“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.
I 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
Nourishes & rejuvenates mind and body
Soothes nervous system
Enhances circulation and detoxification
Promotes sleep, relieves fatigue
Increases longevity, decreases aging
Recovers muscle fatigue
Supports digestion, blood pressure and organ communication
Teaches self-love and self-care
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
Aids in deep sleep and rest
Soft, supple, skin and nails
How to Oil Massage
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 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
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!