Posted on: April 8, 2016 at 12:06 pm
Last updated: September 5, 2020 at 11:38 am

An abhyanga (abee-yan-ga) is a one or two-person choreographed massage. Abhyanga uses specially prepared oils that are mixed with medicinal herbs that are specific to the needs of the individual. It is designed to bring flexibility to the muscles and joints, nourishment to the tissues, deep relaxation to the muscles, and calmness to the mind.


Enjoy the Benefits of Massage at Home

You can enjoy the health benefits of this daily massage practice at home. This short 15-minute massage will help to improve your circulation, moisturize your skin, eliminate toxins, increase your focus and mental alertness and you may even find that you are more relaxed during the day.

Why should you massage daily?

  • Eases stress
  • Provide reliefs from aches, pain, and arthritis
  • Improves circulation
  • Eliminates toxins
  • Brings flexibility to joints and muscles

What oil is best?

There are numerous oils available for sale online and in health food stores. You can even purchase Ayurvedic Massage Oils that are infused with herbs to balance your specific dosha. Sesame oil is loaded with antioxidants that make your skin look and feel younger. The fatty acids in sesame oil also help to repair dry, damaged skin. While Ayurveda strongly recommends sesame oil for massage because it rejuvenates and revitalizes the body, some individuals with sensitive skin may prefer a coconut or jojoba oil.


Preparation for massage

1. First, cure your sesame oil. Curing simply involves heating the oil slowly in a pan before using it for massage. You have two options to cure your oil. The first is to place 2-3 ounces of oil in a pan. Heat the oil to the boiling temperature of water, 212 degrees F, and allow to cool. The second option is to place the oil in a squeezable bottle and place it in a bowl of hot water for about five minutes, or till comfortably warm. The oil should be warmed each time you use it.

2. In general, for this massage, you will use the open part of your hand, and fingertips to massage your body. Use a circular motion over rounded areas of your body (head, knees, elbows) and straight strokes over the longer areas of your body (neck, legs). Use moderate pressure on most of your body and lighter pressure over your heart, abdomen and any sensitive areas.

3. You should be in a warm room with no drafts. Completely undress. Place a towel on the floor where you will be standing, or on a chair if you are sitting, to catch any spills and to keep you from slipping. You should have a “designated” towel for this, as oil can be difficult to remove from towels.

Steps for massage

1. If you have dry skin, you may want to cover your body with a thin layer of oil to allow for additional absorption, before you begin the massage.


2. Begin with your head. Apply a small amount of oil in your hands, rub your hands together, using your fingertips to gently massage your scalp. Be sure to take additional oil for each step as needed.

3. Next massage your face and outer ears with your fingertips in a gentle circular motion.

4. With long strokes, use open palms, massage the front of the neck and the collarbone, the back of the neck and upper shoulders.

5. Massage your arms, using a circular motion on your shoulders, elbows and long, use a back-and-forth stroke on your upper arms and forearms.

6. Massage your wrists, hands, palms, and each finger. Use a circular motion on the wrists and hands, use a back-and-forth stroke on fingers. Complete one hand and then the other.

7. Move to the torso. Raise your right arm and start with a long downward stroke from your armpit across your chest. Do the same with your left side. Start in the upper right area of your chest moving across to the left side, using a gentle circular, clockwise motion. This helps to drain the lymph and remove toxins from the body.

8. Continue massaging the front of the torso with large circular motions over the entire abdomen. Start in the bottom lower right corner of the abdomen then up and over to the left and back around. This direction follows the direction of bowel flow. This is also a wonderful gentle massage to use when you are feeling bloated or gassy.

9. Massage the sides of your torso and your back using long even strokes, reaching from the ribcage to your hips. Move to your buttocks using your palms and fingertips as needed for any tension spots.

10. Massage your legs, using a circular motion over your hips, knees, and ankles. Use a back and forth long stroke over your thighs and calves.

11. Lastly, massage the bottoms of your feet. Use the palm of your hand to massage your feet and soles. If you have excessive amounts of oil on your feet, be sure to walk on the towel that is on the floor to your tub or shower, so you don’t slip.

12. Follow your oil massage with a warm shower, using a mild soap. You will need to use extra shampoo to get the oil out of your hair.

Extra dry skin?

Consider letting the oil soak in your skin for an extra 5-10 minutes. During this time you could meditate or perform any personal hygiene you may need to do, brush your teeth, clip your fingernails, shave, do your eyebrows, etc.

When NOT to do Abhyanga

Talk to your doctor before doing any type of massage if you are pregnant or have a medical condition that is concerning.

If you have any red, painful or swollen areas or masses on the body.

If you have infected skin or cuts.

If you have an acute illness, such as cold, flu, stomach flu, fever, etc.

Elisha McFarland
Doctor of Naturopathy
Elisha McFarland, N.D. is the founder of My Health Maven. She turned her debilitating illness from mercury poisoning into a dedicated passion for helping people.

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