Abhyanga is the cornerstone of self care for yogis, a lost art that helps to regulate all of our systems gently, naturally and with a unique blend of relaxation and mood lifting. It's simple, inexpensive and easy. I'm personally convinced this has been the key to healing my allergies and disturbed sleep cycles; I recommend it for all my clients.
Abhyanga is self oil massage and should be done daily. Use only organic and unrefined oils: sesame, coconut, sunflower, olive, jojoba. Sesame and jojoba are good for all doshas; coconut and sunflower for pitta, or fiery types; olive and almond for kappha or earthy types; and almond as well for vata or airy or etheric types. Castor oil can be done once per week, on a rest day as it's very powerful.
Traditionally, you start at the top of your head and massage your scalp from the center out; face in circles upward, earlobes. Next, chest and belly, then arms - long strokes over bones, circles over joints; back as far as you can reach; legs in same manner as arms, then feet, including between the toes. Then you allow the oil to soak in for 15 minutes, sitting in meditation. Be very careful and wipe your feet off before entering shower. Shower and allow the heat of the water to help the oil sink in and soothe you. Since soap is just saponified oil, you don't even have to use drying soaps... except maybe in the stinky places. You'll emerged renewed, soft, refreshed and relaxed.
As you apply the oil, set an intention for your day: how do you want to feel? What qualities do you need for the day you have planned? Imagine the oil as anointing you. Imagine the water as blessing you, giving you patience, strength, courage and kindness for the day ahead.
To do this every day, I've made a few adjustments. I don't do my hair and scalp but once per week. I don't wait 15 minutes on most days, but use the massage itself as a meditation. Once a week, I warm the oil in a small crock pot, massage my scalp, too and sit for 15 minutes. Other days, the whole thing takes about 5 minutes.
This procedure nurtures your skin microbiome, supports oxytocin production - the feel good, bonding hormone, which is also cancer fighting - and soothes your fight or flight response. Your skin has never felt so good! And you'll emerge softer, more at ease, inside and out.
Try it today with oil you have on hand - don't put anything on your body you wouldn't eat, so go to your kitchen. You'll know when you have the right oil for you, trust your intuition. Share your experience in the comments below!