Ayurvedic self-massage is a highly beneficial treatment on all levels.
I recommend this type of self-massage because it particularly helpful for lymphatic drainage, aiding the body’s detoxification process. It also a nice, nurturing ritual that can be continued regularly as it helps foster self-love and appreciation– two qualities everyone good use more of!
Ayurvedic self-massage is also known as Abhyanga. It can be done with or without oil. An article by ayurvedic practitioner, Sandhiya Ramaswamy for the Chopra Centre describes abhyanga like this:
There is no greater expression of self-love than lovingly anointing ourselves from head to toe with warm oil […] It is believed that the effects of Abhyanga are similar to those received when one is saturated with love. Like the experience of being loved, Abhyanga can give a deep feeling of stability and warmth.
I often include dry self-massage (sans oil) in yoga practices with my students as part of the ‘warm up’. (See details about the Therapeutic Yoga Clinic) It is very nice to do at home with warm oils, especially when you are fresh from the shower or bath and already semi-relaxed.
Benefits to Self-Massage
- Encourages self-love;
- Stimulates cardiovascular circulation;
- Lymphatic drainage;
- Improves digestion and immune function;
- Promotes relaxation and grounding;
- Lubricates joints;
- Helps you sleep deeper and more soundly;
- Releases muscular tension;
- Calms the minds;
- Balances the nervous system;
- Increases the flow of energy & prana in your body;
- Smoothes your skin (especially when using warm oil);
- Regulates body temperature;
- Enhances your mood and confidence.
How to practice self-massage
There is no right or wrong way to do self-massage, but it is best to start with your head and end at your feet. Do circular motions on your joints and vigorously rub up and down between the joints.
If you want to use oils, great. Oil helps to calm the nervous system and hydrates the skin. It’s very important to use a good quality, cold-pressed oil (available at all health food stores) and warm it up slightly prior to using it.
Here are the recommended oils to use per dosha:
- Vata benefits most from warm sesame oil.
- Pitta benefits most from warm almond oil.
- Kapha benefits most from warm sunflower oil.
If you aren’t sure which one to use, almond oil is a safe bet or even olive oil. If you know aromatherapy, you could also add a drop or two of lavender or ylang ylang to further promote relaxation. I very much like the Rescue & Renew Detox Massage Oil from Arbonne & the Arbonne Harmony Essential Oil blend for a high quality tri-doshic oil.
I like to make a date for myself on a Friday or Saturday evening when I have some time and can stay in. I have an early dinner, take a hot epsom salt bath with oil and then do a little self-practice of massage and maybe some light yoga and meditation. I heat the oil gently on the stove on low for a few minutes and then pour it over my head letting it saturate my hair. Then, I massage the oil into my skin from head down. I drink a hot cup of herbal tea and go to bed early. It’s heavenly.
TIP: If you use oil, sleep on a towel or pillow case you won’t mind getting oil stains.