun exposure, and chemicals make our skin darker than our natural complexion.
Even after putting lotion and exfoliating it remains the same. But an oil-based massage solves all these issues.
Oil-based massage penetrates deep inside the tissues and promotes a healthy complexion. Also, oils have the property to loosen dirt and grime from the body.
This removes dry and dead skin from the body and promotes a healthy glow. This helps in removing scars and blemishes from the skin.
Stubborn marks like stretch marks reduce too.
A self-massage is like a small workout for your entire body. When you do a rigorous massage, it increases the metabolism of the body and your heart rate increases.
The increased metabolism helps you keep fit and burns off excess calories. Your body appears toned after consistent practice.
The layer of fats underneath your skin, also known as cellulite, melts away due to massage induced sweat.
Improves blood circulation
Your body has extremely small nerve endings, especially under your skin. As we grow up, there is little stimulation to the nerve endings underneath our skin.
When we massage and rub our skin every day, the brain signals the blood to circulate to these nerve endings. This makes our skin glowing and smooth.
How often have you noticed a glow on your face after a facial? This is what a self-massage does to your body.
It also removes any internal blockages inside the veins and lymphatic system. These blockages are small and unnoticed but impact the transfer of nutrients throughout our bodies.
A daily massage enables to melt off these blockages and proper circulation of fluids inside the body
Activates sweat glands
For people who don’t sweat, abhyanga or self-massage is a boon. For people who don’t sweat much, there are toxins trapped inside the skin which blocks the sweat glands even further.
It becomes difficult to dissipate heat and the body temperature is constantly high. This practice of self-massage opens up the pores and induces sweating.
This brings down the temperature of the body and removes toxins from the body.
Improves your range of motion
During self-massage, your arms are in constant motion and a lot of muscles and joints are being worked up.
You try to massage all the inaccessible corners of your body which improves the range of motion of your shoulder blades, your elbows, and wrists.
Our flexibility decreases as we grow up. This practice of self-massage improves our flexibility and our range of motion. This practice of self-massage makes your joints mobile and avoid injuries.
The oil acts as grease to our machine and moisturizes and nourishes our joints deeply. This is the only practice that soothes our tired joints. hence it becomes even more important.
Often people share some typical concerns about doing this massage. Some are worried about not having enough time, while some worry about dirty towels. The problems can be many but we have answers to all of them here.
When to do it?
This is one of the biggest concerns. People don’t know when to give themselves a self-massage. I have heard people doing it before sleeping and then worrying about soiled sheets.
The best time to do a self-massage is right before you take a shower. It is best if you do it in the morning.
If you shower in the evening, you might want to do a massage on an empty stomach. Ayurveda considers your stomach empty if you haven’t eaten anything in the last 2-3 hours.
How to avoid stained towels and clothes?
Ayurvedic self-massage is a pre-cleansing ritual. You can take your normal shower afterwards with a cleanser.
Just use a little amount of a mild cleanser in your loofah and cleanse thoroughly. It will remove off excess oil and dead skin.
If you are worried about losing all the moisture, use a soap-free cleanser with chickpea flour or clay.
This will remove all the excess oil and leave the right amount of moisture on the skin.
Although your cleanser will remove excess oil it makes sense to keep your bath towels separate. There might be a residual smell of the oil.
If you like you can add a few drops of essential oil to your oil to avoid the smell. But I actually love the original smell and essential oils are too strong for me.
A simple cotton towel will exfoliate your skin and you can wash it every day. It dries off really quickly.
Where to do it?
If you have some open space where you get ample early morning sunlight, then you can do a massage in the open.
However, if you want more privacy and want to avoid any mess, the bathroom is the ideal place.
How much oil to use?
Well, it depends on how dry or oily your skin is. If you have dry skin like me, you can take a generous amount and work on it till your body absorbs it.
But you don’t need to be dripping in oil to do this massage. The amount should be good enough for your body to absorb but bot as if you came out of a drum of oil.
2 tablespoon is generally good if you are of average height and are not massaging your hair.
Do you need to massage your hair and scalp every day?
The answer is no and a yes. Men and women who wash their scalp every day can massage daily. But if you have long hair, once or twice a week is good enough.
How to take care of slippery floors post-massage?
Another biggest hassle I have found people talk about is cleaning the bathroom floor and slipping after self-massage.
My body cleanser works double as a bathroom cleanser too. The gram flour removes excess oils from the bathroom floor and leaves it clean and oil-free. If however, your bathroom floor is extremely slippery you can avoid massaging your soles. Or immediately wash it off using your cleanser.
If you use a soap-based cleanser, it will remove all the excess oil along with it from the floor.
How to do an Ayurvedic Self-massage?
The biggest challenge most people face when starting this Ayurvedic self-massage practise is forgetting to take the oil in the bathroom. I had faced it too.
Another biggest challenge I faced was not willing or not really having the time to warm up the oil every day and do the massage. I instead found a better solution. I opted for an oil that was warming in general. I chose sesame oil.
You can choose the oil that works best for you based on your dosha. I am a Vata prominent and sesame oil keeps my body warm and nourished.
I keep a bottle of cold-pressed sesame oil in my bathroom. This way I make sure that I never forget the oil and always have it handy. Lathering myself up every morning in this loving warm oil has become a daily ritual now. I wait for it every morning now.
Doing Abhyanga or self-massage is pretty easy. Once you choose your oil, before shower take a generous amount in your palms and rub it.
Apply the warm oil to your entire body including your face. Avoid your hair if you are not washing them that day.
Hands and Legs
Massage in long and strong motions on your arms and legs. Since the surface area is quite a lot it is easier to go fast and vigorous.
Using upward strokes, massage your large muscle groups. Avoid rigorous massage on your joints.
Your joints should be massaged in a circular motion and the pressure shouldn’t be a lot. Massage gently and move your joints while massaging
Massage in a clockwise motion on your stomach. But make sure you are empty stomach.
If you massage after eating your meals, little energy will be available for digestion and you will end up feeling bloated instead.
In order to cleanse your body post-massage, it is recommended to use a soap-free cleanser. When you put soap on oil it becomes sticky and will attract a lot of dirt instead.
Contrary to this, too much soap will strip off all the oil and make skin dry and scaly instead. This is especially true for people like me with extremely dry skin.
I choose to bathe with a soap-free cleanser instead and no it does not leave extra oil behind. I make my own DIY Ayurvedic herbal powder cleanser using all kitchen based ingredients.
Or you can choose a mild soap-based body wash along with a loofah to get rid of excess oil and dead skin.
You can also buy an Ayurvedic cleanser instead.
These cleansers exfoliate your body and remove dead skin completely. It is the ideal amount of scrubbing required to get clear, scar free and glowing skin.
Or you can simply shower using gram flour or chickpea flour. This is my go-to remedy when I am running out of my cleanser.
Chickpea flour is extremely effective in removing extra oil so that you don’t have to worry about getting your towel or clothes stained.
You can directly wear your work clothes without worrying about staining.
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Chakshu is a US alliance certified yoga teacher, a biotechnologist and an Ayurveda evangelist. Her passion is to help people live a toxic-free life, emotionally and chemically. She loves reading self-help books. When she is not writing, she is busy thinking about life.