Abhyanga is the application of thailams (medicated oil) to the body. A thailams is a type of oil that has been medicated by various herbs to induce a specific affect on the mind and body. There are many different types of thailams in ayurveda, and are used for everything from depression to hormonal imbalance to weight imbalance.
Traditional Ayurvedic Oils Are Hard To Find
In the U.S., traditional thailams are less common. Often, ayurvedic practitioners use solitary base oils such as sesame, mustard or coconut oil for vata, pitta, or kapha imbalances. Or, ayurvedic practitioners who are also skilled at aromatherapy will blend oils specific for one’s constitution and imbalance. If one is new to ayurveda and cannot see a practitioner, using a general base oil such as coconut, sesame or mustard is usually a safe introduction into the practice of abhyanga. Essential oils are much more effective for specific imbalances. At Hamsa, we use a combination of essential oil blends and traditional thailams made according to ayurvedic standards.
Oil Application Is Part Of Daily Lifestyle And Ayurvedic Treatments
The application of oil is called “snehana” in Ayurveda, which means “to love.” The practice of applying oil is an application of love, self-nurturance, and engaged rest. Ayurvedic massage oils are infused with herbs according to specific formulas that are thousands of years old. It is an important part of pancha karma (detoxification) but can be performed alone. It is especially good for those with excess anxiety, but also assists anyone in need of rejuvenation. At the beginning of an ayurvedic lifestyle, one can safely use sesame oil to reduce imbalance or increase greater self-connectivity. As we progress on the path, or with the assistance of a skilled ayurvedic practitioner, we can refine the use of our oils to better assist our individual concerns.
To Practice Abhyanga…
To practice abhyanga regularly, it is best to purchase a copper oil warmer. If a oil warmer is not available, simply warm it in a sauce pan over the stove. Use an open flame to warm the oil, and avoid microwaves or crockpots. Oil holds onto heat for a long time. Apply the oil in the bathroom, and spread a towel designated abhyanga for abhyanga therapy. The oil will penetrate the towel, and may leave a residual but non-offensive scent, even after washing. Apply the oil in long, loving strokes on the limbs of the body, in circular strokes around the joints, and clockwise circles on the abdomen and heart. During good health, abhyanga should be done preventatively, and the oil applied from the oil head to your feet. The strokes should move away from the heart. During illness, fatigue, exhaustion, or chronic stress, strokes should begin at the feet and move toward the heart.
Apply the oil to all parts of the body, but do not get it in the eyes. Spend extra time on the abdomen, feet, and head. Let the oil stay on for 15 to 30 minutes when possible. Read, meditate, or engage in other relaxing activities while letting the oil absorb. To walk around, and protect the floors, put on slippers and a robe. To remove the oil, use ¼ of chickpea flour with a few drops of preferred essential oils. Step into the shower and rub the flour to remove the oil before turning on the water. The skin will become very soft and exfoliated. There is no need to use harsh soaps. You are clean.