Abhyanga in Ayurveda means oil massage. It is suggested as both as a preventive modality in everyday life of a person as well as for treatment of diseases. Depending on the constitution of a person, different type of oils are brought in preferred usage.
How it is performed?
A generous amount of oil or medicated oil preparation is smeared on the entire body and massaged in upward strokes. The most common oils used are coconut oil, sesame oil. Which oil should be used is determined on the Ayurvedic body constitution of a person i.e. Vata type should use black sesame seed oil or castor oil which is warm in nature, pitta types are generally recommended coconut oil due to its cooling nature. They can also use ghee or sunflower oil. For kapha type, almond oil can be used. Sometimes a cocktail of oils is also advisable according to the season. Mustard oil can also be used for kapha.
The type of oil used also varies with the region. The northern parts of oil generally uses mustard oil as a base for abhyanga oil recipes while the southern parts use sesame and coconut oil.
Benefits of Abhyanga
There are a ton of benefits of doing abhyanga everyday. Although it is recommended to perform everyday, modern lifestyle and work requirements does not allow for such liberties. It is still good to squeeze in at least one thorough abhyanga session once a week.
Ashtanga Hridaya says:
अभ्यंगं आचरेत नत्यं , स जरा श्रमवातहा ।
द्रिश्टि प्र्साद पुश्टि आयु: सुस्वप्न सुत्वक् दायकृत् ॥
शिर: श्रवणपादेषु तं विशेषेण शीलयेत ।
वज्योरडभयडग: कफग्रस्थकृत संशुद्दि अजीर्णिभि: ॥
abhyaṅgaṃ ācaret nityaṃ, sa jarā śramavātahā |
dṛṣṭi prasāda puṣṭi āyu: susvapna sutvak dārḍhyakṛt ||
śira: śravaṇapādeṣu taṃ viśeṣeṇa śīlayet |
varjyo’bhyaṅga: kaphagrasthakṛta saṃśuddhi ajīrṇibhi: ||
The shloka says that abhyanga should be performed daily. Its benefits include
- Anti ageing and delayed ageing
- Removal of excess Vata which is the reason for frequent aches and pains. It is also great for joint degeneration, weak bones and general weakness.
- It improves vision.
- Improves skin tone, complexion and shine of the skin.
- It nourishes bodily tissues. It also strengthens the central nervous system as well as the whole body.
- It improves digestion as well as increases the capacity of elimination.
- Induces good sleep and gets rig of chronic fatigue. It is used traditionally as one of the most important therapies for stress management.
- Clears the lymphatic system and facilitates detoxification.
- Stimulates the marma points and nourishes the dhatus.
The above shloka also mentions that abhyanga should be avoided when there is an increase of kapha in the system for example during cold, flu, respiratory diseases like sinus. as well as after panchakarma or during indigestion and diaorrhea.
It is also not advisable to be done during any serious skin diseases.
Although a lot of medicated oil preparations are available in Ayurvedic pharmacies like siddha Ayurvedic oil which is quite popular. You can also DIY and make your own abhyanga oil for everyday usage.
Recipe For Vata Or Kapha Type Person
- 1 cup pure black sesame seed oil
- ½ cup of fresh ginger, turmeric, cloves and basil. Add in any quantity with a total of ½ cup.
- You can add any of the heating essential oils which are considered suitable for vata. A few of them are basil, orange, clove, geranium, jasmine or rose.
- In a pan, add the oil and heat it till it is warm enough that you start seeing bubbles. Do not overheat and turn off the heat.
- Add all the herbs and stir them properly.
- Cover with a lid and let it cool and steep for a day. Strain the next day through a muslin cloth.
- Now add about 5 drops of your preferred essential oil.
You can use the same recipe for kapha person but the base oil is replaced by mustard oil or sunflower oil. For essential oils any of these i.e black pepper, cedar or pine, eucalyptus, camphor, musk, patchouli is suitable but should be used in small proportions. These essential oils are sharp so should be used in very little quantity.
Pitta body type cannot use hot oils and sharp natured essential oils. We can use more traditional Ayurvedic herbs which are not heating in nature.
Abhyanga Oil Recipe For Pitta Type Person
Make a mixture of following herbs in any proportion to create a total of 1 ounce.
- Hibiscus (Gudhal) flowers
- Guduchi stems
- Lavender flowers
- Shatavari root
- Manjishta root
- Gotu kola aerial parts
- Rose flowers
If you can find chandan or rakta chandana, that can also be a great addition as it has additional benefits for the skin and it is very cooling.
Take about 6 ounces carrier oil i.e either sunflower oil or coconut oil. Also take about 16 ounces water.
- In a pan, add the roots type of herbs and add water. Start boiling the mixture.
- Bring to boil and then simmer to low flame till the decoction becomes 50% of its original quantity.
- Now remove from heat and add guduchi stems, gotu kola aerial parts and the flowers.
- Cover the lid and let them steep for an hour.
- After an hour, again add the mixture to the pan and start the heat
- Let the heat be on high till it you start seeing bubbles.
- Simmer quickly and reduce the till you can still see water content in the mixture.
- When all the water is evaporated, remove from heat and cool.
- Store in air tight glass bottle away from direct sunlight.
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