Ancient Oil Massage Strives for Balance

The 5,000-year-old Ayurvedic medicine way of life comes to us from India. This philosophy of self-care through self-healing runs the gambit from lifestyle to diet and nutrition to cleansing and rejuvenation — all to balance one’s body, mind and spirit.

Part of this holistic healing philosophy (Ayurveda) includes Abhyanga, or oil, massage (perhaps the best known of many types of Ayurveda massages). It’s likened to a facial massage for your entire body because it’s more about your skin and less about your muscles.

Oils and circulation-stimulating movements are used to release muscle tension, encourage lymphatic drainage and nourish the skin. Other benefits include reducing the effects of aging, increasing circulation, stimulating the internal organs, deepening sleep and lubricating the joints.

This isn’t the massage you likely imagine that has an emphasis on deep rubbing and kneading to relax your sore, tired, tense muscles. Instead, the focus here is to use essential oils on specific energy points to free emotional burdens.

Sessions are tailored to an individual’s dosha, which is comprised of elements of air, space, fire, water and earth naturally occurring in all of us:

  • Vata, air and space, governs movement
  • Pitta, fire and water, governs the digestive and the metabolic system
  • Kapha, water and earth, governs lubrication and structure.

These elements need to be in a perfect ratio, and this type of massage seeks to even them out if you have too much of one over another. For instance, a Vata dosha type usually has dry skin while Kaphas are oilier. The massage protocol may depend on the therapist’s observation, consultation and a questionnaire.

Oils are in tune with Vata, Pitta and Kapha needs. They are chosen especially to balance your dominant dosha and warmed to pour over the body. The therapist then generally uses gentle, rhythmic strokes — the pressure is dictated by need. A gentle touch is used for Vata, with a deeper touch for Pitta and an even deeper one for Kapha.

Heated organic oil blends infused with Ayurvedic herbs work to relax and detoxify. At the right temperature, they enter the body through the skin and pores to find toxins and release them. The therapist directs movement and oils along your body’s energy lines to balance the chakras, or energy centers.

To delve deeper into an Ayurvedic life, visit the Hindu American Foundation at

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