Importance of Abhyanga Massage in Ayurveda By Veda5 Luxury Retreat, Rishikesh, India
Importance of Abhyanga Massage in Ayurveda by Veda5 Luxury Wellness Retreat, Rishikesh, India
The word ‘Massage’ can be correlated with Abhyanga. According to ancient Ayurveda text, Ayurvedic massage is known as Abhyanga.
The word Abhyanga is composed of two Sanskrit words, ‘abhi’ and ‘anga’. Abhi means ‘towards’ and anga refers to ‘movement’. Therefore, Abhyanga is a synchronized massaging of the body towards the direction of the movement of arterial blood. This oil massage is a form of Ayurvedic therapy that involves massaging of the body with dosha-specific, warm, herb-infused oils. The oil is usually pre-mixed with herbs to treat specific conditions and the oil used is selected according to individual constitution.
In practical terms, it means massaging the body in the direction of the body hair. Abhyanga and other types of massage are similar in two ways. Both involve basic manipulation techniques that have been developed through experience and have been passed on from generation to generation. Interestingly, Ayurvedic texts do not give details of the procedures involved in abhyanga but mention certain techniques. ‘Samvahan’ means gentle rubbing. ‘Peedan’ means pressing and squeezing. ‘Mardan’ means pressure massage, which corresponds to modern day massage techniques.
Various abhyanga techniques have been developed over the centuries, which have tremendous benefits to the mind, body, skin and immune system. It involves copious amounts of oil and a unique two or one-therapist sequence that relaxes and softens the tissues. Ayurvedic massage can be classified into different types according to the body part involved and the techniques developed.
The Ayurvedic text Charaka Samhita specifically mentions the benefits of full body abhyanga (sarvanga abhyanga), head massage (shiro abhyanga) and foot massage (pad abhyanga) separately. This shows the relative importance of massage of these particular parts of the body. They can be massaged in isolation or simultaneously, during a full body massage. To reiterate this fact, Vagbhatta’s Ashtanga Hridayam states that even if one is unable to perform a full body massage, feet and head should be massaged regularly.
Benefits of Ayurvedic Massage
A summary of the benefits of Abhyanga, mentioned in these classical texts of Ayurveda can be described as follows:
“Ayurvedic massage imparts softness, strength and luster to the body. It decreases the effects of aging and makes one look youthful. It bestows good vision. It nourishes the body and the tissues of the body, thus increasing longevity. It supports regular sleep patterns. It benefits the skin. It strengthens the body’s tolerance to exercise and physical work and pacifies Vata and Kapha dosha, rejuvenating the body.”
“Is used as a pre-operative procedure of Panch Karma, the five detox therapies of Ayurveda, and is also a part of the management protocol for different disease conditions. In these studies, pure sesame oil or herbal oils were used for Abhyanga, for which there is no age restriction.”
Benefits are clearly demonstrated through the following examples:
- Reduction in Stress, Heart Rate and Blood Pressure
- Improvement in Head Holding In Children with Cerebral Palsy
- Reduction of Burning Sensations in Diabetic Neuropathy Patients
- Reduction In Heal Cracking, Roughness and Dryness
- Weight Gain in Low Birth Weight Babies.
- Reduction in Systolic Blood Pressure, Diastolic Blood Pressure, Pulse Rate and Respiratory Rate
- Reduction in Knee Pain in Osteoarthritis Patients
- Improvement in Hemiplegia
- Improvement in Muscular Dystrophy
- Lower Levels of Anxiety and Depressed Mood in Depressed Pregnant Women
- Migraine Frequency Reduced
- Reduction in Menopausal Sleep Disturbances
- Reduction of Inflammation in Exercise-Induced Muscle Damage
- Relief of Chronic Back Pain
As previously described Ayurveda lays special emphasis on massaging the head and the feet. Here are the benefits of head and foot massage (shiro abhyanga and pada abhyanga) as mentioned in the ancient classical texts on Ayurveda.
Benefits of Shiro Abhyanga (Ayurvedic head massage or Indian head massage)
Abhyanga of the head, when done regularly, benefits the hair, the sense organs and the quality of sleep. Specifically, Ayurvedic head massage helps hair grow, darkens hair, softens and thickens hair, prevents hair loss and graying. It gives a shine or glow to the face, nourishes the sense organs and induces better and deeper sleep at night. It also may help relieve headaches. The oil for Shiro Abhyanga is selected according to Constitution.
Benefits of Pada Abhyanga (Ayurvedic Foot Massage)
The benefits of massaging the feet have been described in Ayurvedic texts as follows:
- Relieves stiffness and tired of the foot
- Removes dryness of the foot
- Decreases numbness, tingling and roughness of the foot and leg
- Increases softness and attractiveness of the foot
- Strengthens the joints and soft tissues of the foot
- Improves and maintains good vision
- Helps to control and balance Vata dosha
- May prevent and relieve sciatica pain
- Prevents and heals cracked heels
- Improves blood circulation to the feet, assisting with constriction of blood vessels.
- Relieves constriction of ligaments and tendons of the feet.
Ayurvedic Massage Contraindications
According to Ayurveda, abhyanga should not be done under the following conditions:
- Any acute illness (unless permitted by your doctor)
- During menstruation
- Blood clots (like deep vein thrombosis) or bleeding disorders
- In extreme emotional states
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