Discover the art of seasonal self-care and indulge in a nourishing massage that brings balance and warmth to both body and soul.
Welcome to the world of Abhyanga, a rejuvenating self-massage practice that weaves the ancient wisdom of Ayurveda into the fabric of your daily routine. In this guide, I'll share my best tips for indulging in this practice without any complicated fanfare. Plus I'll share my tried and true (and celebrated) Vata Abhyanga oil recipe - complete with all the education on the herbs that make it oh-so-balancing for the Autumn season. Join me on a journey where self-care meets education, and discover the transformative power of daily Abhyanga massage!
What Is Abhyanga?
Abhyanga oil massage, a revered practice hailing from Ayurveda in India, involves the systematic application of warm herbal oils to the entire body. This ancient therapeutic massage technique seeks to harmonize the body, mind, and spirit.
The word "Abhyanga" in Sanskrit can be broken down as follows:
"Abhi" (अभि): This prefix in Sanskrit generally conveys a sense of 'to' or 'towards.' In the context of Abhyanga, it implies the action of applying or massaging.
"Anga" (अङ्ग): This term means 'limb' or 'part of the body' in Sanskrit. In Abhyanga, it refers to the body itself.
So, when combined, "Abhyanga" essentially means the act of applying or massaging the body with oil, which is the essence of the Ayurvedic oil massage practice.
Abhyanga is considered the classic Ayurvedic massage technique to prepare the body for panchakarma (five cleansing actions) and is intended to infuse the body with herbalized oils for medicinal benefit. The goal of abhyanga is to balance the subtle body system, including the chakras, nadis, vayus and doshas.
According to major Ayurvedic texts, the effects of Abhyanga are:
regulating the nervous system
promoting better eyesight
enhancing vitality and sturdiness of body
When Abhyanga is done as a form of snehana (love, affection, the act of anointing the body) it is said to be like a pot smeared with oil, impurities of Vata, Pitta & Kapha cannot stick to it. In the same way, if the body is oiled daily with Ayurvedic massage, impurities cannot penetrate and disease stays away. Abhyanga is like a daily force-field or shield activation.
Read on below to get your hands on my FAVORITE Abhyanga oil recipe plus the instructions for how to use this oil for your daily self-care practice.
🌟 Vata Abhyanga Oil + Practice For Fall 🌟
Vata Abhyanga Oil Recipe
½ cup sesame oil
10 drops tulsi essential oil
10 drops Indian sandalwood essential oil
5 drops frankincense essential oil
Mix oils and store in dark glass. Keep this in your shower to promote a daily Abhyanga practice.
Sesame oil: use unrefined for the least processed oil. If the fragrance of sesame is too strong for you, opt for a refined sesame oil. This one is friendlier for those who may not enjoy smelling like a seed (although I love the earthy, grounding scent). My favorite brand is Banyan Botanicals.
Tulsi: also known as Holy Basil in Ayurveda, this plant is considered sacred in India. I love it for Vata because it reduces cortisol levels in the body, good for helping you be resilient to stress and extra nourishing for your nervous system. Plus it smells divine.
Indian Sandalwood: few essential oils can boast smelling as rich and delicious as sandalwood. It's commonly used for skin health, especially for retaining elasticity and restoring moisture balance. A perfect antidote to the drying effects of Vata season.
Frankincense: used in Ayurveda for joint and bone health, this oil nourishes parts of the physical body governed by Vata. It's also used for mental clarity as well as promoting a sense of overall well-being.
My favorite brand for essential oils is Purify Skin Therapy. This Utah-based small business only produces organic or wild-harvested oils. I have no affiliation with the brands I'm recommending. I'm sharing them because they are what I use in my own herbal pantry.
How To Practice Abhyanga
Traditionally, you warm the oil on the stove and massage your entire body before getting into the shower. The warm water of the shower opens your pores and allows the herbalized oil to penetrate. Ayurveda doesn’t recommend washing non-hairy parts of the body with soap, so no need to soap off the oil.
But I like to keep it simple (and less slippery). I take a shower and soap myself down (sorry Ayurveda, not taking the non-hairy tip 😂). Then, while still in the shower, I oil myself down. I make quick, no-nonsense work of it. Afterwords I lightly pat myself dry and wait a few minutes before dressing while the oil penetrates.
Use gentle pressure and stroke away from the heart to enhance arterial blood flow to the muscles and organ systems. Use circular strokes on joints. Use long, full-handed strokes over the long bones. Use spiraling strokes on the chest and and abdomen.
Now every once in a while it’s wonderful to turn this into a snehana practice. Take a full 15-20 minutes. Lay a towel onto the floor. Warm your oil. Take your time with the massage now. Include massaging your scalp, face, inside the ears and nostrils. Whole body!
And, with the help of a massage partner, you may love Seat of Vata Circles. In either a seated or prone position, make quick, clockwise circles on the small of the back (lumbosacral area). After circling, sweep up the spine, neck and off the head. Seat of Vata circles are harmonizing during fall and winter seasons. It is said to harmonize prana and apana vayus, stimulate kundalini-carrying nadis at the base of the spine, and balance shushumna, ida and pingala with up the spine strokes.