Abhyanga massage is a kind of ayurvedic massage using warm oil.
It is based on the ancient traditions of the Indian Ayurveda.
It is capable in decreasing subjective stress, increases the strength, flexibility, elasticity and rejuvenate whole system.
Abhyanga in Ayurveda
- Abhyanga therapy is an ancient practice since the Vedic period which is also known as ayurvedic massage.
- During ancient time people was practicing it for manipulating the body to produce strength, flexibility, elasticity and remembrance.
- Ayurvedic texts recommends the regular Abhyanga as an anticipatory treatment option for the general population.
- In Ayurveda meaning of Abhyanga is to applying oil and gentle massage to the body.
- Generally medicated and warm oils are applied, massage to whole body before taking shower.
- Abhyanga offers similar effect to the Sneha (It is Sanskrit word which literal meaning is “oil” and “love”) i.e saturation with love.
- It gives a deep feeling of stability, warmth and relaxation.
- During Abhyanga oil massage removes the Srothorodha(clogging of channels) by virtue of its quality of Vatahahara swabhava (pacifying quality), and the Prabhava (imperceptible quality).
Science of Abhyanga massage
- Abhyanga is a rejuvenating procedure and performed with proper care to avoid the harmful effects.
- During Abhyanga massage oil were applied on the skin followed by massage to the whole body with long, rhythmic, repetitive strokes, as well as circular movements around joints and important marma (pressure) points.
- The logic behind specific directions massage have unique purpose. The circular movements over the joints may be due to the presence of lymph nodes and co-lateral venous networks around it.
- Circular massaging over joints areas improves the lymphatic drainage as well as venous drainage.
- Massage in a particular direction improves blood circulation, facilitates the removal of the toxins, dismisses physical and mental exhaustion, clears the stiffness and heaviness of the body, and many more.
- It also causes psychoneuroimmunologic effects on the body.
- In short it revitalize, energize the cells of the body, awaken, and tune up the functioning of internal organs and optimize the body’s ability to flush and remove toxins.
Body Dosha’s and Oil selection for Abhyanga
- For harnessing extra benefits of Abhyanga massage select the oil based on the body dosha.
- If someone is anxious, worried, their heart is racing, and he is feeling cold and dry, their Vikrutiis likely high Vata and using a Vata pacifying oil during Abhyanga would be most beneficial.
- If someone is feeling fit, but he know that Pitta is his dominant dosa, and the weather conditions is hot and humid, then the best choice is to select Pitta-pacifying oil.
- If someone is not sure about his/ her Vikrutior Prakriti, he can see an Ayurvedic practitioner.
- Sesame is more appropriate for Vata dosha because it is inherently warming. Vata herbal massage oils can be used alone or diluted with sesame, almond or mustard oils.
- Use of Bhringaraj Oil or Brahmi Oil to the scalp and soles of feet at bedtime reduces Pitta and encourage sound sleep.
- Sesame, corn and mustard oils are all helpful for Kapha dosha.
How to do self Abhyanga massage
- As Abhyanga is the Ayurvedic term for self-warm oil massage, so keep ready a gentle warm oil based on their body dosha type.
- Start massaging from scalp, using fingertips gently tugging up the roots of your hair.
- After that move the hands on the face making circular motions over forehead, temples, cheeks, nose, upper lip, and chin.
- When reach to ear, pay special attention while massaging the outer ear and then placing a small amount of oil on small finger to massage the ear canal.
- Use long strokes to massage the front of the neck and the collarbone and reach to the back of the neck and upper shoulders. A firm and long strokes help the movement of lymph to drain out the toxins.
- Now move to the arms using long strokes while massaging the long bones of the arm. Move from the outside towards the center of the body to bring fluids and lymph back into circulation.
- Use the circular strokes while massaging the joints of the shoulders, elbows, and wrists. Pay special attention to your hands massaging the palms as well as the knuckles and small joints of each individual finger.
- Complete massaging of the both arms.
- Moving on to the trunk, massage the chest with circular motions. Massage the armpits towards the center of the body.
- Women should pay precise attention to their breasts while massaging because it has several lymph nodes.
- Continue massaging the front of the trunk with large circular motions over the entire abdomen.
- Once front part massaging is over, starting from right hand corner and moving up and over to the left and back.
- Around this motion follows the direction of bowel flow and supports healthy bowel function while massaging the rest of the abdominal and pelvic organ.
- Be sure to reach under the rib cage to massage the liver, pancreas, and spleen.
- Once you finish the front of the trunk, massage the sides and flanks of the body with long firm strokes.
- Reaching all the way from the upper ribcage to the hips and continue the long strokes to reach as much of the back as possible.
- Complete the back area by massaging the lower back and then naturally move to your hips.
- Massage the hips with large circular strokes and move attention to the buttocks. Using both long strokes and small circular motions with fingertips and thumbs to release any areas of tension.
- Finally massage your legs and feet similar as was done with arms. Use long strokes on the long bones moving fluid and lymph back to the center of the body.
- Again use circular strokes on the joints of knee, ankles, and small joints of the foot. Pay special attention to the sole of the foot and toes.
- This completes self-massage oil massage.
Health benefits of Abhyanga massage
A wide range of physiologic and psychological benefits are traditionally claimed for Abhyanga therapy.
Some of the common beneficial effects are as follow;
Massage manage body dosha’s
- Vatahara- Alleviates Vata dosh
- Kaphahara- Alleviates Kapha dosha
- Abhighata sahyatva- Reduces the effect of trauma
Massage and Stress management
- Shramahara- Relaxes muscle and relieves fatigue
- Kleshasaha- Helps to overcome anxiety as well as stress
- Swapna kara- Induces sound sleep
Lower blood pressure
- Scientific findings indicate that Abhyanga massage is promising in reducing subjective stress experience.
- It may be beneficial in lowering HR in all, and BP in pre-hypertensive subjects.
Improves skin health
- Mrijaprada- Cleanses dirt
- Varnaprada- Improves the body complexion
- Twakdardyakara- Helps to maintain the elasticity of skin
- Priyadarshana- Bbeautifies the body figure
Nourishes the body tissues
- Pushtikara- Recuperates and nourishes the body tissues
- Dhatu pushti janana- Promotes the excellence of body tissues
- Jarahara- Rejuvenates body tissues, promotes health and Prevents aging process
Reduce muscle stiffness
- Balavan- Improves the physical strength
- Remove the stiffness from the muscles
Promotes lymphatic drainage
- Ayushkara- By nourishing the body tissues Abhyanga prolongs one’s lifespan.
- Vyadhikshamatwa- Restore the natural immunity
Eye sight improvement
- Drishti prasadakar- Improves eyesight
Take home message
Abhyanga massage nourish and replenish the skin, tone the muscles, calm and soothe the entire nervous system. So one should use such massage occasionally for a better and vibrant health.
- Basler AJ. Pilot study investigating the effects of Ayurvedic Abhyanga massage on subjective stress experience. J Altern Complement Med. 2011 May;17(5):435-40. doi: 10.1089/acm.2010.0281.
- Madhukar LS, Nivrutti BA, Bhatngar V, Bhatnagar S (2018) Physio-Anatomical Explanation of Abhyanga: An Ayurvedic Massage Technique for Healthy Life. J Tradit Med Clin Natur 7: 252. DOI: 10.4172/2573-4555.1000252
- Sankaran R, Kamath R, Nambiar V, Kumar A. A prospective study on the effects of Ayurvedic massage in post-stroke patients. J Ayurveda Integr Med. 2019;10(2):126-130. doi:10.1016/j.jaim.2018.02.137
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