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Abhayanga: Art of Self Massage

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Abhayanga: Art of Self Massage

Abhyangam aacharet nityam sa jaraa shramavaataha 
Drushti prasaada pushti aayu susvapna twak daardhyakrut
Translated as:
Abhayanga should be done by everyone, everyday, especially old aged and tired people. It improves eye sight, nourishes muscles, and improves age (life expectancy) and skin complexion. – Ashtanga Samgraha Sutrasthana.


For most of us it’s not always possible to have the services of a massage therapist or book an appointment at our favourite spa, however the body needs a good massage. In these extraordinary days of COVID-19, we need it more.

If you wake up feeling sluggish and irritable or you find yourself drained at the end of the day, the ayurvedic technique of  self ABHAYANGA, or self massage is a sure and rewarding remedy. It recharges the whole body and mind. Abhayanga stimulates immune and lymphatic function, and calms the mind with the beautiful benefit of the oil nourishing your skin.

It is possible do this in 10 minutes. I’m sure you can give yourself these precious mins.                 

The first is the choice of oil - choose correctly:

In hot tropical summers, or if you are a pitta (hot to the touch; less tolerance to heat) type, organic coconut oil is what works.

During cool and cold seasons, or if you are a vata (cool to the touch; less tolerance to cold) type, organic sesame oil will work well.

Kapha body and skin type should use less and a light oil at that.

Pavitra body oil, being hemp seed oil based is good for any of the three types, vata, pitta, kapha. However, Pavitra chamomile-hemp body oil will make you feel calmer while Pavitra jasmine-turmeric-hemp will help you feel energised.

Before we go to the technique, here are a handful of reasons why self Abhayanga is a must:

  1. It’s self love of the selfless kind. You deserve at least 10 mins of loving and being kind to yourself. For 10 mins, you need to switch off the world around you with all its demands and immerse yourself into a blissful state of the pure, beautiful and essential you. I am sure you'd love some indulgent me-time. 😃
  2. For a more youthful you. Abhayanga makes your skin soft, supple and glowing. It detoxifies, energises and restores balance by removing toxins bringing you vitality, a new resilience and joy.
  3. It’s like a tonic for your mind and body. Ayurveda says that your prana (life force) flows through your nadis (channels and meridians). As you self massage in the abhayanga technique, you are stimulating these energy channels and allowing prana to flow freely. This results in building your immunity and natural healing power while it is also said to heighten your intellect.
  4. It’s great detox. The skin is the largest organ and by massaging it, you flush out the toxins and impurities. This will make you feel energised and born-again.
  5. Feel what you WANT to feel. Brisk massage strokes in the morning will make you feel energetic and good throughout your day. A gentle and slower massage in the evening will calm your mind and make you feel relaxed. It takes away muscle stiffness. Either way, you feel rejuvenated.

Preparation:

Create an atmosphere conducive to get the maximum out of your massage – if you can. Perhaps by lighting your favourite incense, soft music, the time of the day you enjoy your bath the most...

Heat oil indirectly – in a pot/mug of warm water. The oil should be warm not hot.

Sit or stand on an old towel in a closed room or your bathroom for your self abhayanga. Ensure the room is free from draughts and not too cold or hot.

General Technique:

  • Massage oil generously on your body. The oil quantity should be such that your hands glide smoothly without any drag on your body. Each area/part of the body should be oiled well as you begin to massage it.
  • Start with the extremities: you can start with your toes, ankles, calves, feet and work up, or you can start with your head, neck, shoulders and work your way downward.
  • Be careful to use a firm but gentle downward stroke from the temples along the sides of the face to the sides of the neck stopping at your collar bone. Gentle upward strokes from the hollow between the collar bones in the centre to the chin.
  • As a thumb rule, in self abhayanga, use long up-down strokes on the limbs, gentle clockwise circular strokes on the joints and a pulling stroke on fingers and toes.
  • Self abhayanga suggests extra attention to the feet and calf and small bones. Knead the palm, fingers and wrist gently but firmly.
  • Do not forget your ears; treat your ear lobes with a gentle pulling action and use a circular motion around your ears.
  • Stroke upward in the chest area.
  • Use upward strokes from lower abdomen to the navel; sideways from waist to navel. You can also use circular motion. The navel should also be oiled.

Relax/ lie down for about 10 mins, if you have the time, before having a warm bath or shower.

Own your day or night thereafter.

According to ayurveda, self abhayanga should not be done:

  1. If you are pregnant.
  2. Immediately before or after a meal.
  3. If you are ill or are in acute physical discomfort.
  4. Immediately after an extreme or moderate workout. Allow a half hour to pass first.

Pavitra urges you to practise Abhayanga at least twice a week. Love yourself; love your body.

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