What Is Abhyanga?
"Abhyanga is a form of Ayurvedic therapy that involves massage of the entire body from the head to the toe with Dosha-specific herb-infused oil. The oil is commonly pre-mixed with herbs for specific conditions, but it can be made more simply. Traditionally, the base oil used is sesame but, Ayurveda Professionals base the oil section on the Dosha type and hence herb oils like Ashwagandha oil, Mahanarayan oil, Bhringaraj oil, Brahmi oil and Neem oil can be used and, in some cases, to correct Kapha Dosha Almond Oil or corn oil might also be used." wiki. I personally would not use corn oil and keep it organic.
I thought it might be wise to speak about this one from Ayurveda. Many of us with a disciplined yoga sadhana (practice) know the importance of Abhyanga. One does not need herbs to pursue a daily abhyanga. You can just make sure for starters that you have the right oil based for your dosha (constitution). Remember in regard to constitution, one has to pay attention to seasons too. In the summer, I find organic coconut oil, that I use for oil pulling (ayurvedic mouth care), the best because it is a cooling oil. When I put coconut oil on, I feel like I am creating a natural air conditioner on my body. Otherwise, my favorite
go- to is the tridoshic organic sesame oil. In Winter, if you get cold easy, sesame oil helps me warm up daily. I find it absorbs well on my skin and hair too.
One easy way to look at herbs involved is to go to the health food store and see if they have a collection of Vata / Pitta / Kapha (air/ether, fire/ water, earth/water) herbal oils. Or know that as soon as Rosa Albus Apothecary is up and running, this is one of the herbal products I plan on creating. Here are some thoughts with herbs based on dosha / constitution.
Do You run hot or cold? Do You run dry or moist? These are basic questions you can ask yourself to nail down what herbal oils are good for you daily in regard to abhyanga. Also, remember do not forget seasonal changes. Seasonal shifts as you know affects us all. In fact, when a season is shifting that is when we tend to get sick. Also, we can all pay attention to abhyanga use for ie. when we need to relax and decompress. Do you have trouble with the idea of someone you don't know massaging you? Sure! Well, you can learn abhyanga for your Self and do it every day for your health! Here is why.
Benefits of Abhyanga
Improved circulation, strength, vision and stamina
Increased moisture for softer skin
Improved texture, tone and overall skin appearance
Strengthened bodily tissues, lubrication of internal organs, bones and joints and nerves that need it
Better sleep and overall health
improves lymph drainage and circulatory movement
increases hydration in You. Hydration is about healthy water level and Oil!!
Brush your skin with a dry brush (helps move your lymph. and please find a natural/ organic skin brush) to remove dead skin, dirt and debris from its surface as well as prepare the skin’s pores for receiving the oil. Better than a wash rag! Use something like a face loofa for the face please.
Warm your oil – you can do this while dry brushing if warming your oil in a pot or rub the oil between your palms if you are short on time.
Gently but firmly, massage your body all over (work centripetal towards your heart please): begin with the neck, working your way down to your feet. Use long strokes for limbs and short strokes for joints. Don’t forget fingers and toes and pay extra attention to the soles of your feet, as they contain all the nerve endings and important marma points, or conjunctions of prana, life force energy.
Let the oil sit for 5-10 minutes ( I like in the morning or at night before bed. I use a light amount all over every day. If I am showering, I use extra, leave on like a meditation, then shower and let the excess to wash off with water...not soap). Don’t skip this step, as abhyanga’s deeper benefits depend on the body’s absorption of the oil and herbs. It takes a few minutes for the oil to penetrate to the deepest layers of the skin, and another several minutes for it to penetrate the tissues of the internal body. This is an excellent time to prepare some tea or practice some deep breathing.
Rinse excess oil with a cold shower on warm days, or a cool shower (but not hot) on cold days. Don’t skip this step either, as excess oil will clog the pores. (Remember you can use just a thin layer for everyday use, unless you are washing afterwards)
Based on Constitution for oil and herb
*Vata folk need to tend to their nervous system and being dry
*Pitta folk need to tend to excess heat and inflammation. If their skin gets ie. skin conditions,-rosacea for example pay attention to oil and herbs that help the skin and not irritate it. With some chronic skin conditions, internal herbal formulations are needed. It is not just a topical thing!
*Kapha folk need to tend to poor circulation and digestion
Remember, what we put on our skin is absorbed. If you cannot eat it, it is usually best to not put it on your skin. Now look at the Skin products and Industry!! Now when I say that what are you putting on your skin every day? Everything is absorbed. You might as well pay attention to how that herb / oil and other skin products are nourishing your skin and insides, and not putting chemicals and byproducts inside You!!
Lotus Anwen Wachiwi Sagebrush