Self Abhyanga

“We are making the big protection by saving, by protecting the skin." Vaidya J.R. Raju

"The skin protects so much ~ protects the smriti, the cellular memory. Because of this it is said that just by doing abhyanga every day it avoids Gara, the old age. Because of all these sequences missing, the tiredness comes when you lose these things and vata comes in. In the old age, vata is disturbed and that is slowly ending the body. How it controls and all is maintained with abhyanga and other things. We have to maintain that vital energy. The techniques are there ~ they are the keys. It creates another level of Kavatch, protection. You have to make your skin very powerful to carry the message of the immortality [throughout the body]. We have to maintain this invincible skin with abhyanga.”

Vaidya J.R. Raju

ASTANGA HRIDAYA SUTRASTAN ~ 13.5 Nature of Increase and Decrease व: समानै: सवषां वपरत:ै वपयय: । vṛddhi: samānai: sarveṣāṃ viparītai: viparyaya |

Equal qualities lead to increase, and opposing qualities lead to decrease. For example, dryness is the quality of Vata. If a Vata body type person exposes himself to dry cold weather, his dryness and in turn Vata will increase, leading to dry skin. In the same way, oiliness is opposite quality of dryness. If he applies oil to the skin, then the dryness and related Vata is decreased.

Self Abhyanga Instructions

“20 minutes is enough to leave the oil on the skin. 7.5 minutes is the minimum. The main [most important] areas are ears, nostrils and head. It’s not required to wash the hair every day, but the scalp has to be wiped off afterwards with any cloth. Don’t leave the oil on more than one hour. From 15 min onwards the toxins will come out ~ in 48 minutes a lot will come out [herbalized oil is required for this].”

Vaidya Krishna Raju

Cure your abhyanga oil with Kumkumadi (Kkeram) herbal powder in pure, unrefined, natural oils

Or use a good quality herbal massage oil if you do not have kumkumadi oil.

Sesame oil is the best for pacifying (reducing) vata, which is the main purpose of abhyanga. But during warm seasons or if you feel sesame is too heating for you, coconut oil is best. In general, the vaidyas recommend coconut in warm seasons and sesame in cold seasons. The Raju vaidyas do not recommend olive oil for abhyanga because it oxidizes (becomes toxic) when exposed to heat or even sunlight.

Curing Instructions:

Use 5 grams kumkumadi/KKeram paste or powder per liter of oil (up to 10g if stronger effect is needed). Combine oil and KKeram in a glass jar with a good lid (liquefy coconut oil first if needed by sitting the jar in a pan of warm tap water—do not liquefy on the stove as it must be warmed gently).

In warm seasons, place kum/oil jar in direct sunlight on a wooden surface for 7 consecutive days ~ outside is best, or with light coming in through a window if need be, as long as the light is warm and bright. Bring the jar in at night and expose it to moonlight through a window. Note that the sunlight must be warm enough to keep coconut oil liquid to be effective (same temp needed for sesame oil).

During cold seasons if sunlight is not warm enough, cure the oil in a warm spot inside the house (next to a radiator or heater-vent if it's warm enough to keep coconut oil liquid). If need be, you can place the oil jar in a crock pot filled with warm water set to the ‘keep warm’ lowest heat position.

Note that the herb mix will not fully dissolve during curing and a residue will settle on the bottom of the jar, but its effects spread to all the oil.

“If you do abhyanga without oil on the head you are missing a lot"

"Can put it on lightly [under the hair, on the scalp]. After, if you take a shower and wash the hair it is very good or if you wipe it off that’s good too. Use approx. ¼ cup oil for the whole abhyanga [according to your body size]. For some people if they are very much vata or in some special conditions, you might need a lot of oil but usually not very much. The head is absorbing the oil, not the hair.

“Showering after abhyanga is better (to wash the toxins off). Bath is ok, but only if you do it very hot, like swedena—very hot water and salt in the water. When you are using the medicated [herbalized] oils you have to wash it off properly so the toxins are not reabsorbed.”

Vaidya Krishna Raju

Abhyanga Overview

Do your abhyanga in a warm place that is free from cold drafts (a towel on the bathroom floor is a fine spot) using towel-covered pillows for back support if needed.

Warm the oil safely and gently before use ~ do not overheat as this is bad for the oil & can cause burns.

Start your abhyanga by applying the oil everywhere first, so the whole body (including scalp) is covered with oil for the maximum time. About ¼ cup oil should be enough for most people’s needs.

STROKES ~ Main Principles

  • CLOCKWISE circles on the joints and round places (e.g. head, shoulders, breasts, stomach, low back);

  • LONG strokes on the limbs and long places (e.g. arms, legs, neck, spine).

  • DOWNWARD STROKES ARE BEST FOR VATA because vata has to go down to get pacified & clear the excess dosha. Down and up strokes are ok as long as they are not fast or heavy ~ slow is important. Try both ways and you will feel the extra calming influence with more downward strokes.

  • STROKES & CIRCLES "in the direction of the hair" are good and will be more soothing.

  • GENTLE PRESSING on the head is good, but nothing hard or heavy.

  • BE GENTLE WITH THE MAIN MARMA POINTS and do not hit up against them in any way ~ Crown, top back of head, heart, umbilicus/navel, bladder, and genitals.

  • FOR PROBLEM AREAS in the body, you can spend some extra time with strokes there (gently).

  • Note that abhyanga during panchakarma is different because that is for deep cleansing & is shorter term; daily home abhyanga is day to day/every day so it needs to be very gentle & soothing. Nothing should be hard or fast with daily abhyanga.

  • Applying the oil everywhere to draw out toxins is the most important thing in abhyanga ~ even a little gentle massage in whatever way that feels good will bring benefits, then leave the oil on longer without rubbing to pull out more toxins (7.5 minutes minimum time with the oil on to receive benefits / 15-20 minutes up to 48 minutes is much better).

DO FULL ABHYANGA DAILY ~ Whenever you can

According to how much time you have, do your own version of the full abhyanga below. Remember that you will get more from abhyanga by doing it regularly than by straining to do something very long occasionally.

DO AN ABBREVIATED ABHYANGA IF TIME IS SHORT, by applying oil to head (scalp), ears, nostrils, navel, palms, and soles of feet. Massage each area briefly before showering ~ 7.5 to 10 min minimum time with oil on the skin / longer is better.

  • Keeping the oil on the skin for a while is the main important thing to improve the skin physiology & draw out toxins. So if you do not have the time or desire to do many strokes, apply the oil and leave it on while you do other things for up to 48 minutes before showering.

THE OIL MUST BE WASHED OR THOROUGHLY WIPED OFF AFTER ABHYANGA or the toxins that rise to the surface will be reabsorbed after one+ hour. Note that during PK, the other additional treatments maintain the outward flow of toxins so the oil can stay on longer.

  • The main purpose of the strokes is to soothe & pacify (calm) Vata Dosha. It is the herbalized oil, soaking into the skin for some time, that draws out the toxins. Not so much comes out with plain oil, so using herbalized oil is important for maximum results.

EVERYONE needs to keep vata in balance for good health ~ no matter what your body qualities are!

PRACTICE "SAFETY FIRST" When you do Abhyanga

DO NOT LEAVE OIL ON THE STOVE WHILE IT IS HEATING ~ Stay nearby as it only takes seconds to warm.

BE VERY CAREFUL NOT TO SLIP when you get up after abhyanga ~ wear some old socks or slippers if you have to walk at all, and use a good, non-slip mat in your tub/shower and clean away any oil residue afterwards so the tub/floor is not slippery next time.

USE CAUTION WHEN YOU CLEAN YOUR ABHYANGA TOWELS. Use a good oil-removing detergent and hot wash water. Pay careful attention to oil build-up in the towels as oily towels can spontaneously combust in a hot dryer, so do not dry this way when too much oil build-up occurs—you will know because towels won’t dry your skin well when this happens (safest to throw them away if they become too oily to clean properly).

"Abhyanga protects us from any energy ~ it is the biggest protection. The various energies, how they are being directed in accidents and disease or in day-to-day activities and the different subtle energies, are making the different changes in our physiology. The most powerful are the planets. For all these things, the simple thing is abhyanga [simplest solution]. By saving and channeling the different energies in different directions, abhyanga is the best. All of Ayurveda is for the body ~ you need not do much ~ just doing oil massage every day and taking shodhana [for toxins] and eating freshly cooked, pure food..."

Vaidya J.R. Raju

Abhyanga Sequence ~ Head First / Feet Last!

START with the head (scalp), face, and ears, massaging with full palm & fingers whenever you can, or using finger pads in smaller areas. Your strokes can be circular or straight, or both ways—however you prefer.

Next, stroke along neck and around the shoulders, moving down to the torso front with circular strokes on the chest (both sides at once circling up & out) then broad, clockwise strokes on the abdomen, and circles on the sides. You can also try doing horizontal cross-strokes on the whole torso, reaching from side to opposite side with both hands crossing back and forth over each other ~ helps the energy to flow more freely within the body.

Then massage your back, wherever you can comfortably reach, with both circles & straight strokes on the upper back & neck; long straight strokes from ribs to hips or large circles (up & out); clockwise circles on the buttocks (or up & out with both hands), then long sweeps down the spine and neck, as far as you can comfortably reach; clockwise circles on the sacrum.

Now massage the arms and hands (left side first for ladies, right side first for men/circles are all clockwise) starting with circles on the shoulder joint; straight strokes on the upper arm; circles on the elbow joint; straight strokes on the lower arm; and circles on the wrist joint. Finish with circles on the palms and back of the hand, and strokes to the fingers and gently rubbing in-between the fingers (in the webbing).

If you have any arthritis concern (for prevention or cure) you can massage each knuckle joint more, grabbing the joint between thumb and straight or bent finger and rotating clockwise there (for stronger benefits use a little Mahaganda Prana oil for this / will bring excellent results if done daily).

Then repeat the full sequence for the other arm.

Finish your abhyanga with massage to the legs and feet (similar to arms, starting on the left side for ladies, right side for men/circles are all clockwise). Begin with clockwise circles on the hip joint; long strokes (with two hands) on the thigh; circles on the knee joint. You can use Mahaganda Prana oil again on the knees if problems are there, focusing on the sides of the knee cap particularly with finger strokes (as if pulling or milking the sides of the knee cap with straight thumb and fingers, pulling and massaging repeatedly). Use long strokes on the lower leg with both hands; circles on the ankle joint; sweeps and circles on the feet with gentle pressure on the soles with palm and thumb strokes in any way that feels good. End with the same kind of strokes on the toes and in-between the toes as for the hands.

Repeat the full sequence for the other leg and foot.

SUN-SALUATIONS can be done after abhyanga while the oil is still on the body (on a large towel to protect from slipping). This is good exercise and heats the body up like a mini-swedena which allows the oil to penetrate deeper & toxins to flush more completely. The different angles (positions) allow the body to absorb specific different energy from the sun, even when done indoors. If you are new to sun-salutes be sure to build up your strength and flexibility gradually / 13 full cycles is the goal (strengthens all 13 Agnis in the body).

Enjoy!