Updated: Sep 4
Abhyanga massage - a type of Ayurveda massage done with warm oil - can nourish your body and improve your overall wellness. Best of all, you can use Abhyanga oils to do self-massage at home. Daily Abhyanga practice can boost your energy levels and help you keep the doshas in balance.
Explore more on the Saumya Blog, selected top Ayurveda blogs and websites to watch.
Abhyanga Massage - How to Do Ayurveda Self-Massage
Choosing the Right Abhyanga Massage Oils for You
Before you can make Abhyanga massage part of your daily practice, you'll need to select the best oil to use for your massage. Nourishing cold-pressed oils can penetrate the skin, providing many benefits. Which oil is best suited for you depends on a number of factors such as location, seaon, stage of life, and current symptoms.
As with all Ayurvedic treatments, using the correct herbalized oils to ensure balancing of the doshas is key. Ayurveda shines in its specificity and holistic, systemic approach, versus a one size fits all approach.
However, you're likely to get the best results by using herbalized oils that are specific to your unique needs. Saumya Ayurveda can help you with a customized Ayurveda plan and target which oils will work optimally for you.
How to Prepare for Abhyanga Self-Massage at Home
"Maintain a gentle awareness of your breath. Relax, release, and let go. Performing Abhyanga is a meditation." - Veena, Saumya Ayurveda
Give yourself a few minutes to prepare for your Ayurvedic self-massage with a systematic relaxation. Use our free guided practices, or our Two Minute Meditation is a nice option to apply this meditation technique while you are peforming Abhyanga. You'll have a deeper experience of Abhyanga self-massage using our preparations.
To receive the greatest benefits from your Ayurveda self-massage, Learn Diaphragmatic Breathing and Change Your Life.
Abhyanga is woven into either your morning or evening Ayurveda daily routine, known as dinacharya.
Learn step by step: Abhyanga Massage - How to Do Ayurveda Self-Massage at Home
Benefits of Abhyanga Self-Massage at Home
1. Stabilizes vata
7. Increases focus and concentration 8. Increases circulation 9. Slows down the effects of the aging process 10. Promotes healthy skin 11. Supports healthy joints 12. Tones muscles and increase flexibility 13. Enhances immunity 14. Builds Ojas 15. Supports soft, luscious, and healthy hair 16. Pacifies vata, pitta doshas, while stimulating kapha dosha
For a comprehensive overview on Ayurveda, read What is Ayurveda? A Beginner's Guide and Beyond
Wondering if you have a dosha imbalance? Wild List of Vata Imbalances
How to Do Abhyanga Self-Massage at Home from Toe to Head
1. Put 1/4–1/2 cup of your dosha specific Ayurveda oil into a flip top bottle and place in hot water until warm. If your bathroom is nice and warm, and you have hot enough water out of your tap, place the flip top bottle into the sink and let it warm up.
2. While your oil warms up, gather the few other supplies you need for your Ayurvedic massage.
3. The temperature of the Abhyanga oil should feel soothing and pleasing on your skin.
4. Find a warm room and sit or stand on a towel you don’t mind getting soiled. The oil will build up and you'll want to use a towel with which you don't have a strong attachment.
5. Take a few diaphragmatic breaths to center and ground yourself. Be present to the moment. Our two-minute meditation technique is perfect meditation technique for performing your Ayurvedic self-massage.
6. Massage the oil into your skin. You’re gently working the oil into the largest organ of digestion, your skin. The quality of the warm oil is soothing to Vata and the herbalized Abhyanga oil is being directly digested by your skin. How perfect is that?
7. You should not feel like a sardine in a can of oil. Instead use enough oil that you have sufficient glide for your Abhyanga strokes, but not so much that it’s dripping off you.
8. Starting with the feet, massage from feet to head.
9. As you massage, use strokes that mirror each part of your body. Take a look at your body and you will see that we’re made of a series of long bones and round bones.
10. So, three long strokes on the long bones, three circular strokes on the round bones. Let’s use the feet as an example to ensure all is clear. Three long strokes on the metatarsals, three circular strokes on the ankles. Lower leg, three long strokes, knee joints, three circular strokes. You get the idea.
11. Massage your abdomen in clockwise circles, which is the flow of digestion, this Ayurvedic massage motion encourages healthy digestion.
12. Start with your hand near the sternum and work to your left, around down to the navel, up around to the right and repeat slowly three times.
13. If there is an area of your body that needs more attention, provide. Use some additional strokes on the area and let your attention sink into the tissue area.
14. Your hands, scalp, ears, and feet are full of nerve endings, and benefit from extra time and attention a few times a week.
15. Be sure to fully wash off your feet before you bath, so you don’t slip.
16. We recommend breathing diaphragmatically or doing on of our 11 minute guided practices after your massage to allow the oil to penetrate deeply into your skin. (If you’re short on time, you can hop right into a warm bath or shower.)
17. Enjoy a warm bath or shower. Only soap the few strategic areas, do not soap the entire body. Make a horseshoe shape with your hand, using your index finger and thumb to create a “U.” Now use this to squeegee off the oil and water from your skin.
18. Pat off with a towel that is designated for Ayurveda self-massage as over time, it will accumulate the Ayurveda oil.
19. Step into rubber soled slippers or the like to ensure your safety as residual oil may remain on your feet. Avoid slipping.
20. If you enjoy essential oils, apply a few drops to your wrists and neck to enhance your Abhyanga experience and to carry it with you throughout the day (or night)
Unwind with Ayurveda Aromatherapy-Extend Your Abhyanga Experience
Certain scents trigger physiological responses that can help us fall asleep. Aromatherapy is a fantastic Ayurvedic evening ritual that’s easy to incorporate into your nightly flow. There are several ways to use essential oils:
Mist your pillow with a spray
Add a few drops to a warm bath
Use in a steamy shower (or a cool one if you run hot)
Disperse with an oil diffuser
Soak a cotton ball and place by your bedside
While the following oils are always beneficial, certain scents are more balancing for the each dosha:
Vata: warm, sweet, and sour aromas. This includes: lavender; rose; clove; patchouli; and vanilla.
Pitta: sweet and cooling. This includes sandalwood and jasmine.
Kapha: warm, spicy, and stimulating. This includes camphor; juniper; eucalyptus; marjoram; and clove.
I am frequently asked, “How long should I do Abhyanga?” My answer is my usual response—"It depends. Five to twenty minutes is perfect. Go with how you are feeling that day. Do what is correct for you. Don't push from the outside, follow from the inside." - Veena, Saumya Ayurveda
Ayurvedic Self-Massage for the Head
1. If you are performing Ayurvedic head massage with oil, we offer a variety of oils that support healthy scalp and lustrous hair. (Pop us an email and we’re happy to guide you on which oil is best for you and deliver it to your door!) Apply oil to the crown of your head.
2. There is a marma point called adhipati marma located on the crown of the head. It is a sensitive and sacred point, gentle, gentle touch. Work the oil slowly and gently outward using the circular stroke, with feather light touch.
3. What’s a marma? A marma is an energy point that is accessed on the surface of the body and is connected to deep, subtle energetic pathways called nadis. Marma points are connected to organs, channels, pranas, and emotions. Working with marma is best done by an experienced practitioner as marma are both diagnostic and a therapeutic vehicle.
Benefits of Ayurvedic Self-Massage for the Head
1. It’s deeply relaxing, so much you’ll wonder why you haven’t always been doing it.
2. It promotes lustrous, thick, soft, shiny hair,
3. Soothing and rejuvenating to all the sense organs.
4. May reduce fine facial wrinkles as stress melts away and nothing ages us faster than stress. Read More: Anti-Aging with Ayurveda: 10 Ways to Prevent or Reverse Signs of Aging
You may include Ayurvedic head oil massage as part of your abhyanga morning or evening routine or perform Ayurvedic head massage separately. Ayurvedic Morning Routine | 6 Rituals for a Calm and Centered Day 10 Ayurvedic Evening Rituals for a Calming Night
Ayurvedic Self-Massage of the Ears
Ears are the domain of vata dosha. Ears are easily stimulated by the environment such as by sound, wind and cold. Ears are a gateway into our heads and minds, protecting our ears is an essential part of our Ayurveda self-care. Ear oil massage is known as karna pratisaranam in Sanskrit.
Benefits of Ayurvedic Self-Massage of the Ears
1. Soothes tinnitus
2. Prevents ear aches
3. Reduce vata imbalance
4. Supports healthy ear wax
5. Especially grounding and soothing for vata dosha
6. Reduces symptoms of vertigo and general dizziness
7. Relieves tension in the jaw, neck and shoulder muscles
How to Perform Ayurvedic Self-Massage of the Ears
1. Put two drops of warmed ear oil in each ear before going to bed. You can use the tip of your cleaned little finger, or use a cotton ball to apply the ear oil just to the opening of the ear canal. No need to go deeper.
2. Clients love our Ear Oil which include tulsi, turmeric, garlic, cloves, jatamamsi, in a base of sesame and olive oil. Note: My dogs also like our ear oil, so insist they don’t try to like it out of your ears!
Note: If you have an ear condition or discomfort, check with your health care provider before doing Ayurvedic ear oil massage.
How Often Should You Do Abhyanga Massage?
Abhyanga self-massage, you can make the practice part of your daily routine. The best routine for an individual, however, varies depending on your dominant dosha and current situation which is determined during an Ayurveda consultation.
The general rule of thumb: 1. Vata types benefit from performing Abhyanga massage at least 4-5 times a week
2. Pitta types can aim for 3-4 times per week
3. Kapha types 2-3 times per week, and focus on dry brushing
If you'd like to learn more about Ayurvedic self-massage , or to book a discovery call, contact Saumya Ayurveda.
When Shouldn’t Abhyanga Massage Be Done?
Abhyanga massage is generally safe to practice daily; but there are times in which it is contraindicated. It is best to avoid Ayurveda self-massage:
After eating or experiencing digestive issues
When fevered or chilled
When excess Ama or Kapha are present
During your menstrual cycle
After Basti or Emetic
After Eating or Severe Constipation/Indigestion
Abhyanga massage does not discern what it circulates. As our blood movement increases, so does our undigested food. If constipation of indigestion exists, book an Ayurvedic consultation to balance the five vayus - or Pranic movements - and get you feeling better.
When Fevered or Chilled
Fever occurs when our digestive fire roams from its home in the belly and circulates in the body. The warm oil used in Abhyanga massage can further provoke that reckless wandering.
When Ama or Excess Kapha are Present
Ama is undigested food, emotions, and thoughts (which may manifest as tongue coating, brain fog, mucus build-up, and more). Since like increases like, the heavy, unctuous oils used in Abhyanga massage may aggravate Kapha and high Ama.
During Your Menstrual Cycle
Abhyanga massage can stimulate a detoxification process. Menstruation is a natural form of cleansing, and extra rest is recommended during this time – adding further cleansing can bring the body into a weakened state.
An Abhyanga massage may stimulate detoxification and the developing baby could be exposed to Ama. Traditional Ayurveda massage is quite stimulating – during pregnancy detoxification is contraindicated.
After Basti Or Emetic
Emetics and bastis are forceful acts that push movement up and out (udana vayu) or down and out (apana vayu). Both are cleansing; Abhyanga massage after purgatives is contraindicated. Massage can broadly distribute the waste that is being forced out – and why distribute waste?
When Thinking of Doing One More Thing Stresses You Out
When we nourish our body, mind, and soul, it’s not conducive to feel resistance. If it’s one of those days where doing one more thing - even if it’s good for you - creates stress – forgo it. (Just don’t forget it!)
There is a saying, "The mind is more in the body, than the body is in the mind." The Saumya 3 step meditation process shifts us from fight-flight-freeze mode, to rest-restore-relax mode. Give it a try for forty days and observe the changes. The more grounded and relaxed we are, the smoother life flows.
"The breath is the connection between the mind and body, so by training the breath, we become calm, focused, and grounded, we slow down the aging process by decreasing stress. These practices are so simple and easy to have as part of our daily life. We actually feel and look younger."
- Veena, Saumya Ayurveda
1. Learn Diaphragmatic Breathing and Change Your Life. When we re-learn to breath diaphragmatically, we move from the flight-fight-freeze mode, to rest, restore, relaxation mode from where we want and need to live.
3. Ayurveda Daily Routines: --Ayurvedic Morning Routine | 6 Rituals for a Calm and Centered Day
"Choose a couple of practices from the routines that provide you with the greatest support. Perform them while applying our two minute meditation technique and your mundane tasks, just transformed into a mellifluous meditation. This is meditation applied to daily life." - Veena, Saumya Ayurveda
"Veena was able to help me regain my energy in just a few months and I’m feeling like my “young” self again! I love the food plan she designed for me, and all the supporting practices (am/pm routines, breathing techniques, herbs, and spice mixes) are so enjoyable to incorporate into my day. I highly recommend Saumya Ayurveda if you want to feel better and have more vitality.”
-Molly Rossini, Minnesota
Explore More: Ayurveda Breathwork Pranayama
"I found Saumya Ayurveda when I was looking for a holistic approach to my health and lifestyle.
The Ayurveda Consultation with individual attention and focus has been wonderful. I have transitioned from pharmaceuticals to herbal and dietary approaches to manage my high cholesterol and calcium deficiencies.
Digestive issues that have plagued me my entire life have disappeared. I am a dedicated user of the oils to ease arthritis pain.
I was so pleased with my results that I recommended Saumya Ayurveda to my daughters and my mother. My mother enjoys the tea, and the oil is working so well for the arthritis in her hands and shoulders that she has been able to stop using harsh pain medications. Ayurveda is helping me to take care of myself and I can enjoy each day.”
--Rachelle Chase, retired Director Business Process, Target Corporation, Minnesota
Discover the Saumya Ayurveda Way
We all want to be heard, understood, and cared for as whole beings, not a set of isolated symptoms. True health is more than the absence of disease, which is why Western medicine so often leaves us feeling hopeless and unseen.
Deep down, you already know what you’re searching for: a new framework for living – one that brings your entire being back into balance. With Saumya Ayurveda, you’ll receive individualized guidance to create the physically, mentally, and spiritually vibrant life you crave.
Veena is a Certified Ayurvedic Practitioner and meditation teacher, and Monk.
She is President Emeritus of the Meditation Center and former staff member of the Minnesota Institute of Ayurveda.
Veena fell in love with the traditional medicine used in her family’s home learning herbal remedies at her grandmother's knee. She remains passionate for over 30 years, helping clients feel their best physically, emotionally, and spiritually with Ayurveda.
Veena individualizes treatment plans to each person, so it fits your life.
“Veena has been great. I suffered with burning mouth syndrome for many years. Doctors and dentists had no idea what I was even talking about, much less solutions. Veena knew immediately. Within in a few weeks of using the herbs and protocols she recommended, I am not experiencing any of the symptoms I did previously. And, my thinking is clearer, I am nearly free from hot flashes, and I feel more like myself.
Everything has been easy to incorporate into my life, which is the best part. This feels sustainable. I highly recommend working with Veena.” – Liz Pfeffer, Albuquerque, NM