What’s So Special About Abhyanga Massage?

Abhyanga massage is one that is done with warm oil. You have to apply the oil all over your body – from your scalp down to your sole.

Abhyanga massage is very popular in Ayurveda. It focuses on keeping you healthy via natural practices such as diet and massage.

The oil is the main component of abhyanga massage. Proponents of this practice believe that combining the oil with the massage strokes boosts your health and wellness.

To do the massage effectively, you’ll need the services of a massage therapist. However, you can do it on your own – right in the comfort of your house.

Now, does abhyanga massage have any health benefits? We’ll find out in this article.

Benefits of abhyanga massage

Very little research has been done on the health benefits of abhyanga. But then, it has been in practice for many years – running into thousands. Many people claim that it has therapeutic benefits and so continue to use it.

The potential benefits of general massage are backed by some scientific studies. This, perhaps, lends credence to the anecdotal benefits of abhyanga massage.

It relieves stress

A 2011 study by Annetrin Jytte Basler examined the effects of abhyanga on 20 healthy but stressed adults.

Participants in the study filled a stressed – related questionnaire. Their heart rate was measured during the process. Then they received a one – hour massage. They repeated both tests after the session.

Results from the study showed a decrease in the participants’ heart rate and subjective stress levels.

Frankly, there is a need for larger studies to understand the exact stress – reducing mechanism of abhyanga massage. However, other studies have found similar benefits.

A 2018 study Seifert et al. examined the influence of a rhythmical massage done with aromatic oil on the autonomic nervous system. 44 healthy women were involved in the study.

Stress harms your autonomic nervous system. It reduces the variability of heart rate. A low heart rate variability means that you’re experiencing high-stress levels. Conversely, high variability is an indication of relaxation.

The study found that rhythmical massage resulted in prolonged heart rate variability stimulation – an indication of relaxation. The aromatic oil was beneficial but its effect was temporary.

This indicates that abhyanga may have similar benefits.

The beneficial effects of general studies are backed by many pieces of research.

It lowers blood pressure

In a 2011 study by Annetrin, the researcher measured the blood pressure of participants. It was found that the blood pressure in prehypertensive participants decreased after abhyanga.

How is this so? Well, it may be due to the effect of massage on the circulatory system. A class massage causes the expansion of blood vessels. This increases the flow of blood and reduces resistance in your arteries. This in turn causes an improvement in blood pressure.

Nevertheless, there is still the need for further research to clarify the effect of abhyanga on blood pressure.

It improves skin health

Proponents of abhyanga massage claim that it is beneficial to the skin.

The oil nourishes the skin and gives it a better appearance. The massage strokes:

  • Increases blood flow to your skin
  • Reduces the visibility of scars, cellulite, and wrinkles
  • Decreases hyperpigmentation
  • Makes the skin softer and smoother

These claims are true to some extent. For instance, a 2018 study discovered that facial massage rollers boost the flow of blood to the skin. Another study conducted still in 2018 found that you can reduce the thickness and appearance of scars by massaging them.

However, there’s little evidence on the benefits of massage to the skin. There is a need for more research to prove the benefits of abhyanga and other kinds of massage to the skin.

It makes your muscles less stiff

Abhyanga self – massage improves flexibility. It is believed to decrease stiffness and improve mobility by relaxing tight muscles.

A study by Park et al. carried out in 2017 discovered that a massage to the ankle improves the flexibility of the ankle joint. also, a 2019 study found that self – massage improves the motion range of the lower legs.

Abhyanga may possess similar benefits. But like the others, there’s a need for further studies to understand the exact effects of abhyanga massage on flexibility.

It enhances lymphatic drainage

Massage of any kind improves lymphatic drainage. Researchers have not conducted any explicit studies on abhyanga and lymph flow. However, its proponents claim that it improves lymph flow.

The lymphatic system functions as one of the body’s waste removal systems. If you have an underlying medical condition or a surgery, fluid may pool in your lymphatic system, resulting in lymphedema or swelling.

A massage improves lymphedema by enhancing lymphatic drainage. The pressure exerted causes the lymphatic vessels to expand, which in turn boosts the flow of lymph.

Physical and massage therapists have used massage to reduce lymphedema after radiation therapy, injury, or surgery.

Other benefits of abhyanga self – massage include:

  • Boosts energy and alertness
  • Improves vision
  • Delays changes due to aging
  • Increases physical strength

Note that these are anecdotal claims and are not backed by any research.

How to do an abhyanga massage by yourself

A massage therapist can give you a relaxing massage. But you can also do the abhyanga massage by yourself. This means that you can enjoy it at your convenience.

You must wear light clothing during the massage. Better still, you just wrap a towel around your body.

The general tips include:

  1. Pour some oil (1/2 cup) into a squeeze bottle. Put the bottle with the oil into a pot of hot water until it gets warm.
  2. Apply the oil over your body, including your head. Massage the oil into your scalp.
  3. Do the same to your ears, forehead, jaws, and cheeks.
  4. Massage your abdomen and your chest in circular and clockwise strokes. Also, massage your trunk inwards along your ribs.
  5. Massage the toes and soles of your feet.
  6. Take a 10 – minute relaxation so that the oil seeps into your skin.
  7. Take a shower or a warm bath. Remove the oil with a gentle cleanser.

Best oils to use for an abhyanga massage

The best oil depends on your body type or “dosha.” In Ayurvedic medicine, three body types determine the kind of oils you need.

  • Dry skin (Vata): use avocado, sesame, almond, or other heavy oils.
  • Overheated or sensitive skin (pitta): Apply sunflower oil, ghee, or any other neutral oil.
  • Oily skin (Kapha): Use light oils like sweet almond, flaxseed, or safflower oil.

You can use each oil by itself or you may blend it with another oil.

In conclusion

There is little research on abhyanga. However, massage is an old practice. It promotes wellness and balance, makes your skin healthier, and relieves stress.

Abhyanga massage involves the application of warm oil to all parts of your body and massaging each part.

Massage improves blood flow, general health, and relaxation.

Self – massage may be unsafe for pregnant women, or people with a skin infection, chronic illness, or a broken bone. If you want an abhyanga self – massage, consult your doctor first. A massage may be contraindicated in some conditions.