Oil Massage Benefits: The Daily Massage You Really Need

abhyanga oil recipe

Daily oil massage benefits include reducing stress, nourishing the entire body, stimulating internal organs, removing impurities from the body, and improving immunity. We tend to think of only getting oil massages from a therapist on special occasions. As you will see in the abhyanga massage video below, you can treat yourself as often as you want to a warm oil massage in your own bathroom.

Abhyanga — the daily oil massage — is an integral part of the daily routine recommended by Ayurveda, a traditional system of medicine from India. Ayurveda focuses on maintaining health through natural practices like massage and what you eat. In the ayurvedic tradition, a daily warm oil massage is said to balance the three body types, or doshasvata, pitta, and kapha.

A daily oil massage may sound like a messy and complicated process best left to the spa, but once you’ve learned the basics, self-massage with oil starts to become second-nature and well worth the effort.  The oil is the central component of this practice. When combined with massage strokes, it’s thought to promote overall health and wellness. Using warming oils provides daily massage benefits like relieving fatigue, providing stamina, pleasure improving sleep, enhancing the complexion and the luster of the skin, promoting longevity, and nourishes all parts of the body. 

Abhyanga provides the means for transdermal absorption of the healing qualities of the oils used in the massage. It helps the skin, which is the largest organ in the body, perform its diverse functions efficiently, whether it is allowing toxins to be released from the body or nourishment to be absorbed by the tissues. It is like oiling the engine of your car — if you do it regularly, your engine will be in peak condition and give you years and years of trouble-free performance.

When you start your day with a 10-minute oil massage, you can meet yourself where you are. A more energetic massage stroke will vitalize the body and mind, which helps if you’ve been feeling mentally or physically sluggish. A more leisurely self-massage while focusing on your breath helps your mind slow down and your body relax.

patanjali abhyang tailam

Daily Oil Massage Benefits

Improves Circulation

Massaging muscles and tendons allow increased blood flow throughout the body. Improving your circulation can have a number of positive effects on the rest of your body, including reduced fatigue and pain management. The choice of oils can also play a pet in increasing circulation as different oils blends and essential oils have stimulating properties.

Eliminate Toxins

Stimulating the soft tissues of your body will help to release toxins through your blood and lymphatic systems. Oil massages release toxins from your body tissues and muscles, through your blood and through the lymphatic system. After a traditional massage, most massage therapists will advise you to drink plenty of water in order to help take the released toxins out of your body.

Massaging with warm oil helps loosen toxins from the soft tissues in the body, allowing them to be removed by the elimination systems of our bodies.

Improve Flexibility

Daily oil massages can stimulate the production of the body’s natural lubricants to keep flexibility at a maximum. By working on muscles, connective tissues, tendons, ligaments, and joints, massages can improve your flexibility and range of motion, keeping your joints more fluid and making them less injury-prone.

Smooth and Youthful Skin

Natural oils have been used for skincare and hair care for centuries. Generation after generation has touted them for various moisturizing, protective, and antibacterial qualities. Oils are packed with vitamins, antioxidants, and essential fatty acids. When massaged into your skin daily can improve skin’s elasticity, hydrate skin, fight free radical damage, and reduce wrinkles. Some oils can also correct dark spots, and reduce the appearance of scars.

Relieve Anxiety and Stress

When the body is tense and under stress, it produces unhealthy levels of the well-known stress hormone, cortisol, which can contribute to weight gain, sleeplessness, digestive problems, and headaches. Oil massages have been shown to decrease cortisol levels in the body. This enables the body to enter a recovery mode. If you suffer with anxiety, one study suggests that a massage can actually help significantly reduce your symptoms. During a massage, however, your parasympathetic (or calming) response is increased, which results in a decrease in anxiety.

Boost Your Immunity

Research has indicated that a daily massage may help boost your immunity by increasing the type of cells that fight off viruses. A massage won’t stop a sickness once it has started, but it may play a role in increasing your immune system’s ability to prevent the sickness before it starts.

Improves Sleep

Massage can increase serotonin levels, which can naturally help individuals to experience a good night’s sleep. An oil massage before bed will encourage relaxation and boost your mood.  Going to bed with relaxed and loosened muscles promotes more restful sleep, and you’ll feel less tired in the morning.

Increased Energy

When performed in the morning a daily oil massage can provide increased energy and stamina throughout the day. This results because the massaging action boosts the metabolism, helps nourish and replenish skin tone and muscles, tunes up the functioning of internal organs and optimizes the body’s ability to flush and remove toxins; and, if that weren’t enough right there, also revitalizes and energizes the cells of the body.

Improves Mood

The more often you do this, the greater the effect will be. You may notice a general sense of peace and tranquility, even amid the hectic goings-on of day-to-day life. Abhyanga can help us maintain more clarity and calmness if faced with difficult situations or decisions.

Other benefits include:

  • Healthy vision
  • Improved hair and hair growth
  • Reduced cellulite
  • Strengthened bodily tissues, lubrication of internal organs, bones and joints
  • Enhance exercise performance
abhyanga coconut oil

Choosing the Right Oil

According to the Ayurveda, we are all ruled by three different energies, or doshas, known as vata, pitta, and kapha. These doshas are governed by the elements, earth, water, air, ether, and fire. We’re all made up of a unique combination of these three forces. If you don’t know which dosha is most predominant for you, the Ayurvedic Body Type quiz is a fun and easy way to find out.

Ayurveda teaches us that like increases like and that opposites balance, so when it comes to choosing the right oil, your decision should take into account:

Your Ayurvedic Body Type: vata, pitta, and kapha.

Your current state of balance: If you currently have a dosha that is high, it is beneficial to follow use a dosha-pacifying oil for that dosha. 

Your environment: Depending on the season it may be better to use a heavier or lighter oil to ensure an effective experience and results.

Oils for Vata

The primary characteristics of vata are dry, light, cool, rough, subtle, and mobile. Most of these qualities are opposite to those of oil, so there are quite a few oils that can help counteract vata’s qualities. Plain, untoasted Sesame Oil is considered the traditional abhyanga oil for vata dosha. (Ayurveda considers it to be “the king of oils,” in fact.) While it is fine to use an unrefined or refined version of this oil on its own, inherently warming nature makes it the perfect base oil for the following herbal oil blends. Some herbs to consider adding to oils are:

  • Ashwagandha
  • Bala
  • Shatavari
  • Mahanarayan

Oils for Pitta

The primary qualities of pitta are oily, sharp, hot, light, liquid. Traditionally, light, cooling oils have been considered best for balancing pitta, such as Sunflower Oil or Coconut Oil. Cooling effect aside, the addition of herbs can greatly enhance the pitta-pacifying properties of these oils, especially since the concept of oil and the pitta dosha share a number of qualities. Some herbs to consider are:

  • Manjistha
  • Gotu Kola
  • Shatavari
  • Bhringaraj
  • Brahmi
  • Neem

Oils for Kapha

The main qualities of kapha are oily, cool, heavy, slow, smooth, soft, and static. Kapha and oil share most qualities but Sesame oil works great. Because like increases like, using oil, especially a cool oil, may aggravate kapha rather than pacify it. Because oil has the ability to absorb the qualities of substances it is prepared with, adding herbs to oils can actually help balance kapha. Oil combinations that feature heating, invigorating herbs, and a lighter carrier oil are best advised for this dosha. Some herbs to consider are:

  • Punarnava
  • Chitrak
  • Calamus
  • Rosemary

Oils for Tri-Dosha

Sesame oil with  Ayurvedic herbs like Guduchi to soothe and rejuvenate, Bala to strengthen, Ajuna, and tulsi to invigorate, promote circulation, and support the lymphatic system, and Brahmi/Gotu kola and Bhringaraj are great for all doshas and can be used anytime, anywhere.

How to Do A Daily Oil Massage

Learn how to perform this with the Abhyanga massage video below and continue reading for instructions:

AYURVEDIC SELF-ABHYANGA - How to do an Ayurvedic Self-Abhyanga or Self-Massageat home

As shown in the abhyanga massage video this practice can be done quickly. To easily add this practice into your life, choose your oil and add in into your shower routine. It is recommended to be performed in the a.m, because it gets movement going within your body which can impact your circadian rhythm, and then helping you naturally feel more sleepy when it’s time for bed.

  1. After showering or bathing, rub a quarter-sized amount of the warm oil within your hands
  2. Beginning at the top of your toes, massage the oil into your skin, using your palms.
  3. Moving up your body towards your heart, use circular motions at your ankles and knees and use long, quick, back and forth strokes on your calves, shins, hamstrings, and thighs.
  4. Move around to your buttocks, back, and spine, massaging up and down as well as you can without straining.
  5. Massage your stomach using gentle clockwise circular motions and chest using a straight up and down motion over your breastbone.
  6. Return to your thorax region (heart and lungs) and apply an extra clockwise circular motion with a bit of extra pressure.
  7. Massage your arms, using a circular motion at your shoulders and elbows, and use long, quick up and down strokes on your upper arms and forearms.
  8. Massage the front and back of your neck using an open palm to create friction and use your fingers to relieve any extra muscle tension in the neck and shoulder area.
  9. Gently massage your face and ears, paying special attention to your temples and behind and under your ears.
  10. Use the remaining oil on your fingertips to massage your scalp.
  11. Allow the body oil to absorb into the skin. Indulge in this daily ritual and reflect on self-love.