Ayurveda: The Art of Abhyanga

IMG_2617Ritual is a way of imbuing meaning into each moment of your life. It’s a way of elevating those everyday, mundane moments into the sacred and meaningful. The Ayurvedic ritual of daily self-care, known as Dinacharya, is a way to infuse intention into seemingly ordinary acts. A staple act in a daily dinacharya practice is Abhyanga, self oil massage. It’s interesting that the Sanskrit word Sneha can be translated both as “oil” and “love.” Perhaps two very different words, but the idea is that daily oil massage is a ritual of self-love. In the act of giving to ourselves in a nurturing way, we receive the benefits of warmth and stability, akin the experience of being loved.IMG_3043 copyAbhyanga is an art. It begins with the intention to move slowly, to breathe and to connect with ourselves in a supportive way. The end effect is soothing to the nervous system, reducing stress and preventing early aging. Ayurveda teaches that there are seven dhatus, or layers of tissue in the body. Each is successively more concentrated and life giving. By slowing down in this daily process, we support the deepest layers of our tissues from the outside in. The oil nourishes the skin, moves into the muscles and joints, and provides lubrication to the deeper tissues of the body. Other benefits include:


  • Pacifies all doshas, particulary vata dosha
  • Increases circulation
  • Stimulates digestion
  • Nourishes the tissues
  • Tones the muscles
  • Lubricates the joints
  • Decreases the effects of aging & increases longevity
  • Supports the nervous system
  • Improves sleep

IMG_3001 copyHOW TO
This process can take 5-30 minutes depending on the time you have. This ritual can be performed morning to energize you for the day ahead, or evening after a hot bath to relax you before bed. Make sure your strokes are slow and gentle, integrating long strokes on the limbs and circular strokes around the joints. Use a quality food-grade oils that supports your body’s personal and seasonal needs.

  1. Lightly warm a bottle or small bowl oil in hot water before using, lay down a towel to sit or stand on before beginning.
  2. Apply using the palms of your hands starting with the lower back, working around the hips and sacrum.
  3. Next, move down the legs and feet in long, slow strokes. Spend time on each toe, carefully covering the bottoms and tops of the feet.
  4. Move up to the back and belly, spending time moving clockwise in a circular motion around the navel to follow eliminatory tract.
  5. Lightly work around the chest, them move down to the arms and hands. Spend time on each finger.
  6. Finish with the shoulders, neck and face, working on the ears and gently rubbing fingertips into the scalp to stimulate circulation. Give a little extra time and attention to the scalp at least one day a week when you can allow the oil to soak in before washing the hair.

Vata | sesame oil (warming, grounding)
Pitta | coconut oil (cooling, soothing)
Kapha | almond oil (light, tonifying)

Herbal oils are also wonderful options for abhyanga. Banyan Botanicals and Sarada Ayurveda both sell fabulous oil blends for abhyanga.IMG_2659

Banyan Botanicals “Benefits of Self-Massage”
Dr. Claudia Welch “Abhyanga: Ayurveda Oil Massage”
Hale Pule “How to Perform Abhyanga”

*Sweet thank you to Megan Joy Photography for capturing my oil rituals!


Leave a comment

4 responses to “Ayurveda: The Art of Abhyanga”

  1. Tiffany alBa says:

    Awesome! Thank you for sharing:)

  2. I love this self-love ritual! Perfect for the vata season that has started. Thanks for sharing. <3

  3. Vida says:

    Hi Claire,

    I have been following your blog since last fall. I love your website and your images, they are always so beautiful. I am so thankful to get your newsletters because they are wonderful reminders for self care. Recently, I have really been relying on them to keep wellness/self-care as part of my conscious thought for the week. I have been trying out different oils for self massage. Last week, I spent three nights in a row massaging with oils for 45 minutes and my neck and shoulders felt brand spanking new! Thank you.


    • YES! This makes me so happy to hear, it’s amazing how powerful simple oil massage can be. If I could recommend any one thing for grounding body and mind, it would be this nurturing practice. You’ll love Sarada massage oils, too! I have a few of my favorites of theirs in the online shop. Cheers to self-love! xo

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *