Abhyanga – The massage of Ancient India

What Is Abhyanga?

Abhyanga is the Sanskrit word for massage given to the entire body. It is an integral part of the daily routine (Dincharya) recommended by oldest healthcare system for maintaining good health. For thousands of years people have used Abhyanga to maintain health, benefit sleep patterns, and increase longevity. It has also been used as a medicine for certain disorders.

Abhyanga is the anointing of the body with oil. Often medicated and usually warm, the oil is massaged into the entire body before bathing. For thousands of years, people have used abhyanga to maintain health, benefit sleep patterns, and increase longevity. It has also been used as a medicine for certain disorders. The Sanskrit word snehan can be translated as both “oil” and “love”. It is believed that the effects of abhyanga are similar to those received when one is saturated with love. Like the experience of being loved, abhyanga can give a deep feeling of stability and warmth. Sneha is subtle; this allows the oil/love to pass through minute channels in the body and penetrate deep layers of tissue.

In Ayurveda, it is believed that there are seven layers of tissue in the body (called dhatus). Each successive layer is more concentrated and life-giving. For sneha to reach the deepest layer, it is believed that it must be massaged into the body for 800 matras, roughly five minutes. To give this kind of attention to your entire body, you may need about fifteen-minutes. Considering the benefits that have been gained by people for thousands of years, fifteen-minutes per day is a minimal amount of time.

What Should Be Used For Massage?

Herbalized massage oils contain herbs known for their ability to strengthen the physiology and balance the mind. So the daily massage with herbal massage oil has twice the beneficial power – the benefits from the performance of the actual massage and the added healing wisdom of the herbs.

Brahmi, Shatavari and Nirgundi are some Ayurvedic herbs you’ll find in herbalized massage oils. Shatavari is renowned for its nourishing effect on the physiology. Narayani is the other name of Shatavari in Ayurveda and it means helpful in any way either you are taking it orally or topically or as nasya or may be as ear drops. It pacifies vata and pitta. It is very much useful as tonic (Balya) to general body weakness, hair, headache and all vata disorders.

Apart from this many herbal oils are also used like dhanvantarum oil, elaadikerum oil, ksheerbala oil, bala aswagandha oil etc.

How Abhyanga Is Performed?

This herbal oil massage should be performed in the morning, before your bath or shower however you can enjoy it any time according to your ease. A daily full-body Bliss vata oil massage acts as a powerful recharger and rejuvenator of mind and body. Try whole body Bliss vata oil massage on a daily basis preferably, otherwise on alternate day or twice a week according to your comfort. It is nourishing, pacifies Vata, pitta and Kapha, relieves physical and mental fatigue, provides stamina, pleasure and perfect sleep, enhances the complexion and the luster of the skin, promotes longevity and nourishes all parts of the body.

There are however, five general strokes that are used in traditional massage. These are sweeping, tapping, kneading, rubbing, and squeezing.

Sweeping is applied from the navel out toward the distal areas of the body in brisk, straight strokes. On the upper body, sweeping starts at the navel, sweeping up to the shoulder and then sweeping down to the hands. Sweeping is used to open and close a body area and are repeated up to twenty five times on one area. Sweeping warms the tissue and revitalizes the limbs and feel invigorating.

Tapping is used to awaken the body, alert the nerve endings, and increase circulation. It is done with open palms and relaxed fingers. After the area has received the tapping technique, it is kneaded at a depth that is tolerable to the client. The area is kneaded thoroughly and completely before the therapist moves on to the fourth technique, which is rubbing.

Rubbing Can be done on dry skin or performed with oil. It can be deep or light and superficial. Although some specific techniques rub in a counterclockwise direction, most often the rubbing is in clockwise circles.

Squeezing Using both hands, the therapist lifts an area of muscle with a squeezing and crossing torque-like motion. In bony areas such as the fingers and toes, a combination of squeezing fingers and toes, a drop of oil is placed on the finger so that it fills the gap between the nail and the flesh. The massage sequence ends for each body area just as it began with straight sweeps working out from the navel to the distal areas of the body.

Abhyanga massage is a gentle but firm whole body massage from head to toe using warm medicated oils. Oils are chosen according to the Prakruti (psychosomatic constitution) and the illness. The massage is done in a soft rhythmic way with one or two persons massaging at the same time for forty five to sixty minutes.

After the massage a steam bath or hot shower is highly recommended.Abhyanga massage is a deeply relaxing, rejuvenating experience as well as a treatment in certain illness.

A regular Abhyanga protects from stress, anxiety, exhaustion and Vata disorder. It nourishes the body, extends the life span, provides good sleep, improves the skin texture, improves the vision and provides better physical stability.

Benefits of Abhyanga

Abhyanga treatment is the best way to control and balance Vata in the body. Vata is the predominant entity in the sense of touch and skin is the organ of touch.

Increases circulation, especially to nerve endings

Toning of the muscles and the whole physiology

Calming for the nerves

Lubrication of the joints

Increased mental alertness

Improved elimination of impurities from the body

Softer, smoother skin

Increased level of stamina through the day

Better, deeper sleep at night

Balance Vyanavata and Pranavata

Nourishes Shleshka kapha and Bhrajaka pitta

Relieves fatigue and mental exhaustion

Pumps up circulation upto deeper level (microcirculation), especially to nerve endings

Drains out day to day to stress

Promotes better quality of sleep

Benefits of applying oil to the scalp (Murdha taila)

Makes hair grow luxuriantly, thick, soft and glossy
Soothes and invigorates the sense organs
Removes facial wrinkles

Benefits of applying oil to the ears (Karna purna)

Benefits disorders in the ear which are due to increased Vata
Benefits stiff neck
Benefits stiffness in the jaw

Benefits of applying oil to the feet (Padaghata)

Coarseness, stiffness, roughness, fatigue and numbness of the feet are alleviated
Strength and firmness of the feet is attained
Vision is enhanced
Vata is pacified
Sciatica is benefited
Local veins and ligaments are benefited

A daily full-body oil massage therefore acts as a powerful recharger and rejuvenator of mind and body.

Author Name:

Dr Saurabh Sharma

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