What is Abhyangam or Kerala Ayurvedic massage? How is it performed?

Herbal Remedy

Abhyangam is a full body oil-based Ayurvedic massage. It is said to be completely different from other oil massages because Abhyanga is more of a therapeutic procedure rather than a relaxation procedure.

The word ‘abhyanga’ comes from a Sanskrit word; ‘abhi’ and ‘anga’, where abhi means towards and anga means movement. Therefore, Abhyanga is a harmonized massage, which is performed in the same direction as the flow of the arterial blood. In other words, this massage is performed in the same direction as your body hair. The scientific reason for this is said to be to increase the blood circulation and to avoid any overwhelming effect on the heart.

Abhyanga is not just restricted to oil. This massage can be performed using herbal powder, herbal pastes, or ghee (clarified butter). It is said that one can even perform self-abhyanga as a part of a daily routine as it is extremely beneficial. One can get relief from pain, stiffness or tiredness with the help of abhyanga. It is also a prelude to the famous Panchakarma treatment.

The Sarvanga Abhyanga is a full body massage that starts at the head and ends at the feet. The body is massaged in parts and not completely at once. This promotes a healthy blood circulation and induces relaxation, bit by bit. Varying pressures are applied all through the massage. A firm pressure is applied to the extremities and a mild to very mild pressure is applied to the neck, abdomen, hear area, face, eyes, and forehead. In this massage, they use circular motions for the joints.

If you are practicing this massage at home, it is important to do it for at least 5 minutes and the maximum time limit is 15 minutes. Also, it is important to wait for 15 minutes after abhyanga to take a bath.

Before your massage, the practitioner will make sure that the room is warm and airy. During the procedure, the warm oil is applied to the body and lukewarm or cool oil is applied to the head. However, if it is summer and the weather is hot and stuff, cooling oil might be used. In most cases, for pita dominant individuals, oil at room temperature is used.

In Ayurveda, the oils are used according to the dosha of an individual. For a vata, one must use sesame oil, castor oil or olive oil. For Pitta, it is coconut oil, sunflower oil, or ghee. And for kapha, it is mustard oil, sesame oil, corm oil or olive oil.

For a body massage, the appropriate choice of oils is; sesame, olive, sunflower, mustard, or corn oils. For head massage, one can use coconut oil or sesame oil. If you want, you can also use cooling herbs or essential oils mixed with the oils. For a foot massage, you can use any oil according to your dosha or plain ghee.

Steps to do self-abhyanga

  • The oil must be slightly warmer than your body temperature.
  • Start with a head massage and an ear massage.
  • Next, you must massage your arms, chest, and stomach by applying light pressure.
  • Finally, massage your legs and feet.
  • You must take a warm bath 15-20 minutes after your massage.

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