Autumn Lifestyle practice :: Self Oil Massage

It’s November, and we are deep into the fall season. According to Ayurveda, this time of year we feel the effects of ether and air elements. Ether (or space) lacks structure and form. Ether is the changeable quality we see in nature at this time of year. Air element also reigns at this time of year – think of air as movement. Think of the movement of the air with a cool breeze and leaves blowing in the wind. 

The qualities these elements express are dry, cold, light and mobile – its a changeable energy that is very ungrounded. These qualities describe the energy of vata dosha in Ayurveda, as fall and early winter are the vata times of year. You might notice feelings of vata imbalance at this time of year like dry skin, cold hands and feet, and feeling erratic in your mind. 

How you care for yourself during this season will directly reflect on your body’s health through the winter. In Ayurveda, we use opposite qualities to heal any imbalances. At this time of year you want to bring in the qualities of warm, moistening, heavy and grounding. One of the easiest ways to manifest these qualities is to practice an Ayurvedic self-oil massage called abhyanga.

Abhyanga is a simple form of self-massage with oil. The word for oil in Sanskrit, the language of Ayurveda, is sneha. An additional way to translate sneha is love or affection. Abhyanga is a great way to nourish your body and show it some love! There are many benefits to doing a self-oil massage every day – it balances and calms your nervous system (and mind), nourishes and moisturizes your skin, stimulates your immune system, detoxifies by activating your lymphatic system, lubricates your joints, and gives your skin a radiant glow – to name just a few!

How to practice Abhyanga self-oil massage:

  • Pick your oil of choice. Generally, sesame oil is therapeutic for vata skin, coconut oil for pitta skin, and sunflower oil for kapha skin. If you don’t know your doshic makeup, try sesame oil in the fall and winter, coconut oil in the summer, sunflower oil in the spring. Mahanarayan oil is a great oil to use if you have aching joints and muscle pain. Source cold-pressed, organic oils. I purchase my oils from Banyan Botanicals.
  • Warm your oil. I either do this by rubbing small amounts of oil together in my hands to warm before applying, or by putting the oil in a small glass jar that I let sit in a skinful of hot water for a few minutes. (It’s recommended to start with 1/4 cup of oil, and as you do this more you’ll learn how much quantity you really need).
  • Remove all clothing and jewelry. I recommend that you stand on an old towel.
  • Start at the soles of your feet and work towards the crown of your head (or opposite – crown to feet). Gently start to massage the oil onto your skin – everywhere. On your arms and legs, use long stroking motion, on your joints circular motion. On the belly, massage the oil clockwise if you are looking down to stimulate digestion. If you are washing your hair that day, massage the crown of your head.
  • If you have the time, leave the oil on for 15-20 minutes. If you don’t have that amount of time, leave the oil on at least 5 minutes. I usually use this time to continue to massage my joints and any places on my body that I experience tension like my low back and neck.
  • Rub off any excess oil with your old towel and take a shower. The steam of the shower causes the pores to open, allowing the oil to penetrate deeper into the skin. You do not need to soap off the oil.
  • Abhyanga can be practiced either in the morning, or in the evening – whenever you typically take a shower.

Try practicing abhyanga daily and see how you feel. It is such a nourishing and healing gift you can give to yourself everyday. Enjoy!

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