slow beauty// abhyanga| self-oil massage

Originating from Ayurveda, Abhyanga is the act of self-oil massage and is a wellness practice everyone can do with just one ingredient. Utilizing plant-based oils that compliment your dosha, this act of self-care can be done multiple times per week. Abhyanga is great for increasing circulation, assisting the lymph with cleansing toxins, and it can help calm the nervous system.

For practicing abhyanga, you will need to have at least ¼- ½ c of your chosen oil handy (more on that below!). This practice does not skimp on the oil- the act of lubricating the skin is one of the primary purposes of self-oil massage. You may even want to stand in the bathtub when performing abhyanga to prevent a messy cleanup. Just remember to be careful- oil + bathtubs can make for a slippery scenario.

In some ways, abhyanga is similar to applying your daily body moisturizer, but much more deliberate. Through abhyanga, you are honoring your body and everything it does for you while also deeply nourishing the skin. Plan to spend 10-20 minutes total on your massage. 

You can practice in the morning or in the evening, depending on your preference and schedule. If you do not like the feeling of being oily or if you need to head out the door quickly post- abhyanga, it would be recommended to do this before you shower. You can practice this several times per week and for some doshas, it is even recommended to oil massage 4-5x per week. 

Abhyanga Step by Step:

  1. After you have chosen your oil, you’ll want to gently warm the oil. If you’ve ever had a massage with cold oil, you will know why warm oil is a much more relaxing experience! You can warm the oil in a closed container in warm water or you could warm the oil in your hands for several seconds before applying it. 
  2. Create a small pool of warm oil in your palms and begin applying it to the skin, working your way up from your feet. Be sure to take your time and massage the oil into your skin as you work your way up. 
  3. Continue this process of adding oil and applying it to your limbs working from the furthest point in towards your trunk. Take this time to massage areas of tension in your body- feet, shoulder, lower back, etc. 
  4. If you find certain areas are absorbing lots of oil, pay special attention, and add more oil to thoroughly penetrate dehydrated areas. 
  5. Have clothing nearby that you don’t mind getting some oil residue on after your self-massage. Also, remember socks to avoid an accidental slip.
  6. You should feel soothed and moisturized post-abhyanga. There is no need to wash off the oil, but some may prefer to if they are feeling overly oiled.

As mentioned earlier, the oils that can be used vary by dosha. Primarily, the oils that are used in Ayurveda are Sesame Oil, Coconut Oil, Sunflower Oil or Sweet Almond Oil but if you don’t have one of these on hand, I encourage you to try with something you have! Because this practice does require a significant amount of oil, you may want to save your most precious oils for a different self-care practice. Pay attention to what your body needs at the time as well as what seasons are occurring. For example, in the cold and dry months, you may want to use a warming oil to bring your body into balance and vice versa for the hot, sticky months. 

What Oils to Use

Vata: Use warming oils like Sesame and practice frequently (4-5x/ week).

Pitta: Use cooling oils like Sunflower or Coconut and don’t warm the oils too much. 

Kapha: Use warming oils like Sesame or Almond, and don’t use as much oil as Vata or Kapha. 

By bringing abhyanga into your wellness rituals, you will be more connected with your body, you will support your circulatory and lymphatic system, while also deeply nourishing your skin + body.