Guide to ayurvedic massage

Complete Guide To Ayurvedic Massages

Who wouldn’t like a relaxing massage after a tiring day or when you take a break after a hectic schedule? Getting a massage done by a professional masseur can not just make you feel relaxed but it also helps you get relief from aches and pains. Unfortunately, you cannot undergo such massages regularly. What then is the solution? The answer is self-massage. This is a technique where you carry out a massage yourself. Ayurveda, which is a holistic wellness system recommends Ayurvedic oil massage for multiple health benefits. You can do an Ayurvedic self-massage regularly using a herbal oil to feel relaxed, nourish your skin, and strengthen muscles and bones. The article explains all about Ayurvedic oil massage and self-massage. 


Why is massage recommended in Ayurveda? 

Benefits of massage in ayurveda

Ayurveda believes that good health or wellness depends on many factors. Using herbal remedies is one of them. Lifestyle changes, diet, and oil massage are other Ayurvedic treatment options to improve health. If you have a skin problem, then you can use herbal oil on the skin to treat the problem. You can use a herbal oil to improve skin health that when massaged on to the skin nourishes the skin. If you have muscle pain or aches, then you can use an oil that has ingredients to provide relief from pain. This oil can be massaged on the area affected. 

Massages in Ayurveda are done using herbal oil to provide health benefits. The reason why massage is recommended is that massaging helps the oil to penetrate through the skin into the tissues (known as Dhatus). The herbs thus reach the tissues where they can work more effectively. There are many benefits that Ayurvedic oil massage provides. Some of these benefits include: 

  • It relaxes the muscles and helps to provide relief from stress.

  • It improves the circulation of the blood in the area.

  • It helps in strengthening the skin making it more healthy.

  • Massaging the head helps to provide relief from headaches.

  • Regular massage using herbal oil helps to reduce stiffness in the muscles.

  • It nourishes the entire body when a full massage is done – this provides a rejuvenating effect on the body.

  • Since it relaxes the body, it helps in ensuring a good night’s sleep.

  • Massaging the scalp strengthens hair at the root level promoting the growth of healthy hair.

Ayurveda uses the concept of Doshas to explain how diseases occur. There are three Doshas or primary functional energies in the body. They are Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. If these Doshas are vitiated, it affects the balance of health. This can affect a person’s health and cause health problems. The solution is to correct the imbalance. An oil massage using the right kind of oil can help correct the vitiation of the Dosha. 

Depending on the health problems and the Dosha that has been vitiated, the right kind of oil needs to be selected. Using this oil for a massage can help balance vitiation in Doshas. This helps to provide long-term relief from health problems. Whether it is arthritic pain, lumbago, sinus headaches, or skin problems an Ayurvedic oil massage can provide relief from these symptoms by addressing the root cause, which is Dosha vitiation. 

Massage can be done by a trained Ayurvedic practitioner. It is usually a part of various therapies administered during Ayurvedic treatment. One of the most popular Ayurvedic treatments in Panchakarma, where a number of massages are carried out. Some of the Ayurvedic massages done are: 

  • Shirodhara : Head massage where oil is poured continuously on the head.

  • Abhyanga : Full body massage using warm herbal oil. The use of pressure during the massage helps to stimulate energy in the body.

  • Udvartana: The massage is done using a herbal powder to release toxins.

  • Elakizhi: Herbal products are used to improve skin health.

  • Njavarakizhi: A special massage is done to revitalize the senses by promoting sweating.

  • Swedana: A fomentation massage is done to induce sweating to remove toxins and provide therapeutic benefits.

  • Pizhichil: It involves pouring a warm oil continually while carrying out a massage.

  • Kativasti: This is a special massage to provide relief from back pain and muscle aches. 

All these massages are done by expert masseurs. These massages cannot be done frequently as they require a visit to an Ayurvedic center and are also expensive. It involves the use of specialized processes. The benefits of a massage can even be obtained at home without requiring a masseur. This is a self-massage. 


What is self-massage? 

Importance of Self massage

Abhyanga is a full body massage done to relax the entire body. It is possible to carry out this massage at home. You can massage your own body using an Ayurveda massage oil to enjoy all the benefits of Abhyanga. This is called a self-massage. Massaging your body requires time. It requires the use of an Ayurvedic oil for massage. The oil is to be gently massaged on the entire body. It takes time to do it. The Ayurvedic oil used is referred to as Sneha. This the Sanskrit phrase for oil. Sneha also means affection and love. It is loving care during an oil massage. 

When you massage your body, you need to show care and affection for your body. This kind of a loving approach will give you a feeling of warmth when you complete the massage. It creates a nourishing effect on the skin and the entire body. Before you start with the self-massage, you need to first choose the oil. Then you need to decide when you will do the massage. 

Initially start it once or twice a week. It will take time for you to learn the art of self-massage. Take a week or two to be adjusted to the routine. Once you are comfortable, you should be able to complete the process within 15 to 20 minutes. Then you increase the frequency to thrice a week or alternate days.  If you have time and comfortable with it, you can do  it every day to enjoy its total benefits. 

Next, decide the time of the day. Ideally, you need to do it early in the morning so that you can follow it with a shower. You can even do it in the evenings if you don’t get time in the morning. This will help you feel relaxed after a hard day’s work. You can go to sleep with the oil on your body so that it remains on the body until the next day when you can wash it off. This allows the oil more time to penetrate deep into your skin tissues. This allows you to experience the benefits of the massage better. Do this if you can avoid getting the bed oily. 

Having understood the frequency of the massage and the timing, it is now time to understand how to carry out a self-massage. The following is the suggested procedure to follow to carry out a self-massage: 

  1. Take around 5 to 10 ml of the oil in a cup and warm the oil. Don’t heat it too much as you can get burnt. Let it be moderately warm. Test the temperature with the tip of your finger before you start the massage. Since it takes more than 10 minutes, ensure the oil does not cool down before you complete the massage.

  2. You can do the self-massage in your bathroom so that it is easy to clear the mess. This will allow you to take off your clothes and do a complete massage. You can keep an old cloth or newspapers on the floor to avoid the floor becoming greasy. This makes it easy to clean up later. You will also avoid the risk of slipping and falling.

  3. You can sit down on a stool and do the massage or do it standing up depending on your preference.

  4. Dip the tips of your finger into the oil and use it for the massage. When you need to use your palm, then take a few drops on the palm and rub it on the palm fully before doing the massage.

  5. Start with the head. Start from above the temple and move towards the scalp region. Massage the scalp gently using circular motions. If you are using a skin care or hair care oil, spend more time massaging the scalp and then you can move on to the hair.

  6. Once you finish the head move to the face. Massage the earlobes, temple, forehead, cheeks, and the chin. Take extra care while massaging the eye socket and nose bridge as they are sensitive. Use a very light touch with your fingers to massage.

  7. You can then move to the neck, shoulders, and arms. Start with one hand and then move to the other. While massaging the face you must be gentle. When it comes to the arms, use more pressure so the oil goes deep into the tissues. Use long strokes as they help improve circulation. Use a circular motion on the elbow. Massage the fingers one by one.

  8. Use your palm to massage the chest and abdominal region. Use gentle, circular motions to carry out the massage. Do it slowly but don’t apply pressure. While massaging the abdomen, move in the direction of food flow. Start with the large intestine area and then move down.

  9. Move next to the legs. Just like the arms, use long strokes and apply pressure firmly. Spend time massaging the thighs and calves where you commonly feel pain. Use circular motions for massaging the knees.

  10. You can complete the massage by finishing with a foot massage. Massage the foot completely, including the toes. Then move to the sole. Use gentle strokes while massaging the foot. You can use circular motions while massaging the sole.  

  11. Since this is a self-massage, massaging the back is difficult. You can massage the shoulder blades and try to reach out to your back. Take care not to strain yourself when you massage your back. You can also massage your backside gently using circular motions. 

Once you are done with the massage, allow the oil to go deep into your tissues before you wash off. There are certain post-massage tips that you need to keep in mind. 

  • The first time you use the oil, do it on your arm and then allow it to settle and observe for a few hours. In case you observe any reaction like itching or redness, then consult an Ayurvedic practitioner who will help you find a safer oil that is more gentle on your skin. Always do a trial with the oil before doing the full body massage. This helps you prevent unnecessary problems later.

  • Massage is best done on an empty stomach or at least a couple of hours before having food. Doing a massage with a full stomach can cause you discomfort. This is why it is best done in the morning before your bath and breakfast.

  • Take extra care while washing off the oil. You may slip and hurt yourself since you would have applied oil to your sole and feet. It is advisable to sit on a stool and take a bath to avoid an unpleasant accident. You can stand on an anti-skid bath mat to avoid any problems.

  • Use warm or hot water for the bath. Use a mild soap. You can preferably use an Ayurvedic soap to avoid any discomfort for the skin. Lather well with the soap so that the oil can be removed.

  • Use an Ayurvedic shampoo to wash the hair.

  • Once you are done with the bath use a clean towel to wipe yourself off. Don’t rub the skin vigorously with the towel. Pat dry yourself gently. 

Note that a complete massage followed by a bath would take sufficient time. Make sure you plan your day to give yourself the time to complete the massage and bath. If you do not have time in the morning, avoiding hurrying up as it won’t give you the best results. If you are short of time, then do the self-massage on the weekends when you have time. 

In case you have any serious health problems or are pregnant do not do a self-massage without consulting your physician.


Benefits of self-massage 

The art of self-massage

The oil massage benefits when you carry out a self-massage is multifold. Apart from all the health benefits that a regular massage offers, it gives you the satisfaction of having taken care of your body yourself. You can do the massage every day and enjoy the benefits of the massage at home. All you need is around fifteen minutes daily. The following are some of the body oil massage benefits you can enjoy with a self-massage: 

  • A daily routine of self-massage helps you de-stress and remain relaxed. When you do it in the evening, you can get relief from the day’s tensions.  You will be so relaxed that you will enjoy a restful sleep at night.

  • Since the self-massage is done for the entire body, you can experience benefits from the scalp to the sole.

  • You can get relief from headaches and sinusitis symptoms through the self-massage.

  • Your skin health will improve and the skin will be well nourished. You can expect skin that is soft with a good tone and texture.

  • Any skin problems that you have can be relieved through regular massage using a herbal oil with antifungal and antimicrobial properties.

  • Self massage improves blood circulation. This helps reduce blemishes on the skin like wrinkles, scars, etc. It can also reduce hyperpigmentation.

  • It strengthens the muscles, bones, and joints. This helps provide relief from stiffness, inflammation, and pain.

  • The nadis or the channels through which energy flow is strengthened and stimulated by a message. This allows prana or the life force to move easily. This makes you healthier and enhances immunity.

  • One of the key benefits of a self-massage is that it improves lymphatic drainage. This improves lymph flow, which helps in effectively removing toxins from the body. This helps to cleanse the body and rejuvenate it. It helps you feel more energetic.

  • Self massage helps to improve vision.

  • It is beneficial for the scalp and improves hair growth.

  • It helps in increasing vigor and vitality in the body.

  • It has anti-ageing effects that help you look and feel young.


Choosing the right Ayurvedic oil

Choose the right ayurvedic oil

The key in self-massage is the use of Ayurvedic oils for massage. Using the right body massage oil Ayurveda ensures that you experience the complete benefits of the massage. Selecting the oil depends on your health condition and the Dosha that has been vitiated. The following guidelines for selecting the Ayurvedic oil for body massage will be helpful: 

  • For getting relief from Vata imbalance, you can use Almond or sesame oil. Sesame is considered the King of oils that help you correct Vata imbalance.

  • If Pitta Dosha is vitiated, you can use coconut oil or sunflower oil.

  • For correcting the imbalance in Kapha Dosha, you can use safflower oil or sweet almond oil.

  • If you want an oil that can balance all three doshas, jojoba oil will be helpful.

  • These are the base oils, herbs added to these oils make the oil more potent. You can select the herbal oil depending on the Dosha affected and your health issues.

  • When the weather is cold, use sesame oil or even mustard oil as these are warming in nature.

  • During hot weather, use coconut oil, cocoa butter, or olive oil as they are cooling.

  • Almond oil is good for neutral weather (typically experienced between seasons). 

Some of the Ayurvedic herbal oils that are beneficial for self-massage are: 

  1. Bala Thailam – helps reduce inflammation and provides strength to the body. It helps relieve Vata pain from conditions like arthritis.

  2. Santhwanam Oil - improves blood circulation, provides relief from muscular pain, and is rejuvenating.  

  3. Pavan Oil – helps you improve skin health and keep it well nourished and soft.

  4. Tejas Oil – helps to reduce Pitta Dosha vitiation and helps relax the mind and body. It is a natural moisturizer.

  5. Dharani Oil – helps reduce Kapha Dosha vitiation. It improves skin health, blood flow, and makes you feel refreshed.

  6. Balaswagandhadi Thailam – helps to improve muscle tone and improve nervous system strength.

  7. Sahacharadi Thailam – helps to manage rheumatism. It is an anti-inflammatory oil.

  8. Mahanarayana Thailam is a joint care oil that helps to reduce stiffness and inflammation. 


Other types of self-massage

Self massage or Abhyanga is typically done for the entire body as described above. There are other types of self-massage that are done on specific body parts and for specific reasons. For example, if you are facing problems with eye strain, there is a specific massage for that. Some of the massage types are: 

  1. Eye massage: This is useful for those who spend time in front of the computer. Use your thumbs to massage over the socket of the eye. Massage the junction of the eyebrow and nose bridge to experience relief.

  2. Head massage: This can be done on the temple moving from outside to the center through gently circular motions applying firm pressure. This helps in providing relief from headaches.

  3. Neck massage: If you have a stiff neck, massaging the neck and shoulders helps to get relief.

  4. Shoulder massage: Massage the shoulder from the neck until the elbow. Knead and squeeze the flesh firmly. This strengthens the shoulders.

  5. Stomach massage: To improve digestion and experience relief from stomach aches, massage the stomach gently with your palm. Do it in a clockwise manner.

  6. Hands and legs massage: Massage the wrists, each finger, and the web between the fingers. You can fill a sock with rock salt or rice and heat it (microwave for 20 seconds). Use this warm sock to stroke the arms and legs.

  7. Foot massage: Knead the sole and massage the toes and webbing. There are many pressure points on the sole, massage firmly to experience relief from pain. 

An Ayurvedic self-massage is a refreshing experience that allows you to rejuvenate your mind and body. The guidelines in this article would have helped you get a clear picture of how to do the massage effectively. Start your Abhyanga from today and experience the benefits of self-massage. It is time worth spending to feel rejuvenated and improve your health. 




1. What precautions must be taken before an Ayurvedic massage?

Before the Ayurvedic massage, there are a few precautions that an individual needs to make sure of to have an enriching experience. 

Since massages help maintain the Vata Dosha, picking the right Vata oil becomes an important aspect of the process. Apart from this, individuals have to be mindful of certain body conditions before doing the Abhyanga.

Digestive discomfort: If an individual has any symptoms like constipation or diarrhea, it is advisable not to have a massage. This mustn’t be done because the massage increases blood circulation and this could have an adverse effect on the food that isn’t digested.

Excess Kapha in the body: When there is excess Kapha in the body, there can be symptoms of too much mucus, slow digestion, et cetera. In this case, massaging will only deep root the Kapha rather than ease it.

During menstruation: Massages during this time are known to make the body a lot weaker and hence not suggested.

In case of chills or fever: It is said that the fire in our body moves out of the abdomen when we have a fever. Massaging using warm oils becomes counterproductive when an individual suffers from such symptoms because it only makes the effects worse.

When pregnant: A light massage is recommended during this time but not a full Abhyanga as, during detoxification, the fetus could be exposed to unhealthy bodies.


2. What can I expect at my first Ayurvedic massage?  

It will begin with a consultation with a professional who will first identify the Dosha of your body and then proceed to suggest the appropriate oil for the massage. This will also include checking your general health, identifying any specific aches and pains, and finally ensuring there are no pre-existing conditions that could be negatively impacted by the massage.

Once the prerequisites have been checked, the massage will begin (done by a professional masseur), usually lasting about an hour. During the process, the oil is used to massage different parts of the body and ensure relaxation and nourishment.

3. Does self-massage really work?

Yes. Self-massage or Abhyanga does work but one must be careful to follow the right techniques. 

Abhyanga is a great way for the body to receive a certain amount of nourishment on a daily basis. Like a normal massage, the self-massage too helps rejuvenate the body and helps reduce toxins, improving blood circulation. It is also known to help skin health. 


4. Does Ayurvedic massage have any side effects?

There are no known side effects of Ayurvedic massages. Certain individuals may experience chills because of the warm nature of the oil used but apart from nothing, there are no detrimental effects of a massage. Of course, individuals must be careful to get a massage only from certified practitioners.