Abhyanga: Ayurvedic Oil Massage

Benefits of applying oil to the body (abhyanga):
  • Imparts softness, strength and color to the body
  • Decreases the effects of aging
  • Bestows good vision
  • Nourishes the body
  • Increases longevity
  • Benefits sleep patterns
  • Benefits skin
  • Strengthens the body’s tolerance
  • Imparts a firmness to the limbs
  • Imparts tone and vigor to the dhatus (tissues) of the body
  • Stimulates the internal organs of the body, increasing circulation
  • Pacifies vata and pitta
Herbal oils specific to your constitution or current condition are especially good choices for full body massage. Specific oil recommendations for each dosha are listed in the dosha-specific abhyanga sections below.

Benefits of applying oil to the scalp (murdha taila):
  • Makes hair grow luxurious, thick, soft and glossy
  • Soothes and invigorates the sense organs
  • Helps reduce facial wrinkles

Bhringaraj Oil, Brahmi Oil, and Healthy Hair Oil are especially well suited for scalp massage.

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Benefits of applying oil to the ears (karna puran):
  • Benefits disorders in and of the ear that are due to increased vata
  • Benefits stiff neck
  • Benefits stiffness in the jaw

Sesame Oil is a good choice when applying oil to the ears.

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Benefits of applying oil to the feet (padaghata):
  • Alleviates coarseness, stiffness, roughness, fatigue and numbness of the feet
  • Feet become strong and firm
  • Enhances vision
  • Pacifies vata
  • Benefits local tissues, veins and ligaments
Bhringaraj Oil and Brahmi Oil are especially well suited for foot massage.

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Vata Pacifying Abhyanga
The primary qualities of vata are dry, light, cool, rough, subtle and mobile. Most of these qualities are opposite to those of oil. This is why warm oil is especially good for pacifying vata.

If your vata is high, either in your prakriti or vikriti, doing abhyanga daily can be highly beneficial, even life-changing, as vata is restored to its normal condition. Just be sure to doabhyanga in a warm place, and avoid getting chilled afterwards.

Types of Oil That Are Best for Vata

Sesame Oil is considered to be the “king of oils;” it is the preferred choice of oil for vata because it is inherently warming. If possible, use one that is organic and untoasted. Almond Oil is also a good choice because it is warming. You may also consider using Vata Massage Oil, especially if vata is high in your Vikriti. The herbs in this oil enhance the vata pacifying qualities of sesame oil. Vata massage oil can be used alone or diluted with sesame or almond oil.

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For increasing strength and stamina Ashwagandha/Bala Oils may be the best for you.

Mahanarayan Oil is made from over 20 Ayurvedic herbs and is traditionally used to support comfortable movement in the joints. If you warm it, massage it into the affected joints or muscles and proceed with your regular abhyanga, it can be fabulously beneficial. Following this with a warm bath with 1/3 cup each baking soda and ginger powder (provided there is no skin irritation) can enhance the effects even further.

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Vata Dusting Powder – Optional

If dusting powder does not irritate your skin, try using one in the place of soap. You can use chickpea flour. Make a paste with the flour and water, and then gently apply a small amount to the body. Once it dries, you can allow it to rinse off with the oil.

Pitta Pacifying Abhyanga

The primary qualities of pitta are: oily, sharp, hot, light, fleshy-smelling, spreading and liquid. Since pitta and oil share a number of qualities it is ideal to use herbal oil when you are trying to balance pitta. The addition of herbs enhances the pitta pacifying properties of the oil.

Types of Oil That Are Best for Pitta

Pitta pacifying herbal oils, such as Pitta Massage Oil, are best for abhyanga. Applying Bhringaraj Oil or Brahmi Oil to the scalp and soles of feet at bedtime may reduce pitta and encourage sound sleep. If you don’t have herbal oils, use Sunflower Oil or Coconut Oil for your abhyanga. If you spend a lot of time in the sun, you may wish to add some Neem Oil to whatever you use for your basic abhyanga oil; it is said to reduce pitta in the skin.

In general, gently heat the oil for abhyanga. Oil applied to the head should be cool in the summer and slightly warm in the winter.

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Pitta Dusting Powder – Optional

If dusting powder does not irritate your skin, you may enjoy using chickpea flour in the place of soap. Make a paste with the flour and water, gently apply a small amount to the body in the shower, and let it rinse off with the oil.

Kapha Pacifying Abhyanga

The main qualities of kapha are oily, cool, heavy, slow, smooth, soft and static. Kapha and oil share most qualities. Because like increases like, using oil, especially cool oil, may increase kapha rather than decrease it. However, because oil has the ability to absorb the qualities of substances it is prepared with, appropriate herbal oils can actually decrease kapha.

Sometimes the best massage for kapha is udvartana, massaging the body with soft, fragrant powders, like Organic Calamus Powder.

Types of Oil That Are Best for Kapha

Abhyanga with warm oil is best for kapha. While Sesame Oil, Almond Oil, olive oil and corn oil are all warming, herbal oils such as Kapha Massage Oil are a superior choice for kapha, as the herbs impart more kapha pacifying properties to the oil. (If you are using Sesame Oil, opt for untoasted sesame oil; toasted varieties are more expensive and have a very strong natural scent). It is usually best to use less oil for kapha abhyanga than for vata or pitta.

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Kapha Dusting Powder – Optional

To accent the positive effects of abhyanga for kapha-types, vigorously rub an appropriate kapha dusting powder into the body before or after performing abhyanga, either while working in or rinsing off the oil. You can use chickpea flour, but organic Calamus Powder (vacha) is also nice.

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