Abhyanga is an Ayurvedic massage used for more than thousands of years as a holistic approach to promoting good health. This ancient massage is done with warm medicinal and essential herbal oils as a remedy against the stressors in your body, mind, and spirit.
In Ayurveda, the body has 3 doshas or energies: Kapha (space and air element), Pitta (fire and water element), and Vata (water and earth element). An imbalance in the doshas, specifically an excess of Vata dosha, results in irritability, anxiety, fear, insomnia, and many other disorders.
Abhyanga massage aims to balance out the doshas, so we achieve good health, sound mind, and spiritual fulfillment.
In this article, you’ll learn more about Abhyanga massage and how it’s different from a typical massage. From the basic steps, preparations, and health benefits, you’ll understand why this ancient divine massage can give you the ultimate relaxation and healing experience.
What Is An Abhyanga Massage?
Abhyanga is a form of Ayurvedic massage therapy that uses oils and energy points to promote overall health. In Abhyanga, herbal oils are massaged over your entire body, from head to toe. These oils are heated to match your body’s warm temperature. The choice of herbal oils will depend on your doshas or body needs.
Unlike a typical massage, Abhyanga is recommended to be done daily on your own. While there are trained professionals to perform Abhyanga, you can also tailor your self-massage practice according to your doshas.
Herbal oils are an essential part of a good Abhyanga massage. The main difference between Abhyanga and a typical massage is its focus on the use of essential oils and energy points. While a typical massage also uses oils, it’s more focused on pressure points, joints, and muscles of the body.
Meanwhile, Abhyanga is often called the “oil massage” because it gives particular importance to the specification and temperatures of herbal oils to fit your health and dosha needs.
Let’s discover now why you should try this treatment by learning about the health benefits of Abhyanga massage.
10 Amazing Health Benefits Of Abhyanga Massage
If you are curious to know what you can get from this treatment, we listed below the10 main health benefits of Abhyanga massage.
- Releases Stress
- Clears Mind & Promotes Better Focus
- Eases Muscle Tension & Joint Pains
- Stimulates Blood Circulation
- Improves Lymphatic Drainage
- Strengthens Stamina
- Facilitates Weight Loss
- Nourishes Skin & Hair
- Regulates High Blood Pressure
- Promotes Good Sleep
1. Releases Stress
In Ayurvedic medicine, stress or “Sahasa” is related to all modern-day diseases. Sahasa causes Ojahksaya or reduced immunity, making you more susceptible to ailments.
Abhyanga massage relaxes your body and mind through the rhythmic motions of the massage and the application of warm herbal oils. A combination of heat and massage is potent for activating the parasympathetic nervous system. It lowers your heart rate and stress hormone levels and puts you in a relaxed state. Self-massage with Abhyanga daily can help you cope better with everyday stressors. 1
2. Clears Mind & Promotes Better Focus
Abhyanga massage is also beneficial for improving your cognitive functions. There are several Abhyanga oils you can use to help clear your mind, improve your memory, and promote better focus.
Oils like Brahmi are one of the best Ayurvedic herbs for the mind. Brahmi is derived from Gotu Kola, a plant high in triterpene compounds that help the brain function better. You can combine Brahmi with the traditional sesame oil to keep your mind sharp throughout the day.
3. Eases Muscle Tension & Joint Pains
Abhyanga massage is also good at alleviating the tension and pain in your joints and muscles. The massage uses downward, long, firm strokes on the limbs and circular strokes on the joints. Studies show that these specific motions in Abhyanga are an effective way of improving muscular blood circulation and easing tension and aches. It also enhances venous drainage of joints for proper blood flow.2
Abhyanga oils like Ashwagandha Bala Oil are also great for promoting strong, healthy muscles. Meanwhile, Mahanarayan Oil is used to support flexible movement in the joints.
4. Stimulates Blood Circulation
One of the most important health benefits of Abhyanga massage is that it can stimulate your blood circulation. The warm oil and the massage technique help the blood move freely. Abhyanga improves blood flow even in areas with blockages by increasing energy flow in your body.
Brahmi oil is an ideal Abhyanga oil if you want to improve your poor blood circulation. This potent oil is from Gotu Kola, a powerful herb with flavonoids that can improve blood circulation and prevent blood clots in the veins.
Read More: Best Herbs For Blood Circulation
5. Improves Lymphatic Drainage
Abhyanga massage can boost your immunity by strengthening the lymphatic system. Lymphatic drainage is the immune system’s process of maintaining fluid balance in our body. It absorbs nutrients back into the blood while the excess fluid, waste, and toxins are eliminated.
Some oils combined with a more vigorous Abhyanga massage technique help expand and unblock lymphatic vessels, promoting better lymph flow. The circular motions over lymph nodes improve lymphatic drainage and venous drainage.3
In Ayurveda, restoring the imbalance in the Kapha Dosha, the energy that controls immunity, helps stimulate and strengthen the lymphatic system. The commonly used Abyhanga oil for lymphatic drainage and circulation is the Kapha oil, a mix of punarnava, chitrak, calamus, and rosemary.
Other herbal oils promoting lymphatic drainage are Red Root, Ocotillo, Stillingia, Astragalus, and Ginger.
Read More: Best Herbs For Lymphatic System
6. Strengthens Stamina
Abhyanga’s massage techniques and essential oil can give you energy and stamina. As the massaging action improves your blood circulation, it leads to a faster metabolism, muscle growth, and healthy body cells. With good blood flow, more oxygen can flow to your muscles. This helps in enhancing your stamina to endure longer workouts or physical activities.
In addition, the use of potent oils like Ashwagandha Bala Oil can increase your strength and stamina. Ashwagandha is an herb that helps build healthy muscle mass and revitalize weak muscles by improving blood circulation.
7. Facilitates Weight Loss
In Ayurveda, being overweight or obese is considered a result of an energy imbalance. The use of medicated oils in Abhyanga purifies the body and brings back the balance of doshas, leading to weight loss.
Abhyanga also promotes weight loss by strengthening lymphatic drainage. The process is considered a “fat burner” because it gets rid of body waste, toxins, and excess fat or metabolites. Warm oils also aid in the removal of toxins from our bodies by loosening them from the soft tissues, making them easier to excrete.
Read More: 7 Natural Fat Burners
8. Nourishes Skin & Hair
The rich oil used in Abhyanga feeds your skin and nourishes your hair. Applying warm essential oils to your hair nourishes dry and damaged hair. When massaged directly into the hair cuticle, it moisturizes and makes your hair stronger and less prone to split ends.
Bhringraj Oil is a great choice for Abhangya if you want to focus on hair health. In Ayurveda, it’s known as the “ruler of hair” because it can promote hair growth and prevent premature graying of hair.
Abhyanga oil can soften and smoothen rough and dry skin. The massage motion increases blood flow, reducing wrinkles and cellulite. The traditional sesame oil is excellent at hydrating the skin, warming the body, and increasing circulation.
9. Regulates High Blood Pressure
Abhyanga can also be beneficial for individuals with high blood pressure. The warm massage leads to vasodilation, widening the blood vessels that improve blood flow. As the blood flow improves, it reduces the resistance in the arteries, leading to lower blood pressure.
Studies show that Abhyanga’s ability to reduce stress is also beneficial in lowering the heart rate and blood pressure in prehypertensive individuals.4
10. Promotes Good Sleep
If you’re having trouble sleeping, taking the time to do Abhyanga self-massage before bedtime may help. It aids in restoring Vata imbalance, which causes sleep issues and insomnia. Melatonin, the hormone that regulates our circadian rhythm for the wake-sleep cycle, is activated by warm oil and gentle massage.
Sesame or almond oil are good Abhyanga oils that help you sleep better. It induces calm feelings, relaxes your muscles, and prepares your body for sleep.
Read More: 10 Things Not To Do Before To Sleep
How To Practice Abhyanga Self-Massage?
Although it’s recommended to visit a trained practitioner for Abyhanga massage once a month, you can also do it yourself. This allows you to perform the massage daily and whenever convenient for you.
The most important part of Abhyanga massage is choosing the right oil for your needs. Sesame and coconut oil are the traditional choices for daily self-Abhyanga. However, there is an assortment of oils you can choose from. Here are some popular options:
- Vata Massage Oil – A combination of therapeutic herbs ashwagandha, Bala, and Shatavari. This is perfect for an imbalance of Vata dosha.
- Ashwagandha Bala Oil – Helps to increase your strength and stamina.
- Mahanarayan Oil – Used to ease aches and pains in the joints or muscles.
- Brahmi Oil – For a clear mind and better cognitive function
Abhyanga takes time, so it’s best to practice it when you’re not in a hurry. Ayurveda recommends doing it for at least 45 minutes to allow the oil’s effects to reach the body’s seven Dhatus, or tissue layers.
According to Dr. Claudia Welch, a licensed Doctor of Oriental Medicine and an instructor at the Kripalu School of Ayurveda, here are the steps to Abhyanga self-massage.
- Start by warming your oil. You can use a massage oil warmer or put the oil in a bottle and place it in a mug of hot water.
- Once your oil is warm enough, you can start applying it generously to your entire body.
- Use long massage strokes on your limbs and circular strokes on your joints. Use broad, clockwise circular motions to massage the abdomen and chest. Massage your scalp, ears, and feet thoroughly.
- Pay special attention to applying herbal oil to the crown of your head in slow, circular outward strokes. This is your adhipati marma, a delicate energy point where vital veins meet. Make sure the oil you use on your head is warm and not hot.
- Take your time and massage the rest of your body for 20 minutes. Do it as a form of meditation, filling your mind with positive thoughts and energy.
- When done, let your body calm down and absorb the essential oil for another 20 minutes.
- Take a warm bath and use Kapha dusting powder to help rinse off the excess oil.
- Add a few drops of oil to your wrist and neck as finishing touches to balance your doshas.
- Now, you’re ready to sleep or jumpstart your day.
I hope this article gave you the information you need about the health benefits of Abhyanga massage. This ancient and divine massage is another Ayurvedic treatment that shows how doshas, or body energies, can affect our overall health.
Abhyanga massage heals your body, mind, and spirit by balancing your energy and stimulating vital body organs. Its list of health benefits shows that it can affect your body inside and out. Even better, practicing Abhyanga is convenient since you can also do it anytime on your own.
So go and take the time to pamper yourself with the healing Abhyanga massage!
And if you are interested in more Ayurvedic treatments, feel to also check out our blog post about Udwarthanam therapy, Shirodhara health benefits, Elakizhi therapy and Padabhyanga health benefits.