“The leaves and bark of the trees are continually massaged by the wind; the rocks and pebbles are rubbed by the streams and rivers; the animals, brushed by space, wind and the forest, are forever toned by abhyanga.” - Maya Tiwari in “Secrets of Healing”
What is Abhyanga?
Abhyanga pronounced (ah-bih-yahn-gah) is a form of oleation (oil) therapy used in Panchakarma that includes using dosha-appropriate oils, touch, and strokes as well as manipulation of marma points to bring equilibrium and balance to the dosha. Panchakarma is a cleansing or purifying practice used in Ayurveda to balance the dosha and remove toxins from the body, mind and spirit.
“The entire body is made up of unctuous substances and all of life depends upon them.” - Sushruta
Abhyanga and Love
Abhyanga is a an ancient practice that is believed to predate the Vedic period. It means “loving hands” and it involves applying generous amounts of dosha-specific herbal oils. Abhyanga or Snehana Chikitsa is an ancient Ayurvedic body treatment that oils and lubricates the body using specific strokes, pressure and oils formulated for your unique constitutional imbalances. “snehana” means fat, oil or love and “chikitsa” means treatment. Thusly, abhyanga is a treatment of love.
“Where touching begins, there love and humanity also begin.” - Ashley Montagu
What are the benefits of Abhyanga?
According to Ayurveda, the individualized herbal oils used in Abhyanga are designed to deeply penetrate the body/mind through the skin. The skin’s seven layers are the body’s primary pathway for detoxification. They also are a main channel of absorption and secretion as well as a storehouse of fat, water, glucose, and salt. The skin regulates body temperature, water balance, and is a major producer of endocrine hormones.
The seven layers of skin are each connected to one of the seven dhatus: rasa/plasma, rakta/blood, mamsa/muscle, meda/adipose, asthi/bone, majja/nervous system tissue; shukra/reproductive tissue. Abhyanga loosens and softens vitiated dosha and ama/toxins in the dhatus/tissue systems of the body as well as removed blockages in the srotas/channel systems. This allows them to return to the Gastrointestinal tract for elimination. It breaks up impurities and removes stagnant waste from the body/mind and also stimulates arterial and lymphatic circulation. Abhyanga nourishes the dhatus of the body and mind and brings balance to the srotas (16 channel systems); dosha (vata, pitta, kapha); vayus (subdosha of vata that control all the movement in the body/mind); nadis (energy pathways); and chakras (vital energy centers).
“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.” - Charaka Samhita Vol. 1, V: 88-89
According to the ancient sage Vagbhata in his seminal text the Ashtanga Hridayam, he explains that the effects of Abhyanga are that it:
halts and reverses the aging process
brings balance to the nervous system
improves eyesight and sleep
nourishes the body, mind and spirit
promotes longevity and immunity
“As the organ of touch and sensation, the skin is the point of contact and defense between us and the rest of humanity, as well as between us and the environment. Its nerves, blood vessels, and glands carry vital information and nutrients to every other organ, and help to regulate critical bodily functions, including water and temperature control, absorption, secretion, and excretion.” - Pratima Raichur in “Absolute Beauty”
Five Prana Abhyanga
The Five Prana Ayurveda Abhyanga creates an individualized experience that involves all 5 senses to calm, relax and nourish the body, mind and spirit.
Taste: dosha specific teas
Sound: dosha appropriate music
Sight: dosha appropriate lighting and colors
Touch: dosha specific carrier oils blended with healing essential oils and herbal oils as well as dosha appropriate pressure and strokes
To learn more about the Five Prana Abhyanga treatment, click here.