Ayurveda incorporates oil therapies in many different circumstances, mainly for tonification and Dosha pacification. The most convenient, and easiest to accomplish at home, is a therapy known as Abhyanga (Aww-Bee-Yawn-Guh). This is an Ayurvedic Style massage, which you can either receive from a body therapist or perform on yourself. With many health benefits, the procedure for Abhyanga is far from daunting, despite there being a few nuances for each of the Doshas. To learn the fundamentals of Abhyanga, we must first understand what an Abhyanga is, how it works, and why we should perform them.
What is Abhyanga?
Abhyanga is defined simply as: Applying oil to the body. The massage which takes place during an Abhyanga is a method of improving the absorption of the oils into the skin and a delightful added benefit! The oil molecule is quite dense and heavy. With choreographed massage techniques, friction and heat are utilized to dilate the pores of the skin, which in turn allows the dense oil molecules to absorb deeper into the body.
How Abhyanga Benefits Your Skin
The skin is comprised of three main layers: The epidermis, dermis, and hypodermis. Most Abhyanga is working on hydrating the epidermis (The most superficial layer of the skin). By working with a variety of absorption-increasing methods, some of the oil may penetrate deeper into the dermis of the skin, providing extra hydration. The main two methods utilized to increase the permeability of the skin are The application of heat and the use of accelerants. Accelerants are substances that enhance the permeability of the skin. They are commonly found in Essential Oils (although synthesized compounds also exist), specifically those which contain Terpenes e.g. Lemon, Orange, Nutmeg, Bergamot, Black Pepper, and Pine to name a few. Medicated Oils also contain many compounds which act as accelerants, further increasing the absorption rate into the skin. When working with heat, the room/area where the Abhyanga is taking place should be kept warm, especially when considering the body will be mostly bare/exposed to the air. In a therapeutic setting, the massage table will be heated, and any areas not being massaged remain covered. Following an Abhyanga, the therapist may also implement a Swedana (Herbal Steam) Therapy. This prompts the body to sweat profusely, with the additional aid of Diaphoretic (Sweat inducing) herbs. Lastly, with a brisker movement of the hands, more friction is created, which in turn generates more heat on the body to dilate the pores.
- Excess Vata
- Disorders of the Joints
- Disorders of the Nervous System
- Disorders of the Muscles
- Excess Kapha
- Conditions of Ama
- Acute Fever
- Builds Ojas
- Reduces injuries to the body by keeping muscles and joints fluid
- Improves the functions of the immune system
- Stabilizes the Mind
- Improves Self Esteem
- Reverses/prevents aging and increases longevity
- Nourishes the body and promotes sturdiness
- Removes fatigue and stress from work and life
- Remedies Insomnia
The choreography of the massage strokes also aims to balance the Five Vayus of the body. The Vayus are the Subdoshas of Vata. Vayu, which translates to Wind, is the governing force of all movements within the body. By working with upward strokes (Udana Vayu) we can bring stimulation and invigoration into the person. Working with downward strokes (Apana Vayu) will cultivate a sense of groundedness and bring about an overall sense of tranquility. During a true Abhyanga, all Five Vayus are influenced, bringing about an optimal state of flow.
Hari Om ॐ To End All Suffering