by Claudia Ward, L.Ac.
I have to confess that I am a massage addict
and have therefore tried every kind of massage and bodywork
on the planet, I have been myofascially and neuro-structurally
released, and between Rolfing, Esalen Massage, Lomi Lomi and
Hellerwork have been kneaded, oiled and rubbed in any way and
form known to human kind. And then one day I had an Ayurvedic
massage…. ! It was the most heavenly, blissful and luxurious
experience, I had never felt so pampered, and cared for during
a bodywork session. My skin glowed from the deeply nourishing
warm herbalized oils, my mind deeply rested, this was not just
a massage, it was a spiritual experience!
Formerly of the no-pain-no-gain conviction
I suddenly realized that all my aches and pains had mysteriously
disappeared during this session in spite of the light touch
that is typical for an Ayurvedic massage. When the nervous system
relaxes, the body relaxes, and lets go of a lot of tension and
pain. The lymph flow is stimulated and toxins are eliminated.
This is why this form of massage is so good for people suffering
from chronic conditions, such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue,
joint and muscle pain, anxiety and stress. The skin becomes
smooth and soft, the body’s energy levels deeply recharged,
nerves are calmed resulting in better, deeper sleep, and it
also helps in losing weight! A lot of weight issues can be attributed
to stress in our lives, balancing our nervous system through
massage is a good way to counteract nervous tension. Pain, too,
is aggravated by stress due to the release of cortisol. studies
have shown that injuries take twice as much time to heal when
a person is under stress.
Oh, how I wished I could have a massage every
day! Well – actually there is a way to get a massage every
day, or even twice a day, without costing an arm and a leg and
without taking up too much time. Ayurveda has a solution: the
daily Abhyanga massage, a great way to start the day. Here is
how it goes:
Ayurvedic Oil Self-Massage (Abhyanga)
One of the best ways to start the day is to do a full-body oil
massage in the morning before taking a bath or shower. A full
body, warm Ayurvedic oil massage before showering in the morning
is recommended for almost everyone. It has a soothing effect
on the nervous system, strengthens the circulation, and helps
to remove toxins from the body. It also keeps the skin moist,
supple and youthful. It strengthens immunity and counteracts
What Oils to Use for the Daily Abhyanga
Sesame oil (unrefined and organic) is a good universal choice,
especially for those with Vata imbalances, because they tend
to have very dry skin. If someone has high Pitta (heat), coconut
oil is better, for individuals with Kapha imbalances dry brushing
or almond oil are recommended.
How to do the Abhyanga
Allow about 15 minutes in the morning. The massage can be done
either standing up or sitting down in a comfortable warm room.
Ideally the oil should be heated beforehand to a little above
body temperature. Start by massaging the head region, with small
circular movements. Just do the face if you do not want to get
your hair oily.
Then do the neck, throat, shoulders, arms
and hands. Massage the limbs with long straight strokes up and
down; for the joints use circular movements. The chest and stomach
areas should be massaged very gently. Use circular strokes on
the chest, straight up and down strokes over the breastbone
and solar plexus. Women should pay specific attention to the
area around the breasts, so important for breast health!
For the abdomen use a slow, circular, clockwise
Massage the back and base of the spine up and down with the
flat of the hands - as far as you can comfortably reach.
The legs are done in the same manner as the arms: circular movements
on the joints, straight strokes on the limbs.
Finally, massage the feet and the soles of the feet. Best results
are achieved if you leave the oil on for 15 minutes before taking
a bath or shower so that the body has time to absorb the oil.
If you are short of time, then massage only the face, ears and
soles of the feet.
I use an old towel to wrap myself into after
applying the oil. I leave the oil on for a few minutes while
I brush my teeth, and do other Ayurvedic morning procedures,
such as using the neti pot for cleansing the sinuses or cleaning
my tongue with a tongue cleaner. I use an old towel to dry myself
off (it will get a little oily – so I wash it separately).
Voilá! What a way to start the day!
Great way to end the day, too! It really helps me get a good
night’s sleep when I am stressed out. Just massaging the
feet will improve sleep tremendously.
Doing the daily Abhyanga will change your life!
I simply love how Ayurveda has so many simple tips and tricks
that can really make a difference.
And of course, we also offer a wide variety
of Ayurvedic treatments at our center. Here is a short description
of some the authentic Ayurvedic therapies that are available:
Abhyanga massage (with one
or two practitioners)
The Sanskrit word Abhyanga literally means “loving hands”.
Abhyanga massage is a gentle but firm whole body massage from
head to toe using warm medicated oils. Oils are chosen according
to the dosha or constitution. When performed by two practitioners
with synchronized motions it is an absolutely blissful experience!
A profound treatment using Ayurvedic oils poured in a steady
stream over the forehead and scalp. It allows the body's natural
healing mechanisms to release stress from the nervous system.
This therapy stimulates the nervous system by releasing neuro-hormones
and creating feelings of relaxation and wellbeing.
Medicated steam bath that eliminates impurities from the body,
improves the tone and complexion of the skin, reduces fat and
is used in the treatment of certain rheumatic diseases. Precious
herbs and herbal leaves are boiled and the steam is passed over
the entire body. Deeply cleansing for the body and mind.
Marma points are connected with each other by energy channels
called Nadis. Under normal circumstances, energy should flow
uninterrupted through the Nadis. Due to external influences
like stress, tension, lack of rest etc. energy tends to get
blocked. Marma therapy is a very good treatment to help release
this blocked energy. The Marma points are actually identical
with acupuncture points, however, instead of needles, aromatic
oils are used to stimulate the energy points.
A specific treatment for the sinuses and head, including a head-,
scalp- and neck massage, steam inhalation and specific oils
for opening the sinuses.
The name says it all! A two-hour blissful experience of Abhyanga
(warm oil massage), svedana (herbal steam) and shirodhara (warm
oil poured over the forehead).
A wonderful treatment that deeply nourishes body, mind and soul,
bringing about a feeling of profound relaxation.
is cofounder of The Prana Center, Santa Barbara's
exclusive healing center for Ayurveda and Chinese Medicine,
offering authentic Ayurvedic bodywork, marma therapy,
consultations, nutrition, acupuncture and Pancha Karma
cleanses. She is a Licensed Acupuncturist, Diplomate of
Acupuncture, Diplomate of Chinese Herbology and an Ayurvedic
may be contacted at:
USA Phone and Fax: 805-560-9727
web site: www.beyondacupuncture.us
Claudia's page in Our Wellness Directory