Body Oiling: 5 Steps towards a Abhyanga Practice
Do you know Abhyanga? Do you know what it’s for?
Abhyanga is a therapeutic practice of Ayurveda, an ancient Indian medicine system. In the Western nations, a lot of people think it’s a massage, but it’s not exactly that. In a conventional massage, there are vigorous movements and pressure on the muscles, which does not happen in Abhyanga. By definition, Abhyanga is the application of warm oil to the skin, with the ability to nourish the tissues and with benefits for the whole body.
The warm, 100% vegetable oil is applied from head to toe, and which serves to:
- Reduces fatigue and stress from physical and mental activities
- Helps prevent and treat nervous system disorders
- Improves blood circulation
- Helps strengthen the immune system
- Improves gastrointestinal functioning
- Helps eliminate toxins from the body
- Improves sleep
- Nourishes the body and moisturizes the skin
- Increases longevity, preventing premature aging
- Enhances self-esteem & libido
Before you try it, I would like to share 5 musts that you need to be aware of when you are joining this self-care practice of warm oil body application, so you can get the most out of it!
As per Ayurveda, everything that comes in contact with you, needs to be digested in some way. This can be what you eat or what you apply to your skin; it is also related to thoughts, emotions, news and knowledge. Everything needs to be digested by you as body-mind-soul. For Abhyanga, when you use a warm oil, you facilitate the digestion into your skin. The skin relaxes and the body opens itself to the practice.
How to Prepare the Oil
Step 1 – Pour a sufficient amount of oil for Abhyanga into a small bowl (avoid plastic). In the beginning you may need to adjust the dosage, and that’s okay. By smelling the oil, make sure it is not rancid, ensuring that it has not oxidized and lost its therapeutic properties.
Step 2 Place the small bowl of oil in a pan or bigger bowl of hot water until the oil is pleasantly warm.
Sesame oil is the best
The most recommended is the use of natural sesame oil (not the toasted one), which is great for calming and revitalizing your body.
It is a warm and very nutritious oil, which helps in the care of dry skin but, you can do your Abhyanga with other oils.
The oil should be cold pressed and preferably organic. The ones stored in amber glass bottles would be better conserved, as this avoids oxidation.
Each oil should be used according to each person’s characteristics and needs. You can use a pure or medicated oil. For self-care practices, you can easily enhance the base oil with essential oils. To blend the essential oil with the base/vegetable oil you need to learn about the essential oil properties that you intend to add and this way to avoid damage to your skin. You also need to know the right proportion between the base oil and the essential oil or blend. You can explore this in detail on the Abhyanga – nourishing your body with oils workshop or just use a plain sesame or other vegetable oil of your preference.
You should remove the oil
When you do the complete body oil application (head to toe), the Ayurvedic recommendation is that you apply the oil as part of your early morning routine (after fasting), leave from 30 minutes to 1 hour. The orientation then is that you make your body sweat, ideally with exercise or by keeping very warm. The next step is to remove the oil from your body with a bath.
As a mom, in the busier days, after the oil application I put on some old clothes and sometimes my sweating part is in the kitchen preparing food and lunch bags and doing a bit of laundry early in the morning, going down and upstairs and, after taking a quick bath. If it makes you sweat, it counts!
When I get a chance of a slow morning just for me (I highly recommend that at least once a week), after applying the oil, I put on my Abhyanga clothes (that you don’t need to worry about stains) and practice Pranayama (breathing) and Yoga. In the sequence I take my shower and then breakfast. This is my spa day at home.
It is not good if you keep the oil on during the day or for a long period, but it is also not ideal if you don’t leave it on your body for a couple of minutes.
If you use the it during the bath, you won’t reach the same benefits. It will act more like a soap on your skin. It is still better than nothing, but it is better to keep the oil on for a bit.
Abhyanga is not a specific massage technic. It is more a self-recognition and caring practice.
It is a way to nourish your body and skin.
Abhyanga is not to be one more thing on your list. It is a moment that you give to yourself before the day starts.
This can be a 5-minute or 1 hour practice, depending on your availability. Always keep in mind the intention of self-love & care during the warm oil application.
When we follow this recommendation in a daily practice, Abhyanga works deeper, eliminates tiredness, aging; calms an agitated mind, body and emotions.
Abhyanga and its 2 sides
The first side is to be part of the daily routine, brief with about 2 tablespoons of oil, so it won’t be a whole jar of oil. It is a thin oil layer that is applied.
From the Ayurvedic texts Abhyanga is considered part of an essential daily routine for health and happiness.
The second side is a clinical oil application that is a therapeutic procedure in Ayurvedic clinics or hospitals. This one is done when the person needs a treatment for some specific imbalances.
The clinical Abhyanga is another whole story and different types of oils or medicated oils are used. It can be performed by one, two or even four practitioners at the same time.
So, for the home self-practice of Abhyanga, you don’t need to recreate the clinical version. The self-Abhyanga as part of your daily routine is all you need to bring and keep health and vitality in your life.
Family Relaxation Evening
While it is hard to imagine a full practice in the morning including the whole family, oil-sweat-bath, there is a special version for oil application just on the feet called Padhabyanga.
To practice Padhabyanga, you apply the warm oil just on the feet, put on socks and enjoy your sleep.
It is such a great family touch-connection moment, very calming and provides the best night of sleep for the whole family!
An idea is to make a special evening once a week, when you can even set some relaxing ambient songs, diffuse a favourite essential oil and light up some candles.
Everybody will love it!
Although Abhyanga is a precious tool for self-care and health maintenance, it may not be good for some people or at some times, like everything within individualized care in Ayurveda. Thus, oiling is not indicated or deserves attention in the following cases:
- When you have poor digestion or nausea. If you feel that you did not digest the last meal well or after taking purgatives.
- During pregnancy, seek guidance
- When you have a pre-established medical condition, unless your doctor says it is okay to do Abhyanga.
- During the menstrual cycle. At most, apply to the head, ears and feet.
- On swollen, injured or painful areas, without your healthcare professional’s knowledge and consent about infected skin.
- When you have secretions or mucus in your airways.
- When you have a fever, chills or the flu.
I hope this information sparks your inspiration to make body oiling part of your daily routine. It really is a deep transformational practice that every mother should try.
And, if you want to take a step further on this journey of self-care and health, I have a special gift for YOU, a 20% off coupon (valid Jan 28th – Feb 6th) to join the Abhyanga workshop.
You will learn more about this Ayurvedic tool of love and care.
The workshop is built with precise informative and practical lessons to inspire you in your daily self-care.
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