There is no greater expression of self-love than lovingly anointing ourselves from head to toe with warm oil—this practice is called Abyanga. The Sanskrit word Sneha can be translated as both “oil” and “love.” It is believed that the effects of Abyanga are similar to those received when one is saturated with love. Like the experience of being loved, Abyanga can give a deep feeling of stability and warmth.
Even warmed, Coconut Oil’s cooling properties make it a soothing, calming oil for self-massage or Abyanga, especially infused with relaxing essential oils such as lavender, cinnamon, chamomile or geranium. A good basic start is to choose oils that smell good to you, as its application will make you feel better as well. More research into various properties of oils can also help refine your choices.
A daily Abyanga practice restores the balance of the doshas and enhances well-being and longevity. Regular Abyanga is especially grounding and relaxing for Vata dosha imbalances, but everyone can benefit from this practice.
“The body of one who uses oil massage regularly does not become affected much even if subjected to accidental injuries, or strenuous work. By using oil massage daily, a person is endowed with pleasant touch, trimmed body parts and becomes strong, charming and least affected by old age”
Charaka Samhita Vol. 1, V: 88-89
(One of the Great ancient texts of Ayurveda)
Steps to Follow for Self-Massage:
Warm the oil (pour approximately ¼ cup into a mug and warm using a coffee-cup warmer.) Test the temperature by putting a drop on your inner wrist, oil should be comfortably warm and not hot
Sit or stand comfortably in a warm room
Apply oil first to the crown of your head (adhipati marma) and work slowly out from there in circular strokes—spend a couple of minutes massaging your entire scalp (home to many other important marma points—points of concentrated vital energy)
Face: Massage in circular motion on your forehead, temples, cheeks, and jaws (always moving in a upward movement). Be sure to massage your ears, especially your ear-lobes—home to essential marma points and nerve endings
Use long strokes on the limbs (arms and legs) and circular strokes on the joints (elbows and knees). Always massage toward the direction of your heart
Massage the abdomen and chest in broad, clockwise, circular motions. On the abdomen, follow the path of the large intestine; moving up on the right side of the abdomen, then across, then down on the left side
Finish the massage by spending at least a couple of minutes massaging your feet. Feet are a very important part of the body with the nerve endings of essential organs and vital marma points
Sit with the oil for 5-15 minutes if possible so that the oil can absorb and penetrate into the deeper layers of the body
Enjoy a warm bath or shower. You can use a mild soap on the “strategic” areas, avoid vigorously soaping and rubbing the body
When you get out of the bath, towel dry gently. Blot the towel on your body instead of rubbing vigorously
Enjoy the feeling of having nourished your body, mind, and spirit and carry that with you throughout your day.