ABHYANGA (Ayurvedic Oil Massage)
Abhyanga means oiling all parts of the body and done daily, nourishes all tissues, especially the skin, the senses, even the mind (see Gharshana for dry massage). With proper herbalization oil massage is suitable for almost any doshic disorder. In preparation for its application place a small container of cured sesame oil in a baby bottle warmer or in a sink of hot water to warm the oil to slightly above body temperature. Prior to beginning the massage, in a room which will not be damaged by spilled or excess oil, close your eyes for a moment and allow your body to relax and your mind to become quiet. Have an intention to bring fall awareness to your body during this massage. Have the intention to find areas of poor physiology where awareness has been blocked. These might be sore, stiff, or even insensitive places. Just have the idea that you will be becoming intimate with you own body and that this process will bring healing energy in the form of mental attention and awareness to all areas of the body. One might farther intend that known areas of disease, imbalance, poor physiology are imagined to be healing. Then with the warmed oil quickly apply it to the entire body (genitals included). Avoid getting oil in the eyes. Once the entire body has been covered begin working from the head to the neck, arms, trunk, and legs. Massage the body with vigorous strokes. On joints rub in a circular fashion and over the long-straight bones rub back and forth. For the abdomen rub gently in a circle up the right and down the left side. Spend a little extra time on the head, scalp, face, ears, and on the soles of the feet. Nerve endings in the feet and the senses being in the head make these areas important to soothe they control numerous functions and areas. Donít forget to lubricate the inner nostrils and to squeeze and pull the individual fingers and toes. This massage can be gentle or deep according to your own needs. It is recommended that the pressure on the strokes moving towards the heart be greater than those moving away from it. Thus strokes on the legs for example would be light for downward direction and deeper on the upward direction. This will not create undue pressure on the venous valves which prevent the backward flow of blood.
Some people will be put off by having to shampoo the hair daily so we suggest oiling the hair on those days you will be shampooing. The oil soaks into the deepest layers of tissue in about 20 minutes, according to the ancient Ayurvedists, but daily application of the oil is necessary for the conditioning of the tissues. We suggest that it be done before exercise in the morning but it may be done afterwards, also. This provides a rationale for doing exercise, which duration allows the oil to penetrate. Further, the oil lubricates the tissues for the exercise, may help to scavenge free-radicals engendered by the exercise, and provides a reason for a single morning shower. Those persons experiencing fever, very poor digestion, severe over-weight, and high ama condition should not do this task. Also, areas of acne and certain skin rashes should be avoided.
Those people objecting to the heating of the sesame oil may add 10-20 drops of sandalwood oil to about I cup sesame oil (until desired cooling effect is produced in the sesame oil). Other oils may be substituted for sesame oil such as coconut or sunflower oils, but these do not have the same beneficial effects as the sesame oil, as demonstrated in modem research. Those people who desire to use oils suited specifically to vata, pitta, or kapha may use these according to your body type or imbalance.
People ask how much oil is enough because excess oil gets on clothing and furniture. One need not apply so much as to make the body slick, especially if one's skin doesn't absorb much. Apply as a body moisturizer. One's concern for excess oil may be addressed by wiping down after 20' with paper towels prior to bathing. This will keep excess oil from accumulating in drains as well. We recommend that oil be applied prior to swimming in chlorinated swimming pools to minimize chlorine damage to tissues, also.
Sesame oil has numerous qualities and the ancient experts said that heating the oil improves its properties. To accomplish this curing just pour your quart or half-gallon of oil into a pot of sufficient size and slowly heat the oil to about 212F. Because doing the abhyanga is a life-long recommendation buy a cooking thermometer for this purpose if you don't already have one. Do not leave the oil unattended during this procedure because if it is heated too hot it will ignite and bum dangerously. Note that 212F is the boiling point of water and not of oil, which boils at several hundred degrees F.
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