Abhyanga: Ayurvedic Oil Massage – Healing & Nourishing Ritual | Dylan Smith #090

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Abhyanga: Ayurvedic oil massage, is one of the most popular and impactful treatments & practices in Ayurveda.

Abhyanga should not only be considered a treatment that is occasionally performed by a trained therapist, but also as one of the essential practices and integral parts of the Ayurvedic dinacaryā (daily routine).

The Ayurvedic sacred texts (Śastras) break down the great importance & healing capacities of Abhyanga, and most particularly the importance of incorporating self-Abhyanga as a daily habit.

This episode is for those that are absolutely new to Abhyanga, as well as those who have already been practicing it for years. On this episode, we break down the ins & outs of this wonderful healing practice.


In this Episode we Discuss:

What is Abhyanga & What Are Its Unique Features

Abhyanga is a form of Ayurvedic oil massage.
Abhyanga can be in the form of self-massage or it can also be performed on one’s body by a trained Ayurvedic body therapist. 
Ayurvedic massage is very different to the more common massages on the market - deep tissue, Swedish, Japanese, Chinese, Thai massage, sports massage, Lomi Lomi/Kahuna, etc.
The main differences are:
The Medicated Oils
This is a key aspect of the Abhyanga. 
Usually, coconut or sesame oil is medicated with various herbs according to the season and the individual's unique constitution.
Ayurvedic massage oils have the power to penetrate through all layers of skin and enter into all 7 body tissues (dhatus) to do their job of effective detoxification, nourishment, and more.
If you want to get a treatment you can either come to the Vital Veda Clinic in Sydney, Australia, or go to a nearby certified Ayurvedic therapist and take our precious medicated oils with you. 
For self-Abhyanga massage, you can buy the oils from us or prepare your own oil at home with our medicinal herb pack called Kumkumadi Powder.
Strokes
The strokes are selected and applied in a vigorous and rhythmic matter according to the client's constitution and imbalances.
Marma Points
Special consideration is given to the Marma Points.
  • Marma Points are the special storehouses of energy and concentrated life force. 
  • The Marmas are enlivened for vast harmonious effects. 
  • Perhaps when performing Abhyanga daily there’s no need for marma therapy or acupressure (which can potentially be very dangerous) as abhyanga already activates the marmas. 
Healing The 7 Chakras
The 7 chakras are also worked on to unblock any problems related to them.


Benefits of Daily Abhyanga

ābhyaṅgamācarennityaṃ sa jarāśramavātahā

dṛṣṭiprasādapuṣṭyāyuḥ svapnasutvaktvadārḍhyakṛt //

- Astanga Hrdayam, Sutra Sthana, Chapter 2, Verse 8.

Meaning:
Whoever does the abhyanga every day, for them:
  • Jarā – aging is reduced
  • Śrama – tiredness is reduced
  • Vāta - dosha is reduced
  • Dṛṣṭiprasāda – improves the clarity of vision and strengthens the eyes. 
  • puṣṭi – gives energy and nourishes dhatus.
  • Ayu – prolongs age.
  • Svapna – induces good sleep (when vata is pacified, you have good calmness and निर्मलत्वाम् / प्रसन्न)
  • tvaktvadādhryakṛt – improves skin tone and complexion.

Abhyanga should ideally be done daily, morning. 

Other benefits:
Lymphatic Drainage
The Lymphatic system is critical for good health according to Ayurveda, and Abhyanga specifically stimulates and strengthens the lymphatic system, thus improves immunity and stabilises hormones, and in this way it improves physical and mental states.
Pacifying the Nervous System 
The skin has more nerve endings then any part of the body, and this is why Ayurvedic massage, through appropriate strokes channelled harmoniously with the body's channels, is so effective in calming the mind down, grounding a frantic mind, releasing stress, promoting proper sleep, and providing a state in which the body can deeply rest. There isn't any other way to pacify 20,000,000 nerve receptors in the body’s skin in just a couple of minutes.
Studies have shown that people with hypertension and depression improve with massage therapy.
Massage appears to decrease cortisol, a disease-producing and degenerative stress hormone.*
It also increases dopamine, norepinephrine & oxytocin, which boost mood, reward, pleasure and wellbeing.*
  • Amazingly, research also shows that oxytocin*:
    • Extends life in cancer patients
    • Reduces cravings for sweets
    • Reduces anxiety and depression
    • Increases sexual potency and desire
    • Reduces cortisol and boosts immunity
Improve Immunity and Increase Stamina.
Massage has also been found to boost immunity and killer T cells in AIDS patients.*  
Enhance blood circulation.
Promote flexibility of the muscles, tissues and joints.
Strengthens The Skin, Muscles & Bones
Promotes softness and luster of the skin as well as youthfulness.
Correct injuries, specifically the muscle and bone tissue.
Enhance positive microbiology in your body (your skin is home to massive colonies of microbes).
Balances The Three Doshas
It opens the flow of Prana (Life Force) by balancing the three doshas.

“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.”

Charaka Samhita Vol. 1, V: 88-89 (One of the Great ancient texts of Ayurveda)

Protection From Negative or Draining Energies 
  • Healthcare workers
  • Bodyworkers - massage therapists, etc.
  • Hospice
  • Death doulas
  • Drug and alcohol
  • Bacteria and viruses - energetic periphery
  • Viral or spike protein shedding
  • Meditation teachers
  • Occupational therapists
  • Overly sensitive people
  • Etc.
Develops Dhatu Metabolism and Enhances Mala Kriya
Between each of the 7 layers of skin is one of seven dhatu agnis.
Bhrajaka Pitta absorbs nutrients and medicaments we put on our body. 
So the more we do abhyanga, the more dhatu development happens.
 “When we are not oleating daily, and not protecting the communicating intelligence in our skin, then due to the dryness the channels will be blocked. Then the proper knowledge is blocked because the correct pathway is blocked. This blockage is the cause of disease“

~ Vaidya Krishna Raju







How to Do Self-Abhyanga

Download the Self-Abhyanga instruction poster here.
Verse 9: Important Areas in Abhyanga and When to Avoid Abhyanga 
śiraḥśravaṇapādeṣu taṃ viśeṣeṇa śīlayet 
varjyo 'bhyaṅgaḥ kaphagrastakṛtasaṃśuddhyajīrṇibhiḥ
Massage should be especially done on head, ears, and legs (these need to be done more). 
Also ears, feet (increases circulation) big toe good for eyes, navel (main vata places)
When to do - morning or evening before shower. Ideally in the morning.
Śiro Pichu + Pad Abhyanga - before sleep.
“Disease does not go near one who massages his feet before sleeping, just as snakes do not approach eagles”.
- Ancient Saying

Self-Abhyanga Contra-Indications

  • Increase in Kapha in the body
  • Soon after shodana karma like pancakarmas
  • During indigestion
  • During nausea
  • Congestion, cold, jvara, flu
  • Headache
  • Menstruation
  • Strong ama doṣa - e.g. amavata / Rheumatoid arthritis - or give svedana / with certain oils
  • Post certain surgeries
  • New tattoos - avoid that area
  • First trimester of pregnancy
  • 8th month of pregnancy - for receiving abh - or any body treatments, unless your physician applies.

Oils to Use

  • If you can get your hands on an Ayurvedic medicated massage oil that is suitable for you, that will be beneficial.
      • Medicated or herbalised oils are created when herbs are cooked into certain oils. This is different to just adding essentials oils to a base oil, which is not really an Ayurvedic medicated oil.
      • When the oil becomes medicated, it becomes a "nano-medicine" that has the ability to enter the body on a deep level (suksma karma).
  • Sesame oil in winter/cold climate & coconut oil in summer or for those with sensitive skin.
      • You can also use other oils like almond and macadamia, or whatever is locally grown to you, but the former two are primarily recommended by Ayurveda.
  • Warm up your massage oil. This will increase the effect and nourishing quality as the oil can penetrate deeper into the skin and tissues.

Giving Abhyanga to Others

After people receive an authentic Ayurvedic massage, mostly they experience an underlying sustaining bliss, while simultaneously their grounded, relaxed and refreshed mind is surprised. They often ask "what did I just receive?"
If you want to learn to give Abhyanga to others, check out the Abhyanga: Ayurvedic Oil Massage course


References

  • *Altern Ther Health Med. 2012;18;960;11-18 - Massage increases oxytocin and reduces adrenocorticotropin hormone in humans - Vera Morhenn 1, Laura E Beavin, Paul J Zak
  • Massage increases oxytocin and reduces adrenocorticotropin hormone in humans - Vera Morhenn 1, Laura E Beavin, Paul J Zak

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Please seek advice from a qualified practitioner before starting any new health practice.


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