The Art of Abhyanga - Ayurvedic Self-Massage
Abhyanga is an ancient practice of self-massage that comes from the Ayurvedic tradition. Ayurveda is a mind-body health system developed in India that has existed for thousands of years. Abhyanga is a popular and highly-beneficial Ayurvedic self-care ritual that supports the healing of inner ailments and serves as a profound expression of self-love. Massage has been used for centuries as a therapeutic tool for various ailments, injuries, and athletic recovery. Self-massage is a sacred ritual of self-nurturing. It helps to move energy through the body which helps to clear the lymph system (supporting the immune system and the body’s ability to nourish the cells and release toxins), relaxes muscles, releases stagnation, and alleviates trapped emotions, initiating a deeper connection to self.
Some of the many health benefits of abhyanga massage include a decrease in the effects of aging on the skin, an increase in muscle tone & circulation, an increase in bowel regularity, a calming of the nervous system, an improvement in the quality of sleep, and increased feelings of self-worth.
To get started, follow these simple steps below
Find an oil for your dosha:
Vata: Sesame oil (warming)
Pitta: Coconut oil (cooling) (+ a little neem oil if you spend a lot of time in the sun)
Kapha: Almond oil (neutral)
All 3 doshas: Jojoba oil
You can find out your dosha here.
Jiva Apoha Oils are our go to for elevating the experience - the Atman Oil is divine. They also make gorgeous personalized blends.
Abhyanga can be performed before a shower or bath, ideally in the morning.
Move from head to toe, massaging your body for 10-15 minutes (or longer, if time allows).
Head: Start by applying some oil to the crown of your head, working in circular motions. Use gentle pressure from your fingertips and massage the entire scalp before continuing to the face and the back and front of the neck.
Face: Use the same process on the face and work from the center outward using sweeping, upward movements. Massage the jaw, under the jaw, behind the ears, down the neck, front and back, at the base of the skull (occipital area), and just above the collarbone, this will help to ease tension and support lymph drainage on the neck and collarbone.
Chest + arms: Next, gently massage the chest and breast area using circular and broad motions. Then move to your arms using long sweeping motions across the limbs, under the arms + armpits (for more lymph clearance) and circular motions on your joints, always moving in the direction of the heart.
Legs: Continue these long sweeping motions on your legs, starting at your ankles and working up (towards your heart’s center), using circular motions over the joints. Focus around the groin area and inner legs a bit to further clear the lymph system.
Tummy: Working on the abdominal torso, use a gentle circular/clockwise motion following the path of elimination - up the right side of the abdomen, across the top, and then down the left side.
Feet: Gently yet firmly, complete your massage by giving some extra attention to your feet. We are on our feet so much of the day that they deserve some extra TLC to nourish the skin, prevent cracking/dryness, relieve numbness, and improve blood flow.
If possible, let the massage oil sit for 15-20 minutes, then enjoy a warm bath or shower using a mild soap and shampoo only on “necessary” areas (genitals, armpits, and hair).
Supports the lymphatic system by increasing circulation: Massage increases blood flow and circulation. Self-massage is excellent for balancing lymphatic flow, as our lymphatic system clears more efficiently with direct movement to lymph areas. This helps to support immunity, reduces inflammation, and lowers blood pressure.
Increases self-love: When we take the time to nurture ourselves, a flood of love flows in. Abhyanga offers the same qualities as being loved. It invites stability, warmth, strength, and openness.
Promotes a positive mood: Massage is very soothing and promotes relaxation. This practice is highly beneficial for those struggling with fluctuations in mood or those who need grounding. Massage reduces cortisol and increases serotonin and dopamine levels, which can help to alleviate depression and anxiety.
Lowers inflammation: Self-massage can be done at any time to decrease pain and tension in the body. It increases flexibility and range of motion and reduces tension in the ligaments and connective tissue.
Decreases stress: Stress takes quite a toll on the whole body. Abhyanga benefits disorders in the ear, decreases stiffness in the neck, and clears stiffness in the jaw.
Improves & stimulates digestion: Self-massage encourages the removal of excess wastes and toxins or undigested emotions (ama) and provides instant energy throughout the body. It helps increase organ function and increases the ability of the body to flush out toxins.
Improves sleep: Massage relaxes the entire body and soothes nervous tension. This grounding practice supports the body all day long which contributes to deep and restorative sleep.
Elevates beauty + anti-aging effects: Regular oil massage clears stagnation in the body, increases circulation, and visibly reduces fine lines and wrinkles.
When NOT to practice self-massage
During menstruation (if your skin is excessively dry, a 5-minute massage is ok)
During times of illness
Over infected or broken skin
With an injury or medical condition *be sure to get clearance from your doctor