Abhyang is an Indian term meaning ‘oil application.’ It’s considered an Ayurvedic massage, at least here in the West. (Ayurvedic is from the word ayurveda which is the Indian art of healing and prolonging life.) If you’re the type person who likes rough massages where a lot of beating and pounding is involved, this is not the massage for you. For me, it’s perfect because abhyanga massage is so gentle and relaxing.
Why get an abhyanga massage?
An abhyanga (pronounced ah-be-ung-o) massage nourishes the body with the rich oils and promotes joints and circulation. In addition to that it feels awesome and oh so relaxing.
What to expect when you get an abhyanga massage
You will be asked to strip down naked or almost naked (sometimes you can leave on your underwear. The masseuse can work around underpants and bra if you are uncomfortable removing them. When you are ready, you will get on the massage table. In India, this is usually wood.
Your masseuse will enter with a bottle or tub of warmed oil. The oil used will depend on your body type (dosha). Your masseuse will apply the warm oil with the palm of his or her hand in mostly gentle sweeping motions. If you’re getting a true abhyanga massage, oil is also applied to the top of your head. Though the actual techniques and motions may vary depending on the training of your masseuse, they will all follow these basic principals of the massage.
The different techniques
Your masseuse may start you from a sitting position to begin with or you may begin and end in a laying position. The application of the oil may be exclusively long sweeping motions or may include gentle circular motions. You may also find yourself sitting, laying on your back, laying on your stomach and laying on your side.
Usually the minimum length for an abhyanga massage is from 45 minutes to an hour. This time allows the oils to penetrate your skin and work their magic. The massage is usually followed by a hot steamy shower.
Sesame and coconut oils are favorites, but jojoba, almond and sunflower oils may also be used. If your masseuse is schooled in the various body types, the oil will be blended specifically for your massage session. The oil may also contain various herbs to enhance the therapeutic effect of your abhyanga massage.
If you’re doing a self massage, choose oil appropriate for your skin type. For instance: jojoba and fractionated coconut oil is a good choice for most any skin type; jojoba or grapeseed oil is a good choice for oily skin; sesame or olive oil are great choices for extra dry skin. Just don’t forget to warm the oil first. That’s a must.
The best time for an abhyanga massage
Morning is considered by many to be the best time for this massage because abhyanga massage is designed to clarify the mind and stimulate the body. It’s recommended to have an abhyanga massage every day.
What if you can’t find an abhyanga masseuse in your area?
As an alternative, a good self massage will work. The recommended areas to massage with the warm oil are your hands, feet and the top of your head.
Now that you know what abhyanga massage is all about, why don’t you treat yourself and go to a masseuse schooled in this method? You’re going to get oily, very oily in the process, but afterwards you’ll be glad you took the plunge.
Now go have fun and relax.