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  • Writer's pictureValerie

Why I Do a Daily Oil Self-Massage

Updated: Jun 6

Giving myself an oil massage first thing in the morning may be one of my favorite Ayurvedic practices ever. Known in Sanskrit as abhyanga, oil massage is an amazing way to give yourself some nourishment and self-love before going on about the rest of your day. In fact, the word for oil in Sanskrit, sneha, also means love. So, by practicing abhyanga in the morning, I'm making sure that I am taken care of before going out to take care of others!

Abhyanga is known to have many benefits, including:

  • Nourishment of the skin and deeper layers of tissues

  • Increasing circulation and improving lymphatic flow

  • Improving sleep

  • Calms the mind

  • and much more!

Below I've highlighted some of the benefits I have personally experienced from practicing it daily, and also explain the different ways I have used abhyanga to support my well-being:

No more flaky, itchy skin

Living in Southern California means dry skin pretty much all year round, and lots of vata vitiation (remember, vata dosha is comprised of air and space - two very light and dry elements!). Not to mention, the sun is very strong here. This has made my skin very prone to itchiness and irritation. Doing abhyanga in the morning each day, followed by a warm shower, has reduced the amount of dryness and associated symptoms in my skin. No more sitting around looking at the insane cracks and scales forming on my legs. Huzzah!

Slow-cooked Herbal Oil

I feel less antsy

My mind tends to race at times. It likes to jump ahead and worry about all of the things I want to or need to get done. This makes it difficult to fall asleep at night, and it also makes me antsy in the morning because I tend to be overwhelmed by all the tasks I want to get done. Doing the oil massage provides some much-needed quiet time for my mind, and gently massaging the oil into my skin helps me center and start my day off with more space and clarity. On the days where it is especially difficult to wind-down, I also do a foot and leg oil massage at night.

I have more Patience

During schooling at the California College of Ayurveda, I started off making my own quick-and-easy abhyanga oils from plain sunflower or coconut oil with a few drops of essential oil. Definitely nothing wrong with that - it can be a great way to nourish the skin and do aromatherapy in one go. But I have learned that doing things the slow way - cooking herbs in oil for hours - can be a beautiful and meditative process that is enjoyable rather than a hassle.

Abhyanga sets me up for a better day!

I prioritize Me!

This is a big one. I realized that treating myself well and taking care of my own body is not some kind of selfish act. Making sure that I am happy and healthy is necessary for me to continue to be able to give my energy and love to the rest of the world. If you find yourself exhausted because you're giving out more to others than you are to yourself, I really would love for you to stop and take some time to take care of you. And that can be as simple as putting some oil on your body in the morning.

Getting started on your own Abhyanga Practice

When you are looking to build any type of self-care practice, make sure that you set yourself up for success. Here are a few tips for getting started:

Find a daily time that works for you

Traditionally, abhyanga is done in the morning before showering. This helps set you up for the day with some self-care and grounding. Doing it before entering the shower allows the oils to easily absorb into the skin while you are under the warm water. That being said, you might find it easier to do abhyanga in the evening or after shower, depending on your schedule and needs. Try a few different ways and see what works for you.

Your abhyanga should last somewhere between 5-20 minutes. 20 minutes does seem like a bit of a luxury for most people, but it is worth taking your time when you can. It also helps to set up a station in your room or bathroom - I usually keep a towel to sit on the edge of the bathtub.

Use fresh, food-grade oils

Yes, use the ones you would eat! If it's not good enough for you to eat, it's not good enough for your skin. Our skin absorbs much of what we put onto it, so why slather it with a bunch of chemicals? Here are some of the recommended base oils for each dosha:

  • VATA: grounding, warming, heavier oils like sesame and almond oil

  • PITTA: cooling, light oils like sunflower and coconut oil

  • KAPHA: lighter, drier oils like corn and mustard seed oil

Oils can also be enhanced by adding herbs and essential oils. Different blends can alter the properties of the oil and its medicinal action. There are many traditional Ayurvedic oils with powerful medicinal properties, and many lovely modern takes on abhyanga oil on the market today. If you're looking to address a specific concern, ask your Ayurvedic practitioner what oils are recommended for your unique needs.

If the oil is rancid, throw it away. Oil does not last forever. If it smells off, that means it is no longer good. Rancid oils can produce toxins in the body and can damage your skin. Don't try to "save" it.

Store your oil in a glass pump bottle

I keep my abhyanga oil in an easily accessible place in an 8 oz. glass bottle with a lotion pump. Glass is the way to go especially if you are heating your oils - you don't want to heat plastic bottles that can leech chemicals into your oil. The lotion pump makes it easy to dispense. If I am using warmed oil, I usually warm it in a hot water bath.

Use oil liberally, especially if you have dry skin

A full body massage can use up as much as 2 oz. of oil in one sitting, and there's nothing wrong with that, especially if your skin is thirsty. Vata and Pitta type skin can usually handle a decent amount of oil For kaphas, use less oil since kapha skin already has a lot of moisture.

Lotion does not have the same effect

A lot of lotions have extra additives because it contains both water and oil, making it susceptible to rancidity without preservatives. Plus, lotions usually have synthetic fragrances and loads of other stuff you wouldn't necessarily want in your body. If you want something more creamy, an all-natural or homemade body butter could be an acceptable substitute.

Are you ready to try self-massage? I hope this gives you enough to start your own abhyanga practice! If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments below.

Thanks for reading. Now go enjoy your oil massage!

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