Give Yourself a Special Winter Treat: Ayurvedic Self-Massage or “Abhyanga”

Courtney Rupertus
Give Yourself a Special Winter Treat: Ayurvedic Self-Massage or “Abhyanga”

Despite February being the shortest month of the year, it can sometimes feel as though winter has gone on forever and the days drag on and on. A nice way to treat yourself and your body is to practice Abhyanga, an Ayurvedic self-massage that brings massive benefits to your overall health and has the power to warm you from the inside out.

These are just some of the great benefits:

  • Nourishes your entire body
  • Encourages muscle tone and firmness
  • Lubricates your joints
  • Increases your circulation
  • Stimulates your organ functions
  • Assists in your body’s natural detoxification    

A good way to start (if you haven’t done this at some point already) is to take a Dosha quiz, either online or from a reference book, to find out if you are Pitta, Vata, or Kapha. There are specific oils to use for each dosha that bring about the most benefits, however, for all intents and purposes, jojoba oil works well for any type of dosha.

You will also want to avoid doing Abhyanga while menstruating, pregnant, undergoing chemotherapy, or while sick with a cold or flu.

Abhyanga is best-practiced everyday, but for those of us facing a time crunch, once a week for a generous 20-minute massage is a good start.

The steps for a healing self-massage go as follows:

  • Gently warm up your oil by placing the bottle in a bowl of hot water. Make sure to test a small area prior to massage to ensure a comfortable temperature.
  • Stand on top of an old towel – this will catch any oil drops. You will also want to dry off later with a towel that you don’t mind getting oily.
  • Begin an entire body massage with the oil, starting with the crown of your head. Spend a few minutes massaging your scalp in a circular motion.
  • Move from your head to your face; massaging in an upward, circular motion spend time on your forehead, temples, cheeks, jaw, and ears.
  • Next focus on your neck and shoulders, making sure to use your entire hand for the massage, not just your fingertips.
  • Now you can massage your arms, hands, and fingers. You can use longer, sweeping strokes over the longer bones and smaller circular strokes on your joints.
  • Very gently begin to massage your chest and belly, keeping that clockwise circular motion in mind, especially on your belly. However, massage the line from your sternum to solar plexus straight up and down.
  • Spend time massaging as much on your back as you can manage and use as much pressure as feels comfortable here.
  • Massage the legs just as you did your arms; you can use a little more pressure here.
  • Finally, massage each entire foot with as much pressure as feels good.
  • Practice self-massage with patience and a sense of deep self love. As you move your hands over each part of your body, you can remind yourself how grateful you are for your unique and amazing self.
  • You’ll want to let the oil set for about 10-20 minutes before you get into a warm, not hot, shower. While you wait you can do another great Ayurvedic practice: tongue scraping!
  • To finish, rinse off in a warm shower. Avoid vigorously rubbing the oil off. Simply, rub everything again in gentle, circular motions. Use a mild, natural cleanser on the important bits and towel dry off.