Abhyanga – Self-Massage with Oil

abyhanga pic


The ancient texts of Ayurveda advocate massaging ourselves with oil every day. I myself practice this two or three times a week, but am beginning to understand more and more the wisdom of doing it every day!


It helps us feel relaxed, nourished and protected. Prolonged use also begins to help the psyche feel calmer, centred and stress-free. Sneha is the word for oil in Sanskrit and love is understood as having the quality of sneha, it being unctuous and nourishing. This can be a ritual of self-love or self-care, an anointing of oneself. It feeds the body and the soul and can be a space that provides warmth and stability, much like being loved.


Ayurveda sees the body as comprised of 7 tissues; plasma, blood, muscle, fat, bone, nerves and bone marrow, and reproductive organs. In allowing the oil to penetrate into the body, we begin to nourish all of our self. When it is washed off the oil takes away toxicity which has surfaced out of the skin yet leaves a residual layer of oil, keeping us nurtured and lustrous.


“The body of one who uses oil massage regularly does not become affected much even if objected to accidental injuries, or strenuous work. 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




Imparts softness, strength and colour to the body

Decreases effect of old ageing

Bestows good vision

Nourishes the body

Increases longevity

Benefits sleep patterns

Benefits skin

Strengthens the body’s tolerance

Imparts a firmness to the limbs

Imparts tone and vigour to the tissues of the body

Increases stamina

Improves elimination of toxins from the body

Stimulates the internal organs of the body, increasing circulation

Increases circulation to nerve endings

Pacifies vata and pitta


Particularly for the Scalp

Makes hair grow luxurious, thick, soft and glossy

Soothes and invigorates the sense organs

Helps reduce facial wrinkles


For the Ears

Benefits disorders of the ear due to increases vata

Benefits stiff neck

Benefits stiffness of jaw


For the feet

Alleviates courseness, stiffness, roughness, fatigue and numbness of feet

Enhances vision

Good for local veins and ligaments

Good for sciatica




  • When menstruating as abyhanga can release toxins and the body is already engaged.

  • Pregnancy (for the same reason) – please seek advice from a Health Care Practitioner

  • On swollen, painful areas

  • On infected, broken skin

  • In acute illness or fever


The Right Oil for You


Vata (air) people are of a thinner build, imaginitive, joyous, alert and quick to act. They are also more prone to nervousness, anxiety and worry. They tend towards feeling cold and dry, and can suffer from constipation and nervous ticks/ tremors.

For them, warming, grounding oils like Sesame oil or Almond are best.


Pitta (fire) people are of medium build, highly disciplined and excellent leaders but can be prone to criticism, resentment, anger. They feel hot and are more likely to suffer inflammatory conditions, rashes, ulcers and bleeding disorders.

For them light, cooling, refreshing oils like Sunflower or Coconut are best.


Kapha (water) people have large build, good memory, a deep voice and are compassionate. They are also more prone to sluggishness, depression and attachment. They tend towards feeling cold and damp, and are more subject to swelling, oedema and chest issues.

For them stimulating, invigorating oils like Mustard and Corn are best. Also Sesame can be used or mixed with the others.


We can be a mix of different dosha but usually there is one predominant one. If unsure Sesame Oil is a good choice. If you would like to know more about your Ayurvedic constitution there are many questionnaires online and you can also book a session with an Ayurvedic Practitioner.

Please use organic, cold-pressed oils rather than toasted ones!



The Practice


You will need:

2 Towels (one to sit on and one to dry with)

1 Glass Bottle and 1 small Bowl (one to sit in the other bains-marie style)


Soap (optional)


Create a warm, clean environment. One can practice close to the radiator. Lie one towel down and warm the oil. You don’t need much, and can start with a couple cm in a glass. You will learn quickly how much you need for yourself and if you do your hair etc.

Cover yourself in oil starting from head to toe or toe to head. Aim to get the oil well into your cuticles, nasal wall, ears etc. Apply long strokes on the limbs and circular strokes on the joints, abdomen etc. To cover the body can take 10-15mins on average (or more if you like).

Then let the oil be absorbed for 20 mins. In that time you can continue to massage yourself, the feet are a particularly good choice, or stretch, meditate.

After, wash off the oil with warm water and a little soap if you like. For the hair, depending on length, washing twice is sometimes advisable.

Dry yourself with your second towel and presto!


If you like, now is a good time to anoint yourself with an essential oil or attar.

Vata – Frankincense, Amber, Spikenard,

Pitta – Sandalwood, Rose, Jasmine

Kapha – Eucalyptus, Myrrh, Rosemary


Placing a drop on your wrists, rub them together and apply to third eye and throat as well as temples and neck and anywhere else you like.

When it comes to laundry wash the oily towels on high and some people add bicarbonate of soda and vinegar or essential oils. Every now and the you can also renew your towels.



“Massaging sneha (oil) into the human organism imparts a tone and vigour to its root principles (dhatus) in the same manner as water furnishes the roots of a tree or a plant with the necessary nutritive elements and fosters its growth, when poured into the soil where it grows. The use of sneha at a bath causes the sneha to penetrate into the system through the mouths of the veins (sira) and the ducts (dhamani) of the body, as also through the roots of the hair, and thus soothes and invigorates the body with its own essence”

   Sushruta Samhita


See how you feel doing it once or a few times and know that doing it regularly really does have a profound affect on the psyche and body. It is preventative to illness, maintains healthy function of bodily systems, enhances our senses, health and disposition, and is thoroughly enjoyable!



warming oil