Ayurvedic Ritual: Self-massage

Ayurvedic Ritual: Self Massage


There is a saying that you are your own best friend. In Ayurvedic terms you are your own healer, therapist and doctor. In other words, each one of us possesses healing energy that we can use to treat ourselves. 


Most of us love to be massaged and touched. When we receive massage and touch, we experience care and nurturing. And one of the best ways we can show love and care for ourselves is to learn to massage ourselves.


Ayurveda, an ancient science of healing, contains several rituals, regimens and routines for the health and happiness of all humans. Massage with medicinal oil (Abhyanga) is one of the best rituals for purifying, preventing disease and rejuvenating the human body, mind and spirit.


Charaka Samhita (the ancient manuscripts of Ayurveda) says “the body of one who uses oil application on their body regularly does not become affected even if subjected to accidental injury, or strenuous work. (With) a regular oil massage, a person is endowed with pleasant touch, trimmed body parts and becomes strong, charming and least affected by old age”.


In modern language we say that with regular self-massage we balance the nervous system, prevent physiological imbalances, and lubricate and promote flexibility in our muscles, joints, and tissues. We move the lymph, assist detoxification, promote better sleep, soften our skin and increase our beauty, and ultimately pacify the doshas.


15-20 minutes of self-massage daily is a wonderful way to love and care for your body.


Abhyanga schedule and oils


If you are aware of your body type (Prakriti), you can plan for your self-massage. The best time is early in the morning. Evening before bed is helpful for deep sleep too.

  • Vata Doshas: 4-5 times a week with a warming oil like sesame, almond or other vata balancing oil.
  • Pitta Doshas: 3-4 times a week with cooling and soothing oil like coconut, sunflower, ghee or other pitta balancing oil.
  • Kapha Doshas: 1-2 times a week using a heating oil such as mustard, sesame, safflower or other kapha balancing oil.


Instructions for self-massage

  1. Warm your chosen oil (approx. ¼ cup) by placing it in a warm water bath. Every oil should warmed before using on your body.
  2. Sit or stand comfortably in a warm room.
  3. Start to apply the oil from your crown of your head and work slowly out from there in circular strokes using your fingers and palm of your hand. Then gently massage down to your back and neck. Don’t forget to apply oil on your ears.
  4. Slowly massage down to your chest, abdomen, arms and legs, paying attention to your joints and muscles. When working on your chest, massage towards the direction of your heart.
  5. Apply oil on your back as far as you can reach.
  6. Use long, even strokes along the length of the limbs in the direction in which the hair flows. Use circular strokes on the joints (elbows and knees).
  7. Finish the Abhyanga by massaging your feet. Head and feet are very important parts of the body where the nerve endings or vital marmas are located.
  8. Leave the oil on for 5-15 minutes to it absorb into your skin and penetrate the deeper tissues.
  9. Once you have oil on your body, you can use the time before you shower for yoga, stretching, breathing practice or other rituals like oil pulling. Applying oil before yoga, sports or physical activities is also very beneficial.
  10. Enjoy a warm water shower. Avoid chemical soaps and shampoos after this ritual.