Through self-massage we allow ourselves to step out of the rat race (our daily lives) and deeply step into the parasympathetic nervous system. This system is responsible for the body's rest and digest response. So when the body is relaxed, resting or feeding it can release toxins from the deeper layers of the tissues and organ systems. Abhyanga (self oleation) aids in cultivating stability and enhances that sense of groundedness within oneself by bringing awareness into the body.
Either getting a warm oil massage or oiling your body with warm oils in Sanskrit is referred to as ‘Snehana’, which means love and tenderness. The effects of oiling the body are similar to the effects of saturating yourself with love. So using oils internally and externally is the perfect way to establish and attitude of kindness, steadiness and curiosity towards yourself.
A few benefits of Self-Massage:
Nourishes the body
Decreases the effects of ageing
Benefits sleep patterns
Strengthens and tones the body and benefits the skin
Pacifies Vata, harmonizes Pitta, stimulates Kapha
Massage yourself with warm oil. Create that ‘sacred moment’ for yourself, where you warm the oil and apply it on your body from top to bottom. It doesn't need to take long, just getting the oil on yourself is most important. If you have some more time then take the time to explore the landscapes of your body. Especially when I have a lot on my to-do list, then I apply the oil and while I allow the body to absorb the oil I either do my meditation/ pranayama practice or prepare breakfast :)
Oils for the Doshas:
Vata: cold pressed Sesame Oil. Sesame oil is very warming and is a heavy oil, which helps to ground and nourish vata deeply. Generously massaging the body from top to bottom to encourage downward movement - grounding
Pitta: Coconut Oil (make sure to warm it up, so it becomes liquid), coconut is cooling. Also Pitta needs grounding so here massage from top to bottom
Kapha: since Kapha is already oily you don’t wanna use too much oil. However Kapha needs some melting and since sesame oil is heating it is suggested to also use warm sesame oil for Kapha (however only a little so you can gently stroke the body). Here massage the body from bottom to top, bringing energy up - energising.
How to do Self-Massage
Put your oil in a squeeze bottle. Warm your oil by placing it in a hot water bath using a bowl or a mug.
Undress completely and stand on a towel or mat.
Start with a small amount of oil in your hands. Gently rub the oil into your scalp, massage the oil into your scalp & hair with your fingertips. If you don’t want oil in your hair, still start with head, without oil
Vigorously work down your body until the oil has been massaged into every part of your body.
Use long strokes on your limbs and circular strokes over all your joints, chest and abdomen. Cover every inch of skin, attuning to your bodily tissues with your hands. Spend extra time on areas that are less integrated (for some this is thighs, buttocks, breasts). Massage the soles of your feet, don’t skip this part - it’s good for deep sleep.
Rinse the oil in the shower. Soap is drying and ruins the skin’s immune protective power, try to only use soap under armpits and your privates.
The Do’s and Don’ts of Self-Massage
Use the same spot for your oil massage: choose somewhere warm, private and comfortable.
Take time at least once per week: while your day to day massage might be quick try to have 1x per week where you can spend 10-20 minutes.
Use intuition to explore where on your body you need a little extra attention.
Warm your oil before doing your massage.
Use your favourite towel afterwards; your towels and bathrobe will absorb the oil from your skin. Also don’t put your towel in the dryer, the oil could cause it to catch fire.
Do it in a cold place: if you are in an uninviting environment you will rush instead of taking the time to enjoy.
Use rancid oil: If the oil smells off... it is. Your skin is your body’s largest digestive organ. What you put onto your skin goes into your blood. Buy organic cold-pressed oil and add high-grade essential oils for specific healing benefits.
Massage over infected areas, broken skin, swollen, painful areas or masses on the body. When you have fever or flu, when you have indigestion, when pregnant or if you have a medical condition unless your healthcare practitioner has given you the okay to do abyhanga.
During menstruation, if you decide to still do abyhanga while menstruating keep it short.
Rush: Obvious as this may seem, rushing around with oil on your skin is downright dangerous. You’re slippery.
Clog your drains: Oil down the drain hardens and builds up into a plaque. Doing oil massage after showering prevents this. If you prefer to oil massage before you shower, flush your pipes with heated diluted vinegar.
Give up: The benefits of oil massage on the mind and emotional body are profound. Often we think talking our problems out will help. Sometimes that works – but other times it brings more energy into the head. When you’re feeling disconnected, self-loathing, or dissatisfied, feed your body love with oil and your hands. You may be surprised at how quickly you can shift into a balanced state of being
So Oil Up!