With a deeper understanding of the Abhyanga practice, the massage can be enhanced even further by incorporating Dosha-specific recommendations. By working with the Doshas, an Abhyanga begins to truly become a medicinal practice for your long-term health.
Abhyanga Massage for Vata:
Vata constitutions should use a heavy grounding oil, such as Sesame or Almond. Specific healing Essential Oils for Vata include Jasmine, Lavender, Sandalwood, Cinnamon, Frankincense, and Chamomile. The main qualities of Vata are Dry, light, cold, rough, and mobile. Therefore copious amounts of oil should be used to combat Vata’s inherent dry nature. The Oil should be heavy, as shown in the examples above to reverse Vata’s tendency towards lightness. The pressure of the strokes should also carry a bit of depth as the heaviness of the hands will provide additional grounding. Both the room and the oil should be as warm as is comfortable, as this will help balance Vata’s cold tendencies. To combat roughness, both energetically and physically, the strokes should be smooth and fluid — connecting the strokes to avoid choppiness. Lastly, due to Vata’s very expansive and mobile nature, the massage should emphasize slower strokes; There should still be friction happening from the speed of the strokes. The heavier pressure from the hands will also generate additional friction to help build heat on the surface of the skin. Vata should start the massage near the head, and work down toward the feet. This helps to ground Vata’s expansive and upward nature, back towards the Earth. The main physical sites of Vata are contained within the hollow areas of the body such as the colon, chest, and pelvis. Applying oil abundantly to these areas will prove beneficial to balance Vata.
Abhyanga Massage for Pitta:
Pitta constitutions should use a cooling oil to balance their hot, inflammatory nature. oils such as Sunflower, Coconut, or Olive are ideal. The main qualities of Pitta are Oily, hot, sharp, light, and mobile. Due to their inherent oily nature, moderate amounts of oil can be used. Pay attention to how oily the skin is before the Abhyanga begins, as well as how easily it is absorbed to find the right balance for you. With Pitta containing internal body heat, the room does not need to be hot, but should still be warm enough to feel comfortable for the person and to allow the pores to open. The sharp emotional quality of Pitta dosha should be balanced out with soft, gentle, loving strokes. Moderate pressure can be used for Pitta, as well as a moderate speed, sometimes a faster stroke speed can vitiate an already intensity-prone Pitta. This is due to the mobile tendencies Pitta has (Though not as mobile as Vata). The main sites of Pitta Dosha are the small intestine and liver/spleen (where fiery digestive juices like bile are stored and utilized), as well as the head and eyes. Cooling Essential Oils like Peppermint, Chamomile, Sandalwood, Lavender, and Rose can be especially helpful on (or around for instance the head/eyes) these areas.
Abhyanga Massage for Kapha:
Kapha constitutions do well with heating and drying oils such as Safflower and Mustard oil; Sunflower oil is also appropriate due to its light quality, despite being cold. Essential Oils which are healing for Kapha include Cinnamon, Patchouli, Basil, Eucalyptus, and Sage. The main qualities of Kapha are: Heavy, static, cold, oily, and smooth. Due to the heavy quality of Kapha, light oils should be used on the body. A lighter, more superficial touch can be used with a rapid stroke rate to combat the static quality of Kapha. Because of the cold tendencies of Kapha people, warmth should be incorporated into the massage. This can be done in a warm room, in steam saunas, or by using warming oils. Kapha’s typically have fairly hydrated skin because of the oily quality. Therefore, they need the least amount of oil applied to the body during Abhyanga. This is also the reason why lighter oils are employed for Kapha. Lastly, Kapha’s have smoothness, this is shown in the skin, the body tissue, the hair, etc. Using a rougher massage can help to balance out this quality to prevent the accumulation of Kapha. A rougher massage refers to faster strokes or the use of exfoliation like a dry brush or Garshana Gloves (This should be done prior to the Abhyanga to prevent getting the Garshana instruments oily). These Garshana Gloves are made of raw silk, which when rubbed on the body stimulates circulation and removes dead skin. This Garshana massage is sometimes more important than an Abhyanga for Kapha dosha. The main sites for Kapha are the stomach, lungs, and joints. Kapha’s static quality especially becomes present in these locations. Therefore, a stimulating massage at these sites will help to revive the person and balance the body.
Abhyanga Massage for Multiple Doshas:
To carry out an Abhyanga for multiple Doshas, qualities of both Doshas are considered/combined, and balancing qualities for the specific presentation can be discovered. For example, Vata is: Dry, light, cold, rough, and mobile; Pitta is Oily, hot, sharp, light, and mobile. We can see that light and mobile qualities are present in both Vata and Pitta Doshas, therefore a balancing massage for a Vata-Pitta person will emphasize qualities of heavy and static in the massage. Pitta is Oily, hot, sharp, light, and mobile; Kapha is: Heavy, static, cold, oily, and smooth. The main overlapping quality here is oily, so the massage for a Pitta-Kapha person should use the oil in moderation. Vata is: Dry, light, cold, rough, and mobile; Kapha is: Heavy, static, cold, oily, and smooth. The main quality overlap here is cold. Therefore an Abhyanga for a Vata-Kapha person should emphasize warmth in the massage, utilizing lots of friction, keeping the room warm, warming the oil, using a warming type of oil, and incorporating Swedana into the therapy.
Abhyanga Massage for Seasons:
While our Dosha tells us how our body will typically react, the seasons will create more of a Dosha imbalance in everyone! That’s right, the seasons have Doshas as well. In the Summer time, it is HOT, this is the Pitta time of year. In the Summertime, everyone is more likely to have a higher Pitta, though people who already have Pitta present are typically vitiated more by Pitta in this season. During the summertime, emphasize cooler oils and Essential Oils.
In Autumn, leaves begin to fall, and wind becomes more present outside. This is showing us Vata (the aspect of movement, change, and wind) is increasing. Emphasize heavy and warming oils and Essential Oils, slow down the strokes, and work from head to toe to balance Vata Dosha.
In the Spring time, all the frozen water from the Winter begins to flow. Rains begin to fall, and plants once again begin to grow. This is when Kapha becomes vitiated (The aspects of water and growth specifically). During the Spring, Garshanas are indicated, or by emphasizing Abhyangas with light, warm oils, fast movement of strokes, and working from the feet up to the head.
While Abhyanga may be a simple concept at first appearance. We now can see the intricate layers contained within this concept. The Doshas affect greatly the style and methodology of the Abhyanga. Tapping into your own intuition, and your own Doshas allows for this simple practice to shift, as the Doshas shift within you. Bringing different oils and Essential Oils onto the skin is also an exciting first step into the world of Ayurvedic medicine. While this practice is traditionally done every day, start out small: Try it once a week. As you begin to feel the wonderful benefits of Abhyanga, that number will slowly increase as you begin to enjoy and want to do it more. We have seen the advantages of this style of massage, learned how to perform one, and delved deeper into how to perform one for each Dosha as well. If you have the opportunity to receive an Abhyanga in a spa setting, the moves you will encounter can also guide your strokes at home. A spa setting allows for a much more medicinal experience to take place, while also allowing you to simply enjoy the bliss of receiving the bodywork.
Hari Om ॐ To End All Suffering