Updated: Nov 18, 2019
“By using oil massage daily, a person is endowed with pleasant touch, trimmed body parts and becomes strong, charming and least affected by old age”
- Charaka Samhita
Self-oleation is one of my favourite ayurvedic self-care practices. Also called sneha (meaning both “oil” and “love”), it is a practice which is believed to have effects similar to being saturated by love : it is deeply healing, nourishing, strengthening, harmonizing and beautifying to all aspects of you.
The Benefits of Self-Massage (Abhyanga)
Promotes softness, lustre and youthfulness to the skin
Nourishing, grounding and relaxing : calms the nerves, decreases the effects of stress and improves sleep
Improves muscle tone and firmness of the body
Lubricates and promotes flexibility of muscles and joints
Moves the lymph, assisting with detoxification of the body
Balances the doshas (primarily vata dosha)
The Practice of Self-Massage
Duration: 5-15 minutes
Heat your oil on low heat on your stove, or by placing your bottle of oil inside the container of hot water for 3-5 minutes.
Choose a space in your home that is warm and where you do not have to worry about making a mess (e.g. the bathroom). Sit on a large towel.
Take some oil into your hands. Start by rubbing oil into the bottoms of your feet and toes. Take your time here, as your feet are considered to be one of the most important areas of the body to massage.
Slowly work your way up to your ankles, calves, knees, thighs and hips. When you are massaging joints (ankles, knees), rub in a circular, clockwise motion. When you are massaging long bones (e.g. legs, arms), rub the oil in an up and down motion. Rub vigorously with a medium amount of pressure so that the oil really penetrates the tissues.
Work your way up to your lower back and abdomen. At the lower back, you can rub in a circular motion at the base of the spine. When you are massaging the abdomen, try to follow the bowel pattern, starting from the right lower part of the abdomen, moving in a clockwise motion to the left lower part. You may also want to massage the second and third chakra in a clockwise motion.
Move your way to massage your breasts and shoulders, then hands, fingers, wrists, arms, elbows and shoulders, and neck, using the same technique as above, using a circular, clockwise motion for joints and breasts and an up and down motion for long bones (e.g. arms).
You can also place a light amount of oil on your face (patting it in lightly) and top of the head (tapping on the crown chakra)..
Return to any area of your body that you feel needs extra care, such as cracking joints or any areas where you have pain.
Optional: To allow the oil to sink more deeply into the tissues, you can put on an old house coat and wait 20 mins before showering. Before you shower, you may wish to wipe off any excess oil with a towel.
Shower with warm to hot water. Stay in for at least 5 minutes to allow the water’s warmth to help the oil to penetrate more deeply.
Keep any towels associated with your oil massage or showering out of the dryer to avoid risk of fire.
Enjoy the benefits of this loving self-massage throughout your day.
Note: You will want to avoid self-oleation if you are menstruating, suffering from slow digestion or fever. Reduce in the case of high kapha (e.g. mucus or congestion).
About the Author
Briya (Rachel) Freeman is a facilitator specialized in meditation, ayurveda and modern spirituality. She is passionate about exploring the potentials of human consciousness in a way that respects ancient wisdom and the natural laws of Earth and spirit.
Briya is a long-term student of Berdhanya Swami Tierra, a female mystic and shaman of South American origin. She also holds studies in ayurveda at Anjali School of Ayurveda (Kerala, India) and a Bachelor’s degree in Commerce from the University of Ottawa.
Briya is based in Ottawa, Canada and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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