Love the Skin You're In

“The body is your temple.  Keep it pure and clean for the soul to reside in.”~B.K.S. Iyengar 

 It’s 6:00am. I’ve been awake since 2. My mind, while alert, is racing and my body is vibrating… like I could leave the boundaries of my skin at any moment. I tried meditating, breathing, doing the dishes, reading, asana and still no sleep. This wouldn’t be so much of a problem if I didn’t have to leave in an hour for a full day of teaching.

Love The Skin Youre InI step into the shower and let the hot water relax my muscles. Two bottles of oil – one coconut, one sesame – sit on the shower rails. Because of the pregnancy* I developed a hormonal tendency toward itchy, red, irritated skin so I’ve been using only an oatmeal scrub followed by coconut oil to keep it in check. It’s worked. But today, when I’m this anxious about my energy, when it’s this cold outside, I go for the heavy warmth of the sesame oil. After pinning my wet hair back in a clip I start at the back of my neck. The relief is instant. Moving down my arms I feel my pulse start to settle. When I have finished covering my whole body with oil I no longer feel that I am pulling away from my bones. After the massage, I inhabit them.

The day proceeds well. I feel good about the classes I have taught. I was able to be present for students, family and friends. Having taken the time to nourish myself I am better able to nourish others with attention and generosity.

Abhyanga, or the Ayurvedic practice of oil massage is powerful “medicine.” It can – and should – be done everyday. Whether you’re feeling tired, stressed out and untethered; hot, brash and overworked; congested and sluggish or even if you’re feeling fantastic, treat yourself to abyhanga and discover a potent nourishment that reaches into every part of your body and soul and love the skin you’re in.

Note:  Yes, this is in place of lotion. Most commercial lotion is loaded with chemicals the body cannot metabolize. Use pure, food grade oils. Coconut and Shea butter are also good for added moisture but take care that they aren’t combined with a host of unpronounceable ingredients – the latin names for essential oils not withstanding. 

Benefits of Oil Massage

Oiling Entire Body

“The body of one who performs oil massage regularly, even if they are subjected to strenuous work or physical stress, is not much affected. His physique is strong, soft and charming and the onslaught of aging is slackened.” Charaka Samhita, Volume 1, dated 100 BCE
“The body of one who performs oil massage regularly, even if they are subjected to strenuous work or physical stress, is not much affected. His physique is strong, soft and charming and the onslaught of aging is slackened.”
Charaka Samhita,
Volume 1, dated 100 BCE
  • Nourishes & rejuvenates mind and body
  • Enhances complexion
  • Soothes nervous system
  • Enhances circulation and detoxification
  • Promotes sleep, relieves fatigue
  • Increases longevity, decreases aging
  • Builds stamina
  • Releases stress
  • Awakens senses
  • Recovers muscle fatigue
  • Supports digestion, blood pressure and organ communication
  • Teaches self-love and self-care

Oiling Ears

    • Decreases stiffness in neck
    • Release tension in jaw
    • Improves and protects hearing
    • Soothes Vata – Calms nerves
    • Prevents infection due to dryness

Oiling Feet Before Bed

    • Release tension
    • Stimulates detox
    • Aids in deep sleep and rest
    • Soft, supple, skin and nails

How to Oil Massage

    • Image from the book, "Ayurvedic Beauty Care" by Melanie Sachs
      Image from the book, “Ayurvedic Beauty Care” by Melanie Sachs

      Warm the Room

    • Fill a squeeze bottle with oil
    • Warm the oil ~ Fill a glass with hot water, drop in your bottle of oil
    • Work the oil in your body ~ Rub with vigor and love over your entire body, long strokes on the limbs, circular strokes on the joints. Use special attention to the parts you’re not best friends with. (Thighs, butt, chest, ears, whatever)… Even oil your anus, it will help you poop, trust me.
    • If time, let oil sink in for 20 – 30 minutes ~ Wear an old robe or t-shirt you don’t mind ruining
    • Rinse or Towel Off
    • Enjoy your luscious skin and nourished body

Types of Oil

    • Organic Untoasted Sesame or Almond ~ for Dry, Light, Spacey Types or Cold Weather
    • Sunflower or Coconut Oil ~ for Hot, Firey, Sensitive Types or Warm Weather
    • Olive, Apricot or Sesame Oil ~ for Solid, Watery, Congested Types – or Dry Brush (massage without oil) – working from limbs toward center

Easy Tips to Begin


Start Small

  • Start with rubbing oil on feet before bed, cover with cotton socks
  • Rub oil in ears
  • Put a drop or so on your pinky finger, rub it in and around your ears

Full Body

    • Twice a week rub oil all over your body
    • Can be done before, during or after a shower
    • Work up to every day, or nearly every day
    • At least once a week set aside time to rub oil in before or after shower and give at least 20 minutes to absorb into your skin before rinsing or toweling off excess

* Some literature advises against abyhanga during pregnancy. I have yet to discover why. In my opinion, the thing to do is be gentle. It’s unlikely that you’ll push hard enough on certain points that could trigger labor, but better to be safe. So if you’re pregnant, please check with your care provider and exercise caution when performing abyhanga.  I cannot be held liable for any adverse effects of practicing abhyanga. Also, regular practice of abhyanga with sesame oil in the two to six weeks following birthing is said to be one of the best things a new mother can do to heal and regain her vitality. I’ll let you know how it goes!

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