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Benefits of Abhyanga (Self-Massage)


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

One of the most profound experiences I had during my recent trip to India was in a clinic in Delhi called Ayurveda Kendra under the supervision of Dr. Sudha,  a woman whose calm yet knowing demeanor pegged my exact imbalances within about 30 seconds.  I had a treatment (actually I had several) called the ” pizichil”, which combines rich oil massage with a special heat treatment. This therapy is known as the “King’s Treatment” due to its popularity with the Maharajas of ancient India.  Let’s just say I felt like a cross between a pampered Maharini and a well oiled pig as I laid on the table and had two very experienced old women work in tandem on every square inch of my body.  Although I would not consider this a deep tissue massage, upon leaving the table, every muscle in my body was relaxed and rejuvenated, but even more than that, I had a calmness about me that I don’t remember ever experiencing before in my life.  What is even better than that, the results were cumulative the more treatments I had and I could take the results home with me by doing an” Abhyanga” or self-massage affectionately called a self-abhy by the Chopra Center.

For those of you who need a refresher, Ayurveda is a 5000 year old traditional hindu healing system that takes into account the constitution, or “dosha” of an individual and balances the body using diet, herbal and mineral remedies, yoga and yogic breathing, massage and other detox rituals.

The benefits to this slow beauty ritual are numerous and self-massage is a great time to do a monthly self-breast exam or check for other changes in the skin.


  1.  Increases the softness of the skin and adds lustre to it, in turn giving skin that healthy glow.
  2.  Flushes toxins from the lymphatic system.
  3.  Decreases Vata.  (Autoimmune illnesses such as Rheumatoid Arthritis and Polymositis are considered Vata imbalances and self massage is extremely beneficial for calming symptoms.)
  4. Strengthens the Dhatus (the body`s tissues in accordance to the Ayurvedic texts) and helps tone muscles.
  5.  Increases strength and stamina.
  6.  Improves vision.
  7.  Promotes healthy sleep.
  8. Reduces anxiety and depression.
  9. Promotes flexibility.
  10. Releases healthy endorphins which, in turn, help balance hormones.  This is particularly beneficial for women trying to conceive and pre and post menopausal women.



Take a moment and take our ONLINE QUIZ to determine your body type if you haven’t done so already. Once you know your body type you can choose an oil that is best for you.

Vata types require a warming oil like sesame or almond. It is recommended you perform Abhyanga 2-3 times a week. Because Vata is a cold and dry Dosha, warm oil is very nourishing. It helps lubricate the dry skin and protect the joints as well. Mahanarayan oil and Dhanvantaram are two classical oils used in Ayurveda to help alleviate the inflammation and stiffness of joints. A light to medium pressure should be used.

Pitta types need a cooling type oil so coconut and olive oils are an excellent choice. Medium pressure should be used when massaging. Many Pitta types have inflammatory skin issues. Ayurveda has some specific oils for use on specific ailments. Find out more at our online store.

Kapha types require a warming oil so mustard and sunflower are excellent choices. Sesame is also a very good choice especially in cooler climates. Medium to heavy pressure is recommended and best for Kapha types as it allows the oil to deeply penetrate.


1) Warm the oils to a pleasant temperature by placing them in a warm water bath or by using a copper oil warmer. Oil should always be applied warm to the body.

2) Using a rough loofah or body brush, dry body brush the entire body.  {See Detox and Dry Body Brushing for instructions}

3) Start by applying the oil to your head. Gently massage, as if shampooing, the oil into your scalp using fingers and palms. Gently apply the oil to your face and neck, front and back remembering to massage over the ears as well.  Use the palm of your hand in a circular motion and your finger tips on your ears.

4) Apply a small amount of oil to the body and rub it all over. Massage in the direction of the hair follicles allowing the oil to cover the body evenly.

5) Massage the arms and legs paying attention to the joints and palms. Use long, even strokes along the length of the limbs in an upward motion towards the heart. When performing Abhyanga on the joints, use a circular motion.

6) Massage the back as best you can if you are doing it solo or ask a partner to do your back for you. Start at the base of the spine and work upwards in a long, continuous stroke.

7) Lastly, massage the feet. Take some time doing this as the feet contain many important Marmas (pressure points in accordance to the principles of Ayurveda). When massaging the feet, be sure to apply the oil to the entire foot, taking care to get in between the toes. Use the palms of your hands to massage the soles of your feet with a firm pressure.

After the application of oil, sit quietly for 5-15 minutes to allow the oil to be properly absorbed by your skin. During this time you may choose to meditate or do other Dinacharya (daily routines like Pranayama and others.) Once the oil has absorbed nicely you can wash it off by taking a shower.

Short Version

I try to do the full version (though I do skip my hair by putting it up in a shower cap all but two days a week when I oil my hair and wash it) every day but there are days when life gets the better of me.  Because I don’t like skipping the ritual altogether I have a short version I do, usually before bed on the days when I just can’t take the time to go through the entire ritual.

The short version is that I simply massage a light application of almond oil all over as if I were moisturizing, it takes a minute or so. If you have little time or are of oily constitution like Kapha, just your feet, wrists, and back of neck on the occipital lobe before bed is very balancing. Be sure to remove excess oil with an old cloth.

A half an hour a day of self love can make all the difference for healthy vibrant health and a nurtured joyous spirit.

Find out how massage can benefit your baby by clicking HERE.

Wishing you peace and balance,




12 replies
  1. Small Footprints
    Small Footprints says:

    This is lovely! Women, especially, seem to feel that caring for themselves … having a few moments of indulgence … is somehow selfish and wrong. I believe it’s the opposite … caring for ourselves and improving our mental health is actually very giving … it puts us in a state where we can give more freely to those around us. I typically spend some time, once a week, massaging natural lotions into my skin … but I’m definitely going to try the oils. It reminds me of my grandmother who used to rub a bit of olive oil into her skin … her skin was beautiful, even at the age of 96. Thank you for sharing this … I can’t wait to pamper myself! 🙂

    • thedetoxdiva
      thedetoxdiva says:

      You are absolutely right about it being very good for our mental health and putting us in a state where we can give more freely. If we all did this more often we would feel less resentful (and many women do even if they don’t want to admit it) of what they do for their families!

  2. Courtney~Mommy LaDy Club
    Courtney~Mommy LaDy Club says:

    I am all for massage…any type! I haven’t had one in quite some time, and I could probably really benefit in my pre-menopausal mode. I used to get them while dancing ballet, and they would work wonders. It always surprised me how something in my foot helped my hip, or a spot around the knee released something in my foot. I’m back running now, so I’m going to need to get back to massage again too.

  3. Pamela
    Pamela says:

    Oh I love massages, twice a week I go to PT for my neck and back spasms, and my PT has blessed hands, I leave there feeling so good, all because of the massage that she does!

  4. Carla Barilá Karam
    Carla Barilá Karam says:

    Jacqueline, this sounds totally luscious! Oh how I love massages, let me count the ways. 😉 Thank you for sharing! Grace, peace and blessings, Carla

  5. Eli
    Eli says:

    Wow, about 17 parts of my body simultaneously asked for this immediately as I read this. I happen to be looking for information on reducing inflammation in the joints, so this comes in especially handy. Well done!

  6. Prototype Mama
    Prototype Mama says:

    awww- this is good! I felt like I was relaxing just reading this! I so need this– I am all knotted up and can’t find the time to go to an actually spa so I think I will try this tonight— I have the oils already– I will make sure to tweet about and let you know I did 🙂

    • thedetoxdiva
      thedetoxdiva says:

      Meditation and prayer are synonymous. When one prays one meditates and when one meditates one prays so yes, Christian worship music would be perfect if that is how you connect with God…. Probably even very relaxing!

    • thedetoxdiva
      thedetoxdiva says:

      I use two different types. One is 100% cold extracted for culinary use and that seems to have an almost sweet smell. The other is cold extracted but for external use and that has a more neutral scent which is perfect considering I add herbal infusions to it and I want those herbal infusions to be what I smell.


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