Ayurveda Skin Care: Abhyanga
A quotation from the Charaka Samhita, an ancient Ayurvedic text, reads as follows:
"The body of one who uses oil massage regularly does not become affected much even if subjected 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 Vol. 1, V: 88-89).
Abhyanga Self-Oil Massage
The daily practice (dinacharya ) of a self-oil massage, known in Ayurveda as Abhyanga, provides multiple health and well-being benefits. In addition to grounding and relaxing all three of the doshas, regulated Abhyanga reaps the following rewards:
- Dissolves stress
- Dispels toxins
- Relieves fatigue
- Promotes restful sleep
- Improves complexion
- Enhances skin luster
- Lubricates joints
- Improves circulation
- Calms nerves
- Rejuvenates the mind-body
Moreover, the practice of Abhyanga is considered an act of self-love, as the effects of saturating the skin with warm oil from head to toe and the resulting sensations of warmth and stability are likened to the experience of being deeply loved.
Ayurveda Skin Care
Did you know that the skin is your body's largest organ? Moreover, outside of most people's conscious awareness, under the surface the skin proficiently performs multiple diverse functions essential to your health.
According to the Science of Ayurveda, the state of your skin is a reflection of your inner physical and emotional states. In fact, your skin can provide pertinent information about the function of your liver, spleen, stomach and heart, as well as various degrees of tension and anxiety.
Spanning approximately 22 feet or 2 square meters in adults, the human skin is constantly changing, fully regenerating itself every 35 days. Additional functions provided by this extraordinary organ include:
- Protection from extreme temperatures
- Protection from the sun's ultraviolet rays
- Protection from environmental chemicals
- Production of proteins
- Production of essential vitamins
- Moisture preservation
Skin Characteristics by Dosha
Depending on your dominant dosha or Ayurvedic body type, your skin typically bears certain characteristics, such as:
- Vata: Normal to dry skin; no clogged pores; prone to wrinkles and premature fine lines; prone to flakiness; prone to dark circles under the eyes
- Pitta: Sensitive 'combination' skin; normally clear and glowing but easily irritated and sunburned; prone to freckles and moles; at risk for oily skin; prone to congested pores
- Kapha: Normal to oily skin; normally smooth and moist but prone to oily skin and congestion due to large pores; prone to puffy eyes; on occasion, may experience rashes
Ayurveda and Massage
Massages are highly recommended by Ayurveda. Whether administered by a therapist or self-administered, here are some of the benefits associated with Ayurvedic massage practices and Ayurveda oil massages in particular:
- Rejuvenates the skin
- Releases tensions
- Alleviates fatigue
- Improves muscle tone
- Facilitates toxin removal
- Boosts resistance to bacteria
- Pacifies the doshas
- Calms the nervous system
- Soothes the endocrine system
Fittingly, the practice of Abhyanga has been likened to oiling a car engine: if you oil your vehicle's engine regularly, it will operate at peak performance and provide your body with a smooth ride for years to come!
Ayurveda Massage "How-To"
To aid in the release of toxins that accumulate overnight, Ayurvedic massages are ideally performed in the morning, before you shower or bathe. Warm sesame oil is considered ideal, however you can also use coconut oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, almond oil, olive oil, or Jojoba oil, which benefits all three doshas. If this is your first time using massage oils, the experts recommend applying a small amount on the inside your forearm to see if there are any signs of irritation (i.e. redness, itching, a rash).
Follow these steps on how to perform an Ayurvedic massage:
- Warm up your choice of oil; the temperature should comfortable, not hot
- Apply the oil to the crown of your head, using circular strokes and massaging the entire scalp
- Using circular strokes, massage oil into your forehead, temples, ear lobes, cheeks and jaw
- Using long strokes in the direction of your heart, massage oil into your arms and legs
- Using a large, clockwise, circular motion, massage oil into your chest and abdomen
- In a circular motion, rub oil into your elbows, knees, and joints
- Spend several minutes massaging oil into your feet, where critical nerve endings effecting your entire body are located
- If time allows, sit for 10-15 minutes, allowing oils to penetrate the deepest layers of your body
- Enjoy a warm bath or shower, gently toweling dry by blotting (not strongly rubbing)
As you enjoy your Abhyanga self-massage (or any other Ayurvedic oil massage), you will simultaneously be nourishing your mind, body, and spirit, setting yourself up for a glorious, successful day!
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