Ayurveda, the 5000-year-old Science of Life and Wellness has been a powerful gateway for calming the mind and harmonizing the energy field, by simultaneously addressing imbalances in the individual Doshas.
You might find it interesting to know, Ayurveda aficionados popularly believe that this system and wisdom of life was intuited from the divine by the sages, rishis, or seers, 5000 years ago. It is believed that Ayurveda is an eternal science that existed in the universal consciousness (Brahma - God of creation) before it was perceived by ancient Indian sages through meditation.
Now, Ayurveda exists beyond divinity, for the sole purpose of preserving harmony and easing mankind’s suffering. It lays out a complete mind-body prescription for healthy living that includes a dietic regime and the whole science of herbal healing techniques.
One such technique is that of anointing oneself from head to toe with Ayurvedic oils and massaging your body – called Abhyanga.
“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, V: 88-89,1981
That said, it doesn’t take divine intervention to understand that Ayurvedic Abhyanga is simply ‘the good medicine’ for modern-day skin, body and mind issues when compared with the invasive therapies and treatments that people fall victims to.
Ayurveda has more than one way of performing Abhyanga!
So, let's discuss the types of Abhyanga and guided steps on how to perform them on your own!
As we had already discussed Full body massage in the last article, we will follow on and discuss its types. Starting with...
Shiro Abhyanga: Ayurvedic Head Massage
Shiro Abhyanga (Shiro - head, Abhyanga - massage) is a rejuvenating Ayurvedic massage procedure that helps relax the entire upper body involving the head, neck, and the shoulder regions. It is done using Ayurvedic, herb-infused oils specific to each individual dosha.
Shiro Abhyanga is a combination of two individual Ayurvedic therapies, Shirodhara and Abhyanga. Shirodhara involves the relaxing practice of gently pouring a steady stream of herbal massage oils on the scalp, forehead, and neck. And Abhyanga, which means gently massaging your body with light pressure to reap an amplified benefit of the oils.
Both these Ayurvedic processes are undertaken simultaneously in Shiro Abhyanga.
Ayurveda advises head massage or Shiro Abhyanga as a part of Dinacharya or daily regimen for best results. Weekly massages are advised for those who find it tedious to follow on a daily basis.
The head should be given an exclusive 15-minute massage at least twice a week.
How to Give Yourself a Head Massage: Detailed Guide
Begin by choosing an oil.
Sesame, mustard, almond, coconut, and olive oils are the most commonly used oils.
Coconut oil and sesame oil are recommended and are best for massaging the scalp.
- Pour some oil on the crown area and gently dab using your palm, letting the oil spread over the scalp.
- Switch to a moderately vigorous massage on your head in circular patterns, starting from the sides and working towards the top and covering the front and the back of the head.
- Once the whole scalp has been covered, gently massage the whole head in the same circular fashion, with your thumbs and fingers using their flat surfaces.
- Grasp fistfuls of hair at the roots and tug from side to side, keeping your knuckles very close to the scalp.
- Gently squeeze at the temples with the heels of the hands and make slow, wide, circular movements of the head. Bow down your head slightly and massage the back of the neck by squeezing and rolling the muscles.
- Begin at the top of the neck and work your way down, first with one hand and then with the other hand.
- Place the thumb of your left hand under the left occipital area (base of the head) and the thumb of your right hand under the right occipital area. Relax the tight muscles by using friction or a rubbing movement.
- Place your right hand on your left shoulder near your neck. Using medium pressure, gently squeeze the shoulder muscle that starts at the base of your neck.
- Work your way outwards along your shoulder to your arm and then down as far as your elbow. When you reach your elbow, go back to the base of your neck and do this twice more.
- Concentrate on squeezing and releasing the muscles. Repeat on the right side using your left hand.
- Finally, rub lightly using the flat surface of your fingers and thumbs all over the head; extend this movement to cover your face
- Relax for a few minutes afterward
- Take a head bath and let dry
- Comb hair repeatedly with a wide-toothed comb when fully dry
Pad Abhyanga: Ayurvedic Foot Massage
To understand why such importance is given to feet, we must first look at the human body through the Ayurvedic Lens. Ayurveda sees the human body as an inverted tree, where the roots lie on the top (head) and the branches (limbs) are attached to the trunk (Body).
It is best to nurture the roots in order to nurture the tree. A diseased branch might reflect diseased roots. Similarly, in the human body, a disorder in the foot might reflect a disorder in any proximal area of the body. Hence, foot health is directly proportional to health in other organs proximal to it.
Padabhyanga, as described by Ayurveda, is the ‘Mother of all Therapies’.
It is a type of bahya snehana (External Oleation), where the foot is anointed with warm medicated oils and massaged gently. It is best to perform Padabhyanga as a daily ritual for the best results.
Foot massages should be performed exclusively for 15 minutes at least once a week or more if time permits.
Benefits of Pad abhyanga
- Jarahara (prevents aging process)
- Shramahara (cures tiredness)
- Drustiprasaadakara (nourishes the eye)
- Pustikara (nourishes the body)
- Aayuskara (prolongs life span)
- Sapnakara (induces sleep)
- Tvakdaardyakara (improves skin tone)
- Kleshasahatvakara (improves mental stability)
It is essential to Prepare a Foot Bath for performing Padabhyanga. You can make yours by following the recipes given below.
With the use of any suitable oil,
Here is how to give yourself a foot massage: Detailed instructions
Step 1: Start with Your Left Foot
- Take some oil and apply it on your left foot
- Gently start massaging it in circles around the ankle
- With your right hand, squeeze down from the base of the calf muscle all the way to the heel bone, 3 times
- Holding the heel, flex and extend the ball of the foot several times
- Massage the spaces between all your toes
- Glide your thumbs up and down the grooves between the tendons on the top of the foot.
- Now turn your foot over so the sole is facing you and hold it in both hands, with your thumbs just under the ball of the foot
- Press your fingers into the top side of the foot, stretching the base of the toes apart
- Then use your thumbs to pull each toe, sliding from the base over the tip of each toe several times.
- Next, massage vigorously from heel to toe using the heel of your hand
- Walk your thumbs along the outer edges of the foot, along the arch, and deeply into the edge of the heel. Use your knuckles to massage the arch.
- Hold your ankle with your left hand and the top of your foot with the right, rotating the foot clockwise, then counterclockwise.
- Grasp your big toe and rotate it fully, as if you were drawing a large circle with the tip of the toe
- Then rub the toes between the palms of your hands and massage the base of each toe with your thumb
- Finally, using the flat palm of your left hand, massage the entire sole of your foot in a figure-8 pattern.
- To finish, pat the sole of your foot a few times
- Then press the palm of your hand to the center of the sole of your foot feeling the subtle energy at this marma (pressure point).
Repeat the entire sequence on the right foot.
Finally, rinse your feet with warm water and dry them thoroughly.
Marma Abhyanga: Vital Energy Point Massage
Marma points are related to the energies of the body, mind, Prana, and Dosha. They are the key connecting points to all aspects of our energies from the innermost consciousness to the outermost physical organs
Marma points are basically sites where muscle, veins, ligaments, bones, and joints meet! These are the points where the three Doshas (Vata, Pitta ,Kapha) are present. Marma controls not only the outward form of the Dosha, but their inward essence.
Marma-massages dates to the year 1500 BC. It is believed that masters of Kalari, an ancient Indian form of Martial Arts, discovered the power of these Marma points and used the wisdom on battlefields. Kalari fighters would target the Marma-points of the opponents as a way of inflicting pain and injury
According to Kalari, people have 107 vital points located at different anatomical sites on the body, and when attacked with a knockout blow, it can cause instant death. Soldiers even armored the vital points of their horses, while riding into battle.
Even when wounded, Kalari fighters were nursed back to health with this therapy. As the massage stimulates healing in areas that corresponded to the injuries.
Marma massage is a specialty of Ayurveda. Only a few practitioners are experts in this form of massage. Currently, this knowledge is held by a very limited number of practitioners in the southern states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu in India.
- Manage various disorders related to different organs
- Relieve pain, improve digestion and metabolism.
Massage is used as a rejuvenation.
Energize the body to relieve occupational illness and stress related diseases.
Kalari massage or Kerala Pad Abhyanga: South Indian Foot Massage
Kalari massage is full-body massage that must be performed with an Ayurvedic, medicated herbal oil to stimulate the Marma points on the body. It originated in northern Kerala, and is a healing system to strengthen, rejuvenate, repair, and prepare a warrior physically and mentally
Different body ailments demand different and specific massage techniques which the master selects with the patient’s condition and constitution in mind. In this unique form of massage, the master or masseur uses his foot while balancing himself on the body of his client holding ropes that hang from the ceiling.
It relieves various ailments like back pain, muscle stiffness, joint dislocations, and soft tissue injuries to name a few.
It is also known to stimulate various organs and systems, including the central nervous system which regulates all the systems of the body (Immune, Circulatory, Musculoskeletal, Endocrine, etc.).
Please consult a qualified Ayurvedic practitioner before undergoing any kind of abhyanga session.
With all these benefits and information in hand, allow yourself to get treated, and your mind-body to relax with the holistic art of Abhyanga. Revel in the rejuvenating results of this uber-satisfying, re-energizing, and relaxing ritual, in the comfort of your home – and without spending thousands of bucks!
If you had to choose from the above 4 types of Abhyanga, which one would you choose? What are your core concerns that you would want to address through it? Share in the comments below!
1Significance of Padabhyanga As A Daily Ritual https://tjhms.com/uploadfiles/3.%20Significance%20Of%20Padabhyanga%20As%20A%20Daily%20Ritual%20.20211109063940.pdf
2Relevance of Marma Sharira in Abhyanga https://www.researchgate.net/publication/319833011_Relevance_of_Marma_Sharira_in_Abhyanga
3Marma – the Original “Point” System of Healing, a Classic Ayurveda Healing Therapy https://www.ayurvedacollege.com/blog/marma-original-point-system-healing-classic-ayurveda-healing-therapy
4Ayurveda Massage | Kalari Massage https://kadathanadankalari.In/kalari-ayurveda-massage