SELF-MASSAGE WITH WARM OIL--ABHYANGA
The body of one who uses oil massage regularly does not become affected much even if subjected to accidental injuries or strenuous work. By using oil massage daily, a person is endowed with pleasant touch, trimmed body parts, and becomes strong, charming, and least affected by old age.
—Caraka Saṁhitā Sū 5/88–99
Abhyanga is a daily practice that helps to calm the nervous system and bring balance to the mind. Vata dosha, the dosha composed of air and ether, is the dosha that easily goes out of balance for all us at any time. Abhyanga helps to soothe Vata dosha by calming the air element in the body. Qualities of Vata dosha include light, rough, dry and cold. One rule of Ayurveda is like increases like and opposites decrease. Self-massage with warm oil is heavy, smooth, oily and warm, qualities that are opposite of Vata and therefore pacifying of this dosha.
Regular oil massage helps to remove excess fat from the skin, makes the skin glossy and soft and strengthens the skin, while protecting our skin from disease. It improves immunity and stimulates the lymph system to aid in the removal of wastes. Oil massage can begin to release repressed emotions especially when massaged in the opposite direction of the lay of the hair. Crystals of unresolved emotions become de-crystalized and dissolve. Ayurveda says that the oil penetrates into the skin, nourishing all of the tissues while simultaneously removing toxins from the tissues.
Base Oil Choices
Vata - Sesame, Almond
Pitta - Sesame, Olive, Sunflower, Coconut
Kapha - Sesame, Mustard, Almond
Steps for Self Massage
1. Pour only the oil you need into a small glass bottle. Store your main bottle in a cool, dry place.
2. Place the small bottle in hot water for 5 minutes or until the oil heats up to a comfortable temperature. It should be very warm when applying it to the body.
3. Sit in a chair or on your towel or mat in a comfortable, warm, draft-free room.
4. Apply oil to the crown of the head, the ears and around the eyes. You’ll read in different sources the best place to start applying the oil based on one’s doshic makeup. The most important thing is to get the oil onto your body, so if this is confusing to you, start wherever your intuition leads you. The head is always a lovely place to begin.
6. Apply oil to the crown of the head, the ears (and tug on the lobes) and face. Use long, upward and downward strokes on the long bones, and circular strokes on the joints. Use long, downward strokes on the inside of the pelvic bones and on the outer hips. Massage in a clockwise direction from the naval working out and then back in, slowly.
7. Take 10 to 20 minutes to complete this daily routine. Follow the rhythm of your breath. The more time one can take applying the oil and massaging the body, the more relaxing and Vata pacifying the practice will be. If your daily morning routine doesn’t allow for a long self-massage, consider a few times a week when you may be able to dedicate more time to this practice.
8. Relax for a few minutes with the oil on the skin. Traditionally 45 minutes are suggested, but do what you can. A set of old "oil clothes" can be donned after oiling to allow the oil to penetrate for a longer period of time. Wash these separately from other clothes.
9. Traditionally, the warm oil massage is recommended before showering or bathing because the heat and steam of the shower or bath will help the oil to penetrate. People with a lot of Pitta and/or Kapha in their constitution may even enjoy using a natural soap to wash the oil off. People with a lot of Vata in their constitution may like to rinse just with warm water to remove the excess oil.
10. Pat dry with a towel.
Some extra tips:
1. Two great sources for oil.
Kottakal--They carry herb-infused oils specific to imbalances.
Banyan Botanicals--They carry herb-infused oils specific to the doshas, and plain base oils without herbs.
2. Wash any clothing or linens that come in contact with oil separately from the rest of the laundry.
3. Arm and Hammer Super Washing Soda and Oxyclean are two laundry products that can be added with detergent to a load of laundry to help remove oil from clothing.
4. Use caution in the shower/tub to prevent slips if you have oil on your feet. Dish liquid can be kept in the shower to be used to wash excess oil from the floor after showering to prevent slipping.
5. Drain pipe maintenance. To prevent a buildup of oil in your drain pipes, a solution of baking soda and vinegar can periodically be administered. You can read more about this here.