Abhyanga is the anointing of the body with warm, medicated oil. For thousands of years, people have used abhyanga to improve sleep, calm the nervous system and increase longevity. Abhyanga helps the skin release toxins and also facilitates the trans-dermal absorption of nutrients and healing properties from the herbs and oils used in massage. It is used as a medicine for certain disorders.
There are seven layers of tissue in the body (called dhatus) and each successive layer is more concentrated and life-giving. For oil to reach the deepest layers it must be massaged into the body for about fifteen-minutes. The benefits of Abhyanga as outlined in the Vedic texts (Charaka Samhita, Sushruta Samhita and Ashtanga Hrdayam) are as follows:
- Recharges and rejuvenates mind and body.
- Delays the aging process and promotes longevity.
- Produces greater vitality, energy, stamina and physical endurance.
- Lubricates the joints and promotes flexibility.
- Increase muscle strength and firmness.
- Nourishes, tones and purifies the skin.
- Enhances complexion and lustre of skin (more radiant/ attractive, softer/smoother).
- Stimulates the circulation and prevents impurities from accumulating in the body resulting in greater resistance to illness and faster recovery from trauma, injury or disease.
- Pacifies the doshas (especially vata & pitta).
- Dissolves accumulated stress or toxins from the mind and body (stress causes skin to age prematurely).
- Increases mental alertness.
- Calms the nerves and balances mind and emotions.
- Improves elimination of impurities from the body.
- Allows more refreshing, deeper sleep.
- Reduces bacterial infections.
- Nourishes the seven different types of body tissue and the seven layers of the skin.
- Applying oil to the scalp makes the hair grow luxuriantly, thick, soft and glossy; it also soothes and invigorates the sense organs and removes facial wrinkles.
- Applying oil to the ears rectifies disorders of the ear which are due to increased vata; it also improves stiffness in the neck and jaw.
- Applying oil to the feet alleviates stiffness, roughness and fatigue whilst also strengthening and firming them. It also enhances vision, pacifies vata, reduces sciatica symptoms and tones local veins and ligaments.
Self-massage is ideally undertaken each morning but early evenings are also very effective. Try to avoid massaging immediately after a large meal so as not to interfere with digestion.
Sesame oil is the best oil to use on the body while coconut oil (good for delaying greying and receding of hair) is best used on the head and face.