I have a series of questions I'd like to ask you: Would you like to be endowed with pleasant touch? Would you like to be more charming? Would you like to become strong? Would you like to be least affected by age? For those of you who follow Ayurvedic practices, you may associate these questions with a quote that I've referenced when discussing Abhyanga, the Sanskrit word for massage.
“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.”—Caraka Saṁhitā Sū 5/88–99
As we continue our Early Bird Routine Series, I want to delve deeper into Abhyanga self massage as it relates to the three Ayurvedic doshas. For those who don't know, each of us is made up of the three Ayurvedic doshas, or biological humors: Vata, Kapha and Pitta. Learn more about the three doshas to determine which dominates your body-mind constitution. But before we dive into tailoring our self massage to our dosha, let's go over the benefits of Abhyanga.
Why is Self Massage Beneficial?
Self massage benefits the exterior and interior of the body. I like to incorporate it into my morning routine because according to Ayurveda, the act of applying oil to our skin creates a protective shield between ourselves and the rest of the world. I go through my day with greater peace of mind, knowing that I've taken a small step to combat the germs and toxins I may encounter during the day.
Massage Abhyanga in the morning sets a precedent of circulatory movement in the body for the rest of the day, rather than stagnation . Ayurvedic thought asserts that stagnation is detrimental to the body. For example, a woman who battles Ovarian Cysts is experiencing stagnation in her uterus. Additionally, this self massage induced circulation activates the Lymphatic system, the first in the seven tissues of Ayurveda.
When there is a long day of work projects and Zoom meetings ahead of you, a morning self massage can flush out the previous day's toxins from your muscles as well as lubricate your joints. You can release tension and approach your day from a more grounded, energized state.
How Does Abhyanga Benefit Each Dosha?
We've already covered the basics of Abhyanga: what materials you'll need, how to massage yourself and the benefits of adding the practice to your morning routine. Let's dive into the relationship between your Ayurvedic dosha and self massage.
Abhyanga is a tridoshaic practice. You can customize your massage techniques as well as the oil you use to aid and benefit the qualities of your prakriti (ayurvedic constitution). Keep in mind that even if you are primarily one dosha, the concepts below also apply to climate, time of year and time of life (childhood, adulthood, wisdom years). You may identify with Pitta qualities, for example, but continue to use warmer oils during winter, a Vata time of year.
The Airy Vata
The Qualities: Cold, light, mobile, dry
Time of Year: Late fall and winter
Lifespan: Older age, wisdom years
Body Constitution: Slender, difficulty gaining weight, ease losing weight, irregular features (e.g. crooked nose or bigger ears), shorter or very tall (Vata lives in extremes)
Personality: Creative, enthusiastic, social, innovative
The Oil : Warm oils (sesame, jojoba, almond)
The Technique: You want to ground the airy Vata down to earth. A Vata's constant motion can contribute to anxiety. Maintain long, steady and gentle strokes as you massage the body. Start by massaging the head and work your way down all the way to the toes. Additionally, Vata is a dry quality. To combat this, lubricate your joints and hydrate your skin by applying a lot of oil during the massage.
The Fiery Pitta
The Qualities: Fire, heat, sharpness, oiliness
Time of Year: Summer
Lifespan: menarche to menopause
Body Constitution: Warm skin, strong muscular structure, medium height, ease gaining and losing weight, balanced hormones
Personality: Motivated, competitive, focused, disciplined, leadership skills
The Oil: Cooler oils (coconut, olive and sunflower)
The Technique: Pittas tend to live in their minds. You can usually find them making big plans. Pitta's can focus their minds by engaging in more rhythmic massage strokes. Pittas also need grounding. Start with the head, move to the belly and end at the feet. Pay extra attention to the belly to calm and cool their digestion. Use a moderate amount of oil and focus on the areas that experience the most tension like the neck and shoulders.
The Earthy Kapha
The Qualities: Heavy, slowness, dullness, softness, density
Time of Year: Spring
Lifespan: Childhood to adolescence
Body Constitution: Broad frame, curves, thick hair, full lips, large eyes, slower digestion, ease gaining weight and difficulty losing weight
Personality: Steady, loving, dependable, loyal, predictable, calm, comfortable in routine
The Oil: Hot, sharp oils (mustard seed)
The Technique: You want to give a Kapha a deep, penetrating massage. To give their slow digestion a jump start, massage their bellies then start with the toes and work your way to the head. Kaphas can almost be too grounded sometimes. They get stuck in routines. Keep the massage playful to inspire their imagination. Similarly to Pitta, Kaphas don't require as much oil as Vatas.
When NOT to Incorporate Self Massage
While self massage is a positive addition to your morning routine, there are circumstances that would not benefit from Abhyanga. If you are experiencing the following symptoms or circumstances do not engage in self massage:
If you are sick - your body needs rest, relaxation and healing
If you are pregnant - consult a heath specialist or perhaps modify your massage and only apply it to your limbs
If there is toxicity in your body (you experience body aches, breath and body order, and/or consistent feelings of sluggishness) - the oil can lock in the toxins rather than release them.
Change With The Seasons
Whether you're a Vata, Pitta or Kapha, your life stage, the climate you live in, and the seasons you go through change. Tailor your morning massage to these changes. You may be a Kapha and require that hot mustard seed oil to get you going. However, if you are in a Pitta season, cool down the oil a bit and go with almond or sesame. Customize your massage to energize and support your unique and important needs.
Are interested in incorporating Ayurvedic massage into your morning routine? Are you curious about what oils and techniques to use? I am here to help you get to know your Ayurvedic dosha as well as provide you with techniques to lead a calm, grounded day. Schedule your free breakthrough session and I will help you to customize a health plan that's made just for you.