What is Abhyanga?
Abhyanga, otherwise known as ayurvedic massage, is a broad term that means any kind of ayurvedic massage, of which there are a few different types including full-body massage, head massage (shiro abhyanga), or foot massage (pad abhyanga).
Abhyanga is considered such a significantly beneficial therapy, that it’s recommended daily – especially for the elderly, those with more air & ether in their constitution (vata dosha) and for those experiencing stress, anxiety & insomnia to name a few.
Excellent for pain relief and healing, abhyanga is usually characterised by a specific sequence of strokes including long, sweeping movements using copious amounts of warm, herbal oils suitable for the individual. Different types of abhyanga can use herbal powders, herbal pastes or ghee.
Benefits of Abhyanga
Do you experience anxiety and stress? (hello, don’t we all!)
Do you experience pain or stiffness in your joints or muscle fatigue after exercise?
Do you find you get dry skin, especially in the cooler months?
Do you suffer from insomnia or digestive complaints?
The act of massaging the body melts away tension and stress from the muscles, as well as reduces aches & pains and balances what we call vata dosha in ayurveda, which primarily is responsible for balancing out nervous system and governs all movement in the body including elimination. Massaging the body with medicated or herbal oils specific for your natural constitution (dosha) or current condition (vikriti, or imbalance), further enhances the benefits of the massage. Further benefits of Ayurvedic massage include;
- Offers relief from stress, tension & low energy
- Supports musculoskeletal and nervous system health
- Tones the muscles & body’s tissues
- Enhances circulation
- Improves sleep patterns
- Stimulates organ function
- Helps your body detox
- Promotes softer, stronger & more supple skin
- Increases radiance and lustre of the skin, for graceful aging & growing
- Prevents injury & muscle strain
- Excellent for nervous system conditions, anxiety & overwork
- Ideal to receive at the change of the seasons
- Prepares the body for panchakarma, by mobilising the doshas and moving ama (toxins) towards the digestive tract in order to be eliminated
What to expect from an Abhyanga Treatment?
In ayurveda, abhyanga comes under the type of therapy treatment called snehna, which can be translated to mean that which oils and also love. It might sound a little obscure at first – until maybe you’ve received an abhyanga or given one to yourself!
There is an inherent connection between anointing the body with oil and enveloping it in love. The experience of receiving an abhyanga can offer a deep feeling of stability, warmth and comfort – love. Regular abhyanga is a way to keep yourself in optimal health and balance, via the skin, which ayurveda recognises as a major organ and vehicle to reach our internal organs. The skin is both a protective shield and a gateway to nourishing our bodies’ more subtle channels through our pores.
The ancient ayurvedic texts do not give specific details of the procedures involved in abhyanga, but only mention certain techniques such as gentle rubbing, pressing and squeezing, and utilising pressure. If you’ve received abhyanga before at different locations, this can explain why there are slight variations of traditional abhyanga techniques.
The key feature is that abhyanga uses warm, herbal oils usually chosen by your therapist for your specific body-type or condition. The beauty of abhyanga being a relaxation type of massage, is that it works on a more subtle level that is working with our nervous system and helps to calm the mind.
Beginning with a head and neck massage, then coming to lay down, your therapist will use a combination of strokes including cupping, kneading, rubbing and then massage with oil, each section of the body at a time until the entire back and front body is treated.