Abhyanga is the Sanskrit word for an oil massage given to the body. The practice has always been a part of Hatha Yoga. The Hatha Yoga Pradipika calls on the Yoga practitioner to massage themselves after practice. Abhyanga uses a selection of aromatic herbal oils to bring the body into complete balance.
Although it can be done within a few minutes – as with all yoga practices, the benefits are deep and many. It is best performed after asana. However, it is a good routine to develop at anytime and if you do not have a regular home practice, it can be of help in developing one.
Here is a handout to print out and stick up in your bedroom (have your mat very close by, as Abhyanga fosters a self-connection that can often lead straight to a yoga session).
Abhyanga helps prevent any muscle soreness and, like Asana, it simultaneously tones and relaxes the muscles. It helps keep the lymphatic system in good order and fosters good quality ojas (a rarefied form of lymph that Ayurveda holds as the most important substance for good health).
Benefits of Abhyanga include:
- The skin is nourished and it becomes brighter
- Physical tensions are eased
- Lymphatic function is supported, giving the immune system a boost
- It gives us a deeper level of body-connectedness which supports every aspect of our yoga practice (and general health).
- As our deepest emotions are stored bodily, the practice can help us to become more self-aware and to process these emotions and our ingrained behavioural patterns.
- It encourages the habit of self-care which echoes into every area of our lives.
- It supports home practice
Oils to use for Abhyanga. Yogandha has developed Yoga oils specifically for Abhyanga practice. Each confers a different benefit to the body, in line with the intention of the practice. These intentions are:
Intention: Muscle soothe (click for more info on Muscle soothe)
Intention: Detox (click for more info on Detox)
Intention: Relax (click for more info on Relax)
Choose your oil in line with your Intention. If unsure go with your instinct. If you cannot access these oils the please use any cold pressed base oil. Sesame oil is the most commonly used oil in Ayurveda. Though practicing without the herbal blend will not give quite as many benefits, as with all yoga practices the important thing is to practice.