Abhyangam is a popular body massage in ayurveda. The word abhyanga itself means to massage.
In Ayurveda, the Abhyangam massage has become popular because of its effective way of conditioning the body. Abhyangam can be used therapeutically. The massage is designed around each individual, to suit his or her disease or condition. An ayurvedic physician can assess this and will then decide on the appropriate oils and the exact way of massage.
Abhyangam can increase the production of white blood corpuscles and antibodies, which provide more resistance against viruses and diseases. This helps the defense mechanism in the body and increases immunity towards environmental changes. In this way abhyangam massage is a protector, preserver and a rejuvenator, increasing self-confidence and will power. To massage is to exercise the nervous system.
A briefer description of abhyangam can be found at the ayurvedic treatments page.
In Ayurveda the Abhyangam massage is described as:
1. Jarahar (anti aging) - If done daily to the spine, feet and head with sesame oil, mustard oil or almond oil massage increases vitality. The body is made up of seven tissue ingredients that are called as Dhatu. Because massage is one practice, which provides energy, vitality, and nourishment to all seven Dhatus and old age approaches late, one remains young and energetic for longer duration. In this way, massage is anti aging.
2. Shram Har (fatigue reliever) - Fatigue is actually caused by physical and mental strain. It affects the muscles and causes tensions. Rubbing, patting and squeezing muscles gently removes fatigue.
3. Vata Har (pacifies the Vata) - Constant strain on the nervous system from Vata producing foods and anxieties disturb the Vata and one starts having pain in the muscle and joints. Regular abhyangam massage with Mahanarayana oil or oils prepared by burning garlic in heated oil, or adding fenugreek seeds to boiling oil, mint oil and wintergreen oil all help the troubles created by Vata.
4. Drishti Prasad Kar (Improve sight) - Daily practice of abhyangam massage can improve sight and reduces the risk of blindness. Those who have weak sight or who suffers from diseases of the eyes should massage the feet, especially under the big toe. They should also massage the spine, neck and head regularly. This will remove eye troubles and improve vision.
5. Pushti Kar (make one strong) - By increasing the circulation of vital life fluids, and because of rubbing, pressing and kneading massage makes the body strong, increases stamina, vitality and virility.
6. Ayu Kar (provides longevity) - By creating an electrochemical balance, massage helps in achieving longevity.
7. Swapna Kar (induces sleep) - Massage relaxes the body and removes tensions. Those suffering from sleeplessness, insomnia or those who are unable to enjoy sound sleep should massage the body (especially the head and feet) before sleeping. The use of oil in this case, especially oil from pumpkin seeds, massaged on the head is very helpful. Brahmi oil is also advised.
8. Twak Dridh Kar (strengthens the skin) - Dryness of the skin is caused due to dry climate, excess mental work, anxieties and constant worrying. People who live in cold climates get dry skin by constantly facing the chilled air, which creates dryness. Vata, by nature, is cold and dry and its cold property is more active when there is a cold wave or cold wind. The skin directly comes into contact with the external atmosphere, and the skin also reflects like a mirror to the inner state of the physical body. There are so many other factors that make skin unhealthy like cosmetics of chemical origin, pollution etc. Massage with oil remove dryness, which is first sign of disturbed Vata in the body. Massage also makes the skin smooth and makes it shine. Regular rubbing makes it strong.
9. Klesh Sahatwa (provides resistance against disease and disharmony) - Massage strengthens the seven ingredients of which the body is made up. These antibodies provide more resistance to disease, and the strength, which comes from the seven Dhatus, gives tolerance, forbearance, and patience. This saves one from sorrows, agonies and anxieties.
10. Abhighat Sahatwa (resistance to injuries & power to recover quickly) - Those who massage the body regularly recover from physical injury more quickly than other person who do not massage. Those who massage regularly experience the healing process from within immediately and they experience comparatively less pain and fewer problems.
11. Kapha Vata Nirodhak - Subsides ailments caused by Vata and Kapha.
12. Mrija Varna Bala Prad - It maintains body strength, skin health and also improves the color and texture of the skin.
Thus in Ayurveda, abhyangam massage is highly praised and much emphasis is placed on the use of oils in massage. However, you must note the above are only guidelines for abhyangam and you should consult with a qualified ayurvedic physician. In the UK, a qualified physician should have the initials BRCP (British Register of Complementary Practitioners), and must have BAMS (Bachelor of Ayurvedic Medicine and Surgery) or a suitable equivalent. The abhyangam massage itself should be ideally done by the physician or an experienced therapist.