Sneha Abhyanga (anointing the body with oil) is an ancient Indian Ayurvedic oil massage therapy for healing and detoxifying the body and mind. Abhyanga has been practiced for thousands of years to maintain health, excellent sleep patterns and increase longevity, and also as a therapeutic procedure for many disorders. Abhyanga can be easily incorporated into the daily routine by almost anyone.
The Sanskrit word ‘sneha’ can be translated as both ‘oil’ and ‘love’. Abhyanga comes from two words, ‘abhi’ and ‘anga’, meaning gentle movements over body parts. Like the experience of being loved, abhyanga can give a deep feeling of stability and warmth. Sneha is subtle; this allows the oil/love to pass through minute channels in the body and penetrate deep layers of tissue.
Skin is the largest organ of our body. It produces naturally occurring anti-depressants, anti-cancerous and anti-aging substances as well as hormones that enhance circulation. Abhyanga works along the energy channels of our body in a synchronized manner to restore the flow of vital energy, prana, where it has become blocked. Lymphatic stimulation with ayurvedic herbal oils helps squeeze out toxic accumulation from channels. These herbal infused oils focus on detoxifying the body and eliminating the stored up cellular waste which precipitates into diseases.
Abhyanga is recommended for everyone as a daily ritual, but it is especially needed if someone’s routine demands a lot of physical activities like standing, walking, traveling or mental activities like talking, studying, and so on, or when one is stressed out, anxious or afraid.
Why You Need Sneha Abhyanga
- Rejuvenates entire body, delaying aging
- Relieves fatigue, promotes deeper sleep
- Enhances complexion and lustre of skin
- Removes facial wrinkles and stiffness of neck and jaw
- Makes hair grow luxuriantly thick, soft and glossy
- Stimulates internal organs and circulation
- Lubricates and imparts firmness to limbs and joints
- Coarseness, stiffness, fatigue and numbness of feet are alleviated
- Bestows good vision and soothes and invigorates the sense organs
- Corrects any digestion related problem and variations in blood pressure
What Oils are to Be Used?
Sesame is considered to be the ‘king of oils’ and it is the preferred choice of oil because it is inherently warming. For increasing strength and stamina, Ashwagandha Oil or the Ksheerabala oil are the best.
For joint pain or weakness, Mahanarayan Oil made from over 30 herbs is recommended. Following this with a warm bath of 1/3 cup baking soda and 1/3 cup ginger powder can further enhance the effects.
Applying Bhringaraj oil or Brahmi oil to scalp and soles of feet at bedtime reduces excess heat in the body and mind and encourages sound sleep. If medicated oils are not available, olive oil or coconut oil can also be used for abhyanga. If someone spends a lot of time in the hot sun, Neem oil can be added to the basic abhyanga oil used.
How to Practice Sneha Abhyanga?
Take around 20 ml of oil in a steel bowl. Make sure the oil is not rancid.
Place the oil bowl in a pan of hot water until the oil is pleasantly warm. Do not heat the oil directly.
Sit or stand comfortably in a warm room, on a towel or a carpet. Make sure you’re protected from any wind, during and after abhyanga.
Massage the oil into your entire body, beginning with extremities and working toward the middle of the body. Use long strokes on the limbs and circular strokes on the joints. Massage the abdomen and chest in broad, clockwise, circular motions. On the abdomen, follow the path of the large intestine by moving up on the right side of the abdomen, then across, then down left.
Give a little extra time and attention to massaging the scalp, ears and feet. Apply oil to the crown of your head (adhipati marma – a pressure point according to Ayurveda) and work slowly out from there in circular strokes. Put a few drops of warm oil into the opening of the ear canal using the little finger tip. Use the palms of your hands to massage the soles of your feet with a firm pressure, taking care to get in between the toes.
Enjoy a warm bath after a 15-minute massage.