What is Abhyanga Massage and How to Do It

woman pouring body oil in her hands
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Self-care is one of those things that’s seriously necessary, but completely underutilized. And, knowing how to do an abhyanga massage goes a long way to giving you at least one thing you can do in the realm of self-care.

What usually gets a lot of folks though is the thought that they have to do it every day and that if they miss a day they’ve just ruined things.

Or, they’ll think, “I can’t do it in the morning (or evening), so I just can’t do it.”

You don’t have to do an abhyanga oil massage every day, or at a certain time of day, and you won’t screw up a routine if you can’t do it every day.

Self-Massage: How and Why You Should Do It Daily?

The Ayurvedic practice of Abhyanga is such a lovely tradition.

Having a regular abhyanga practice is best, but even just adding it into your daily routine 1-2 times a week is still better than not doing it at all.

So, do yourself a favor and start incorporating some form of daily massage into your daily routine.

By now you might be thinking, “ok girl, but what is the benefit to me?”

And, that would be a really good question.

Further Research of Abhyanga Massage

Aside from the obvious benefit of moisturizing your whole body, self-massage is a great way to do many other things.

The benefits and effects of Abhyanga:

  • It tones and adds vigor to the body tissues
  • It decreases the effects of aging
  • Increases blood flow to the skin
  • Helps to firm skin
  • Stimulates internal organs
  • Helps you to sleep better
  • Helps to diminish the appearance of cellulite
  • It can help calm the nervous system

Your skin is your largest organ, and taking extra care with it can improve your overall health.

Do any of those pique your interest? I know at least a few of those benefits piqued mine.

It’s super relaxing and the best way to either start your day or end your day.

If you add a little dry brushing to your morning routine and follow it with a self-massage it can be invigorating.

But, if you just want to wind down and relax then doing a self-massage before bed is a great way to relax.

Try lighting a few candles and putting on some of your favorite music. This will help you with relaxing while you’re massaging your body.

image of a woman sitting by a tub

How to Do Self-Massage

We’ve gone over the benefits of giving yourself a self-massage, now let’s go over how to actually give yourself a self-massage.

It’s not overly complicated or even an exact science. You don’t even have to follow the directions I have laid out below, but knowing is half the battle right?

This is a great way to start giving yourself a little one-on-one time.

Some alone time.

Some breathing room.

Use this time to really focus on yourself.

Create a little sacred time that is dedicated to you and just pamper yourself. It’s easy to be constantly on the go and doing for others, so this is your little slice of that pie.

Meaning put everything else out of your mind (yes, even that to-do list) and focus on giving yourself some nourishment.

1 Warm your oil

For the oil, I use Banyan Botanical Daily Massage oil. They have a few different blends you can try. They also have just a straight sesame oil.

Each body type, or dosha, will have an oil that’s better for them and this type of massage.

But, you can use any herbal oils you’d like.

I put it in one of these amber squeeze bottles.

It does come with six bottles, but you can always create a lovely oil and either give some away as presents or make different scents for yourself.

Once your oil is in your bottle you’ll want to get a cup with some really hot water to set it in.

This will help make the oil warm for your massage. It’s so much better than trying to warm it in your hands first.

The warmth from the oil will help to relax your muscles and encourage blood flow to your skin.

2 Sit in a warm room in a towel

image in a bath robe drinking tea

You can either sit in a towel for the massage or sit on the towel. Personally, I sit on the towel that way it doesn’t get too oily.

I would place a towel down for your feet too. A hand towel will work for that. This will keep you from slipping if you have to stand up ;).

3 Apply oil generously to your entire body

Don’t skimp on the oil… really. This is where the nourishment comes from.

Not to mention, the more oil you use the easier it is to massage your body.

Don’t worry about being too oily. What your body doesn’t absorb will be washed off in the shower or absorbed later.

4 Start on your arms and legs

Starting with your legs, massage oil in long strokes from your lower legs up towards your stomach. Make sure you rub in circular strokes over your joints.

Work the oil towards the center of your body. 

Once you get to your stomach slowly work in a circular motion and clockwise pattern over your intestines (be careful not to rub in circles too hard or long – you can cause yourself to have diarrhea).

Then work in long strokes from your hands up your arms to your shoulders and chest.

5 Make sure to massage your scalp and feet

image of woman massaging her feet

Massaging your scalp and your feet are quite possibly the best parts of a self-massage in my opinion.

For the head massage, use your fingers on your scalp. Get a small amount of oil on your hands but only use your fingertips on your scalp when you’re massaging.

This minimizes the amount of oil that gets in your hair but allows for a lovely message that your scalp will really enjoy.

For your feet, make sure you don’t miss any portions of your feet when doing the foot massage. Apply even and gentle pressure.

Here’s a great diagram of pressure points and their corresponding body part that you can reference.

6 Oil your ear canal

Stick your pinky finger into the warm oil and gently rub the oil into your ears and then massage the lobes gently. There are quite a few pressure points on your ears and massaging the outer portions of your ear can help to relieve a lot of tension in the body.

Oiling the canal keeps it lubricated and cleansed of debris. It also helps to prevent earaches.

7 Be sure to wash your feet first

Since you’ll be taking a shower to wash off the oil you want to make sure you wash off your feet first so you don’t slip in the shower.

Believe me, almost slipping and busting your bottom on the edge of the tub/shower is not glamorous or fun, not that I would know or anything.

Paper towels can also be used to wipe away excess oil.

8 Enjoy a warm bath or shower

image of a woman in a bath

This is one of those moments I relish. I love standing in a hot shower and just relaxing.

So, this is the perfect opportunity to really do that. You get to stand there in the hot shower. Be sure to run your hands over your body to help the warm water rinse off the excess oil.

9 Mild Soap or Dusting Powder

If you have to go to work or start your day, then it might be better for you to use a mild soap or dusting powder to get off the residue.  Check out Banyan Botanicals Calamus powder here.

If you’re not sure what kind of mild soap to use then you might like this soap by Dr. Bonner. I love that lavender and that it’s really gentle on the skin.

10 Dry with a towel designated for self-massage

It’s really great to have a towel that’s dedicated to drying off after self-massage because it will contain oil from the residue.

Since the towel has residual oil it is advised not to put it in the dryer once you wash it. Safety hazard and all.

A good rule of thumb is to throw it out after a couple of months and then designate a new towel for self-massage, but that’s totally up to you. If you find that washing the towel with a good detergent gets out the oil then you should be ok.

11 Put on cotton socks

If I had to not wash the oil off one part of my body it would be my feet.

Yes, suds and soap from lathering the rest of your body might get onto your feet, but if you don’t actively scrub them then you might be ok.

Leaving the oil on your feet will help keep them soft and free from rough spots. Not to mention it’s really soothing and relaxing.

Getting a nice pair of cotton socks to slip on makes it easy when you step out of the shower.

Using socks helps to keep you from slipping as you walk down the hall.

Abhyanga: Winter Months

This popular massage is a great way to warm the body in the winter.

By massaging the body parts with a warming body oil you are able to warm the body on a deeper level to prevent the body from getting too cold.

As part of a the daily routine you can be sure to live a healthy lifestyle with adding this even just a couple of minutes a day.

If you’d like a little idea of what self-massage looks like then check out this video showing you how it’s done. Also, self-massage is also called Abhyanga in Ayurveda.

Don’t worry, I’ll write about Ayurveda in the coming months so you’ll learn about that too.

Did you know that Self-Massage (or Abhyanga) is a part of the ancient practice of Ayurveda which is a sister branch to yoga?

Ayurveda is a 5,000-year-old science that believes in treating the whole person rather than treating the symptoms.

To learn more about how you can use Ayurveda in your life I recommend going to Banyan Botanicals Dosha Quiz to learn more about yourself and your particular constitution (or dosha).

There is a lot to this science so please don’t feel the need to know everything right off the bat.

Here is a great book by Sahara Rose called Eat Feel Fresh. It’s brand new and full of all sorts of recipes and help. She also has a book called the Idiots Guide to Ayurveda that is particularly popular. It’s a must read if you’re trying to learn more about Ayurveda.

Check out more posts related to yoga below:

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woman massaging her foot

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