The Benefits of Massage from an Ayurvedic Perspective

waterfall paradise*

 

Ayurveda highly praises and recommends massage as part of the daily routine. According to Ayurveda most aches and pains in the body are caused by an obstruction of the Vayu, or Wind channels of the body. Massaging the body heats, expands and opens sites where there are blockages to allow for the proper flow of vital life nutrients and energies in the body.

Massage aids the circulation of the body allowing the blood to reach all the tissues with greater ease. It also helps in draining and cleansing the tissues by squeezing, rubbing and patting the musculature and helping to maintain the healthy flow of lymphatic fluids. Massage relaxes the muscles, nerves, bones and whole body and helps induce deep sleep. It also promotes deep and natural breathing and helps the functioning of the digestive system.

In therapeutic massage, the type of massage given and the oil used depend on the condition present. For those with a Vata constitution or disorder, massage is the best remedy due to it’s opposite qualities of oily, heavy and warming. Vata dosha being like the wind is responsible for movement in the body and is involved in a large number of illnesses in the body.

The ancient text Ashtanga Hridaya of Vagbhata , one of the Greater Triad of Texts on Ayurveda dating from approximately 400AD mentions the following benefits of massage:

 

Removes Old Age

Described as Jarahar, the remover of old age, massage provides nourishment to the seven bodily tissues, dhatus:

  1. Rasa (fluids, plasma, hormones)

  2. Rakta (blood)

  3. Mamsa (flesh, muscle)

  4. Medha (adipose, fat)

  5. Asthi (bones)

  6. Majja (marrow, nerves)

  7. Shukra (reproductive tissue)

The circulation of blood, lymph and hormones is enhanced through the massaging of the musculature and the manipulation of energy points. This strengthens the nervous and immune systems and delays old age.

Using dosha specific herbalised oil on the spine, feet, hands and head increases virility and vitality.

 

Removes fatigue

Fatigue can be caused by physical or mental strain or the accumulation of toxins. Massage eases physical discomfort through warming, opening and connecting the area with the circulation of the rest of the body. With the help of fragrant oils, touch and use of energy points, mental strain can melt away through massage. Head and face massage can be very successful in this. To help dispel toxins, heating oils can be used which open the sweat glands to help purify the body.

Free of toxins, and toned, the nerves and muscles are less likely to encounter fatigue.

 

Removes Excess Wind

Known as Vata Har, massage is seen as the best remedy for balancing Vata dosha, the primary dosha. Sesame oil is recommended for Vata.

 

Improves Eyesight

The eyes are connected with the Fire element, with perception, or digestion of experiences. Governed by Pitta dosha, they are connected with the stomach, one of the places of digestion. Massage of the navel area clockwise with coconut or sesame oil, depending on constitution, will help improve eyesight. Releasing this excess fire can also be done through massage of the feet, especially in between the first and second toe and massage of the temples and the inner walls of the nose are also very helpful for the eyes.

 

Strengthens the Body

Massaging the body increases circulation and helps enhance pranic energy in the body. Accumulated toxins are dispelled through massage and in turn the cells of the body are renewed with the incoming prana and nutrient filled vital fluids.

Days of spring*

 

 

Increases Longevity

Massage creates an electrochemical balance in the body, and the use of rejuvenating oils enhances the life force of the body. The oil that is absorbed by the skin feeds the body and protects the skin from dehydration through helping retain the necessary amount of surface moisture. This moisture helps the electromagnetic energy of the earth to react with the electromagnetic field of the body. As we get older the skin becomes dry and the body gets less energy from the environment. Massage helps maintain the electrochemical balance which promotes health and long life.

 

Induces Sleep and Dreams

Massage and especially head massage will help induce good sleep. Massage of the body and the feet in particular calms the restless mind.

 

Strengthens the Skin

For those with regularly cold and dry skin, usually of a Vata constitution, application of oil is the best remedy. Often Vata people will have closed hair follicles and for them it is best to apply the oil against the direction of the body hair to help the oil penetrate into the body. 

 

Aids Resistance to Disharmony and Disease

Massage strengthens the seven tissues of the body, dhatus, and stimulates the production of antibodies. Antibodies strengthen the immune system and the oil strengthens the nerves.

 

Soothes Ailments Caused by Wind and Mucus 

Massage with oil is seen as the best remedy for disturbances of Vata and it is also very effective dealing with diseases that arise from excess Kapha.

 

Improves the Color and Texture of the Skin

Massaging the skin imparts a lustrous glow. Plants and oils can be used to help enhance the richness of this first barrier of the body.

 

Massage opens the channels of the body to allow for the proper flow of nutrients and doshas. Aches and pains, low health and illness come from obstructed channels and so through massage, circulation of vital life fluids and energy is encouraged and maintained.

Buddha pose*

 

 

 

References:

Ayurvedic Massage, Harish Johari, Healing Arts Press 1996