Abhyanga Self-Massage

Abhyanga is a traditional self-massage technique that has been used since ancient times in the Indian Ayurvedic system of medicine for preventing and treating many health conditions.

Its benefits range from arthritis to psoriasis, with most practitioners using it for rheumatic and auto-immune disorders such as fibromyalgia, diabetes, osteoarthritis, and myasthenia gravis. Abhyanga is also widely used by people seeking stress relief or improved immunity.

The word abhyanga means “to oil oneself,” and refers to an ancient practice whereby sesame oil (usually mixed with herbs in a base of sesame seed oil) is applied all over the body, in gentle massage strokes. This treatment is usually performed before bathing, to allow the oil time to be absorbed.

As with all Ayurvedic therapies, abhyanga is best performed in the morning, preferably after the elimination of bodily waste and before eating. As the massage relaxes the body muscles and soothes the nervous system it prepares it for receiving nutrition, which is needed at this time in preparation for another day of activity.

How Does Abhyanga Work?

Abhyanga works by affecting circulation; warming tissues; deeply moisturizing skin; improving lymphatic drainage (thus stimulating detoxification); relaxing muscles (thus relieving stress) deep breathing during abhyanga also helps to reduce tension and anxiety; thereby improving energy levels. It stimulates the production of white blood cells, which are responsible for immunity.

During the procedure, oil is first applied to the lower back and spine, with long, deep strokes moving up toward the neck. This part of abhyanga is said to relieve fatigue by stimulating abdominal organs such as the kidneys and liver.

The next area oiled is one’s mid-back or chest region followed by the arms down to the fingers. Finally, one’s head and face are massaged last; this part of the abhyanga relieves tension in the forehead (which can cause headaches) and helps prevent hair loss due to its invigorating effect on scalp tissue.

Ayurvedic practitioners recommend doing abhyanga daily (or at least twice a week) to derive the benefits of this practice.

Abhyanga is an extremely soothing and relaxing treatment. It is best done as a group activity, such as in a massage therapy office or spa because it can be very difficult for one person to give another person abhyanga; the giver’s arms will likely tire after only giving abhyanga to one arm! Abhyanga sessions should last between 30 and 45 minutes.

Also, since this technique usually requires that someone else perform it on you (unless you happen to have an extra pair of strong arms!), it would take considerable time and effort for your partner to learn how to perform abhyanga properly – unless they are already know-how. Therefore we recommend getting a professional massage.

Many types of oils can be used for abhyanga; sesame is most commonly recommended, but almond, grapeseed, and sunflower seed oils can also be used. (The oil should not contain preservatives and should preferably be cold-pressed.) Sesame oil is believed to have the greatest therapeutic benefits when it melts at 76 degrees Fahrenheit.

Therefore heating or mixing with other oils may help bring this about when using sesame oil in colder climates. However, you must never use heated sesame oil during abhyanga as heat will kill its beneficial properties.

Please note: Essential oils such as Eucalyptus and Tea Tree should never be added since they are too strong and excessive use has been known to cause skin irritation or even burns (similar to peppermint oil).

Side effects of abhyanga massage:

alleviates depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders like schizophrenia.

massage by itself is beneficial for blood circulation in the brain, reduces hypertension.

reduces arthritis pain, arthritic inflammation, swelling, and stiffness; increases movement of joints.

increases the power of digestion, improves appetite.

decreases constipation, abdominal distention (bloating), gas formation helps clean intestines through oleation (with oil massage) and sudation (panchakarma).

acts as a diuretic; helpful in urinogenital disorders especially during pregnancy when encumbered with edema (accumulation of fluid beneath the skin). helps to open up obstructed menses, uterine bleeding.

increases sperm count facilitates conception.

helps to alleviate chronic fever.

alleviates insomnia, reinforces memory, relieves mental fatigue.

lessens pain in the body due to friction during walking etc.; eases stiffness of tendons & muscles.

relieves cold hands & feet, chronic constipation, piles, flatulence.

increases appetite and taste for food; alleviates thirst.

Abhyanga massage oil:

the best oil for abhyanga is sesame. if that is not available, then use almond or olive oil.

you can add some other oils like jojoba, grapeseed (for dry skin), sunflower (for old people).

use pure unrefined cold-pressed virgin cold-pressed oils only. never use any essential oil in this massage because it will irritate your body tissues and cause a burning sensation.

Abhyanga massage procedure:

Do the following procedures before starting abhyanga:

1) take a bath first in lukewarm water with soap. you can also apply antiseptic herbal powders like neem, haritaki, etc to remove dirt & sweat from body parts.

2) when the body is dry after bath, first take some carrier oil on your palms and spread it all over your body with three slow clockwise and anticlockwise movements. then wait for 3-4 minutes.

3) now start abhyanga by doing pushing movements with fingers (pressing down like typing of a computer) on soles, legs, thighs, upper arms, front & back of the trunk, head (avoid eyes), neck; do gentle massage on chest; follow certain order or sequence while massaging all parts of the body as mentioned below:-

1 face – remove one side section of hair from forehead and massage with the left hand using one finger only (thumb). do gentle pressing and circle movement on cheeks (one cheek at a time), then massage sides of the nose, under the nose, and chin with the thumb.

do gentle pressing on eyelids (close your eyes during this procedure) and move your thumb over closed eyelids in the direction from outside towards inside with very little pressure. repeat the same procedure with another eye by moving your hand over the forehead first to remove hair from that side.

2 neck – do circular movements around the neck using three fingers of both hands.

3 back – use one finger only for the spinal column; then use four fingers of both hands to do pressing & massaging movements on shoulder blades, upper back, lower back, waistline, etc.

4 chest – pull shoulders backward to make chest prominent; now take support of left palm on the right thigh while bending slightly forward with your head & neck; do a counterclockwise rotation of chest using three fingers on each side.

5 left arm – bend the elbow slightly while the right palm is placed over the upper arm below the armpit; take support of your bent wrist with your other hand and gently rotate it in an anticlockwise direction (two times). repeat the same procedure with the other hand by pulling back the other shoulder to make that arm prominent.

6 right arm – bend the elbow slightly while the left palm is placed over the upper arm just below armpit; then take support of that bent wrist with two fingers under forearm (left hand); now pull out (right) forearm towards yourself, twist it in a clockwise direction once, press & turn anticlockwise 2-3 times.


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