Abhyanga is an Ayurvedic massage that is used to maintain health. As with other Ayurvedic types of massage therapy, like kalari massage, this massage uses lots of massage oil. The therapist uses long gliding strokes to warm tissue and increase circulation.
It is unknown how long massage has been part of Ayurvedic medicine. Ayurveda is one of the oldest of the healing practices thought to be about 5,000 years old. It is continued to be practiced in India today. Considering that massage is thought to be among the first ways people tried to heal each other it is speculated that massage was used in the earliest Ayurvedic treatments.
Balancing Your Dosha
I've always found Ayurveda to be quite fascinating. It continues to be used in modern India to treat people. It is also practiced in other countries. There are schools around the world that train people in the traditional practices. Deepak Chopra is a champion of using Ayurvedic principles to promote health and wellbeing. There is even an Ayurvedic clinic near my home in Florida.
In Ayurvedic medicine, they believe that people contain 3 doshas or characteristics:
- Vata (air and space)
- Pitta (fire and water)
- Kapha (water and earth)
When these doshas are imbalanced it negatively affects your health. Practitioners help you bring your doshas into balance by guiding you in lifestyle changes like diet, exercise, herbs, and sleeping schedules. Massage is yet another way to balance your dosha. The The herbs in the oil are specially chosen according to which of the are dominant in you. When you are massaged with the oil it helps you come into balance.
Besides making sure your doshas are properly balanced this type of massage has other benefits. It can help ...
- decrease stress and anxiety
- improve muscle tone
- improve skin health
- improve sleep
- increase stamina
- ease depression
- increase mental alertness
What to Expect
This type of massage is gentle and doesn't penetrate deep layers of muscle tissue. It is meant to nourish the skin with oil. It's part of standard health maintenance in Ayurvedic medicine.
This therapy is usually done in the morning before you start your day. You are asked to remove your clothes and lay on a massage table. The therapist will then put oil all over you. Large amounts of massage oil are used. Usually they use sesame or coconut oil. The oil is infused with herbs that are specially formulated for your dosha.
Once the oil is on your body, the therapist will let it soak into the skin for a few minutes before starting the therapy. The massage is soothing and relaxing. The therapist uses a relaxed open palm and long flowing strokes.
There is a reason why I haven't visited my local Ayurvedic clinic. There have been some problem with arsenic, mercury and lead being found in Ayurvedic preparations bought from India. As late as 2008 about 1/5 of Ayurvedic preparations bought online contained one or all of these dangerous heavy metals. You can read more about that study here. This fact is quite troubling and because of it I'd say that you should be careful about who you see for Ayurvedic treatments. It may be best to avoid them all together, but if you feel like you want to see an Ayurvedic practitioner find out where she buys her preparations and the purity of them.
That being said the massage is quite gentle and relaxing. Abhyanga can be done every morning. I actual recommend giving yourself a nice massage daily. Just buy some regular massage oil to use. Self-massage is a wonderful healing practice that can increase your overall health and peace of mind. I give detailed instructions on how to do an Ayurvedic self-massage in my ebook, Self-Massage for Healing. Sign up for my monthly newsletter below to get your free copy.