Self-Massage Guide to Ayurvedic Oil Abhyanga for Self-Care

Abhyanga is the Sanskrit term for this ancient Ayurvedic practice that nurtures the body, softens, smoothes, and hydrates the skin, stimulates the lymphatic system, lubricates joints, increases circulation, enhances sleep, and calms nerves.

Schedule an appointment for an Ayurvedic Abhyanga self-massage when you want a quick and easy way to feel like you’re at a spa every day without leaving your home.

Self-Massage = Love

According to the teachings of Ayurveda, the practice of oiling the body for abhyanga is a powerful act of self-love. One of translations of the Sanskrit word for oil, Sneha, literally means love. When you oil yourself, you love yourself.

Benefits and History

The Charaka Samhita (one of the traditional Ayurvedic textbooks) says, “The body of one who uses oil massage regularly does not become affected much even if subjected to accidental injuries or strenuous work.

Using oil massage daily, a person is endowed with pleasant touch, trimmed body parts and becomes strong, charming and least affected by old age.” Think about it; massage improves recovery time, increases strength, has anti-aging properties, and can even improve fitness. So if you’re a yogi, you’ll want to include this practice in your daily Abhyanga routine.

Choosing an Oil

According to Ayurveda, different oils have different energetic properties.

  • Sesame Oil: Beloved in Ayurvedic tradition, this nourishing oil has powerful effects of hydrating dry skin. It calms the airy Vata dosha.
  • Coconut Oil: This cooling oil is recommended for people whose skin tends to be sensitive or even acne-prone. It cools the fiery pitta dosha.
  • Jojoba Oil: Jojoba is naturally anti-inflammatory and is easily absorbed by the skin. It is also recommended to calm the pitta dosha.
  • Almond Oil: This light and fragrant oil are helpful for people with damp, moist skin or brings balance to the heavy and wet Kapha dosha.

The Three Doshas

  • Vata: Comprised of the elements of air and space, vata is characterized by the qualities of being dry, irregular, rough, and cold.
  • Pitta: Comprised of the element of fire (with a bit of water), pitta is characterized by the qualities of being intense, penetrating, oily, and hot.
  • Kapha: Comprised of the elements of water and earth, Kapha is characterized by the qualities of being damp, dense, sluggish, and cold.

To know your Dosha take this quiz: Dosha Quiz 

Steps for Abhyanga Self-Massage


Warm the Oil

First, warm the oil so the skin better absorbs it. Pour the amount of fat you want to use into a glass bottle (about ¼ to ½ cup, depending on the dryness of your skin).

Heat a pot of water on the stove and submerge the glass bottle into the water for several minutes. Warm oil and no mess!

Develop Technique

Adjust the pressure and rhythm for what you need when it comes to technique.

  • Calm the hyperactive energy of the Vata dosha with long, slow, steady strokes, moving to the heart to ease anxiety.
  • Reduce the stress and burnout experienced by an excess of fiery pitta with light, soothing strokes to relax the adrenals.
  • Stimulate the lymphatic system and reduce the stagnation experienced by the dense and heavy energy of Kapha with firm, deep strokes.

Massage Abdominals

After oiling up your arms, legs, and back, pay particular attention to the abdominal area, which houses the organs central to your digestion.

According to Ayurveda, healthy digestion is the cornerstone of a healthy life. Massaging the abdominal area helps to enhance digestion.

Use circular motions in a counterclockwise direction; move your hands up the right side of your abdomen, across the top, and down on the left. This follows the path of muscular movement in the colon, supporting the contractions of peristalsis.

Focus on Where You Hold Stress

Pay particular attention to areas where you hold stress. This may include your shoulders, low back, or even the sternum above your physical heart or chakra. Combine the massage with attention to your breath to encourage relaxation.

Massage Your Scalp

Massage some oil into your scalp (if you didn’t, just get a blow-dry!). This soothing practice can relieve tension and even ease headaches. It is said in Ayurveda that scalp massage enhances hair growth.

Include your Feet

Reflexology points on the soles of the feet correspond to the rest of the body. The feet also contain several essential marma points (the Ayurvedic equivalent of acupuncture or acupressure points).

After massaging the oil into your feet, carefully put on a pair of socks to encourage the oil to penetrate the skin (and keep your feet from sliding on the floor).

Don’t Wash Off Oil Immediately.

For the full benefit of the practice, keep the oil on your skin for as long as possible.

I usually recommend self-massage before bed both to help you relax and because that way, you can fall asleep and allow the oil to soak in. But if that doesn’t sound enjoyable, wait at least 10 minutes before bathing or showering.

Add a Steam Room

For the ultimate spa experience, enter a hot steam room or sauna after the massage so you can absorb the oil into your tissues.


Enjoy this sacred time with Sneha—oil—to give yourself some Sneha—love.


Recommended for you: How To Make Ayurveda Work For You In Your Busy Life

Not a big fan of reading? Learn more about it : Introduction to Ayurveda

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