Abhyanga, Ayurvedic Massage, and the Practice Self Love

What is Abhyanga?

Abhyanga is the practice of Ayurvedic Massage. It’s also called “snehana” which means “to nurture or love”. This is because the act of massaging oil into the body is an act of love.  Oil is deeply nourishing and soothes not only the skin but also the nervous system and provides support to the immune system.

The goal of Ayurvedic Massage is the absorption of oil. Different oils are used to balance each of the three doshas. When vata dosha is vitiated (imbalanced) sesame oil is the best oil to use. When pitta dosha is vitiated, coconut or sunflower oils are commonly used. When kapha dosha is vitiated, mustard or safflower oils are used. These oils are often prepared with herbs infused into them in order to increase their potency. Whenever possible, use high quality, cold-processed, organic oils on your body. 

At the spa and panchakarma center at the California College of Ayurveda we practice both one and two practitioner massage. When two practitioners are working in tandem, their four hands perform what we like to call “a choreographed dance on the body”.  The two-practitioner abhyanga is the more traditional and preferred method. The experience is quite extraordinary resulting in both deep nourishment and deep relaxation. Watch the video below to see a live demonstration of a Tandem Abhyanga.

Live Ayurvedic Massage Demo

How to do an Abhyanga At Home

At home, anyone can perform abhyanga on themselves. Just warm up some oil and apply with love. Warm oil is always more soothing than cold oil and is preferred in Ayurveda.  Ideally, it is best to let the oil absorb into the body. However, this takes time. If you have a morning practice, try applying oil first thing in the morning before your morning meditation. If not, you can apply the oil lightly after your morning shower or bath. 

Above all, don’t forget that this is a gentle, loving practice. Enjoy every minute of it. 


Written By: CCA Staff