Abhyangam is an ancient relaxing massage technique originating in Ayurveda, which utilises warm medicated oil to benefit the mind, body, spirit and the immune system. Abhyangam massage can help your body get rid of all the ama or toxins accumulated from the chaotic lifestyles of the modern world.
In the Ayurvedic Abhyangam massage, an ample amount of warm oil is applied to the entire body combined with massage strokes that follow the direction of the movement of arterial blood. As mentioned by the Brhat Trayi and Laghutrayi Ayurvedic texts, the Abhyangam massage is a part of daily practices that one should follow to maintain well-being and good health. It also acts as a prelude to Panchakarma therapy, the five-step method of purgation and elimination that intensively detoxifies the body.
Long-term Abhyangam practice can bring many benefits, which are mentioned as follows.
Benefits of Abhyangam Massage
Ayurveda says that stress on the mind and body is the primary reason why problems in different spheres of our life exist, be it at the physical level, personal relationships, or economic and spiritual problems. Therefore, at Govardhan EcoVillage, we work with the primary aim to teach people to respect their mind and body and appreciate everything that life has so far offered them, rather than stressing about the things that they don’t possess.
According to Ayurveda, the mind and the body are the reflections of one another. The root of all our stress and psychological fears lie deep in the mind that is reflected in the physical body as well. Through Abhyangam massage in combination with other Ayurvedic approaches, stress can be alleviated from the nervous system while promoting relaxation in the entire body. It is an excellent way to reset your mental equilibrium and physical bio-rhythms.
Maintain a healthy blood pressure
High blood pressure or hypertension can lead to heart attacks, strokes or kidney failure in later stages of life. As it is a condition associated with stress and lifestyle choices, the successful management of hypertension depends on a holistic treatment approach. With Ayurveda, Yoga therapy and Abhyangam massage, one can get permanent relief from the condition.
Each guest at Govardhan EcoVillage is prescribed with a personalised Abhyangam treatment plan according to their Prakriti or constitution. The medicated oils that are used for the massage are also determined based on their constitution. The Abhyangam full body massage is followed by a steam bath, which helps to achieve a deep level of detoxification and relaxation for the body. Other Ayurvedic treatments that may be performed in combination with the Abhyangam massage to eradicate the problem from its roots include Sirodhara and Thakaradhara. These therapies can do wonders for the body by aiding in proper blood circulation and vessel dilation, thereby reducing the resistance in arteries and improving the blood pressure.
Improve skin health
Having healthy and beautiful skin isn’t just a superficial achievement. Ayurvedic texts have always associated glowing skin as an indicator of well-being and health. The ancient tradition of Abhyangam oil massage is an intensive detoxification process that is essential for healthy skin. The warm oil reaches deep into the skin and tissues and nourishes it. It also cleans the sweat glands, hydrates and replenishes the tissues while promoting proper blood circulation. Moreover, the massage strokes in Abhyangam are also known to:
- improve blood flow to the skin
- reduce wrinkles, scars and cellulite
- decrease hyperpigmentation
- enhance skin smoothness and softness
- Daily practice of Abhyangam revitalises the emotional and spiritual aspects of the self and prevents stress and emotional disorders from causing adverse skin and health effects.
Reduce muscle ache and stiffnesss
According to Ayurveda, the major reason behind all types of pain is the aggravation of Vata in the body. It causes hypersensitivity leading to pain and tenderness in the muscles. Abhyangam massage is effective in the treatment of conditions associated with muscle pain because it pacifies the aggravated Vata and removes ama (toxins) and strotorodha (blockage of circulatory channels) from the body. Another benefit that Abhyangam offers is better flexibility and mobility of the muscles and joints.
Promotes lymphatic drainage
The lymphatic system of the body comprises a network of tissues and organs that carry the lymph fluid throughout the body. Sometimes, due to a surgery or medical condition, the fluid in the lymphatic system can accumulate and lead to swelling or lymphedema. In Abhyangam treatment, the application of warm herbal oil is carried out in a rhythmic flow in the direction of the natural circulation of the lymph fluids. As the lymphatic system naturally detoxifies the body by collecting toxins and filtering them out from the body, the Abhyangam full body massage with healing oils supplements the natural lymphatic drainage for a more effective and enjoyable detox and toxin cleansing.
Abhyangam has also been known to offer the following benefits.
- promote physical strength
- improve vision
- increase energy and alertness within the body
- delay ageing and its related changes
How Is Abhyangam Performed?
Basically, Abhyangam involves using plenty of warm herbal oil to massage the body. The main purpose of Abhyangam is to get the oil into the body through the skin. Unlike an ordinary massage where the only purpose of the oil is to reduce friction while working the muscles of the body, in Abhyangam, the oil is applied and rubbed into the skin so that it reaches deep into the tissues and nourishes it.
The application of medicated oil is a part of Ayurvedic therapy called Snehana or Oleation. Ayurveda has described several methods of Snehana therapy to soften morbid doshas which can then be easily eliminated from the body.
Traditionally, there will be two therapists who will be working the oil into the body following a synchronistic pattern with their strokes, but it can be also done at home as a part of one’s daily routine. The Abhyangam therapy can also be performed in a less traditional way where there’s only one therapist but still can offer an amazing experience and result.
Abhyangam is an essential part of the five-step detoxification process called Panchakarma as well. Once the muscles and tissues of the body are saturated with the herbal oil, the channels of the cells and tissues open up to release the toxins and prevent their flow into the inner channels. During the therapy, internal oleation is also carried out by allowing the individual to consume ghee and saturate the tissues from the inside.
Choosing the Right Abhyanga Oil
Choosing the right oil for your Abhyangam massage is essential. Here are a few things that you should take into consideration to choose the oil that works best for you.
If the current state of your body has an excess of a particular dosha, it is recommended to go for oil that is known to pacify that dosha. For example, an individual with high Vata dosha will feel cold, dry and experience nervousness and anxiousness. In this case, using a Vata-pacifying oil in the Abhyangam therapy massage will be most beneficial.
Prakriti or Ayurvedic constitution: Every individual has a dominant dosha in their constitution even though all their doshas are currently in balance. So, if you are feeling healthy and want to go for Abhyangam massage, then you need to choose the oil that will pacify your dominant dosha.
Environment: The present season and weather also have an impact on the doshas of individuals. The summer is considered to be the time when Pitta tends to be dominant and fall through early winter, which is considered as the Vata season. Kapha season occurs during late winter through spring. You need to ensure that you are taking steps to maintain your dosha balance during their dominant seasons, and choosing the appropriate massage oil is one of them.
Here’s a list of Ayurvedic oils to help you out.
Oils for Vata
Vata is described as cool, dry, light and mobile. There are a few oils that can be used to counteract the qualities of Vata, which include the following.
Sesame oil: Traditionally, plain and untoasted sesame oil is used in Abhyangam therapy massage to alleviate Vata dosha. Moreover, it is also referred to as the ‘king of oils’ in Ayurveda.
Ashwagandha oil: It helps to build health and strength in the muscles.
Mahanarayan oil: This oil features several Ayurvedic herbs and is used to facilitate comfortable movement in the joints.
Vata massage oil particularly has calming and grounding properties and usually contains a blend of herbs like Ashwagandha, Bala and Shatavari with sesame and olive oil as the base.
Oils for Pitta
Pitta characteristics are described as sharp, oily, hot, liquid and fleshy-smelling. To best balance the Pitta dosha, cooling oils like sunflower and coconut are used. Ayurvedic herbs that are a part of Pitta massage oils are Brahmi, Guduchi, Manjistha, Shatavari and liquorice.
Bhringaraj oil: This is an excellent oil for massaging the scalp and promoting relaxation.
Brahmi oil: It can be used as a mixture with coconut oil for maximum coolness.
Neem oil: The neem is a cooling herb, and its oil is used in a warm sesame oil base to alleviate excess Pitta.
Oils for Kapha
The primary characteristics of Kapha are oily, cool, soft and static. The best oil for Kapha is the one with a light carrier oil with invigorating herbs with heating properties.
Sesame Oil, Almond Oil, or Corn Oil: These oils are plain and warm. Therefore, they are good choices when it comes to pacifying excess Kapha. If you are going for sesame oil, use the untoasted varieties that have a light scent.
Abhyangam massage is an age-old practice associated with overall health and wellness of an individual. When followed as a part of daily routine, it can promote healthy skin, relieve stress, pacify the doshas, improve the sleep pattern, promote longevity, and nourish every part of the body.
However, it is not recommended for those who are pregnant or have a chronic illness, skin infection, or broken bone. If you would like to try it out for yourself and reap the immense health benefits that Abhyangam offers, you can plan a visit to Govardhan EcoVillage, a wellness and Ayurveda retreat that helps you cleanse and revitalise the body.