Abhyanga means massage. It is one of the Snehan karma in Ayurveda.

In Sanskrit, the word sneha means both ‘oil’ and ‘love.’ Anointing oneself with oil and love is the practice of Abhyanga. It is believed that Abhyanga gives the same effects and benefits as when one receives love. Both these experiences give a sense of grounding, comfort, love, and  stability.

Abhyanga is a practice that Ayurveda recommends should be part of one’s routine or dinacharya. Self-abhyanga or self-massage is an expression of self-love and is an excellent way to start your day.

Steps for self-abhyanga:

  • Warm the oil by putting it in an oil warmer or indirectly heating the bottle by keeping it in hot water till the oil attains desirable warmth. Before massaging, test the temperature of the oil by putting a drop on your inner wrist. 
  • Sit comfortably in a warm and cozy room.
  • Begin with head massage, also called shiro abhyanga. Apply oil first to the crown of your head (adhipati marma) gradually moving outwardly massaging the scalp in circular strokes.
  • Massage the face in a circular motion starting with the forehead and temples, down to the cheeks and jaws (using upward strokes). Massage the earlobes in circular strokes, ear lobes being the focal point of many important marma and nerve endings.
  • Massage the neck, all the way down to the shoulders.
  • Massage the arms and legs in long strokes. The direction of the strokes should be anuloma (in the direction of the hair). In other words, it should be in the same direction as the body or the muscles. Use circular strokes on the joints (elbows and knees).
  • Massage the chest in clockwise, circular motions. On the abdomen massage following the direction of the large intestine; moving up on the right side of the abdomen, then across, then down on the left side.
  • Also, make sure to put a few drops of oil in the navel and massage it gently to ensure complete absorption. This procedure can be done at bedtime as well. Naabhi or navel is the seat of one of the marmas and manipura chakra or the solar plexus chakra. Oil when absorbed from the umbilicus nourishes the solar plexus, which impacts the health of the abdominal organs.
  • Do not forget massage the feet. Feet are a very important part of the body with the vital marma points and nerve endings of essential organs. Foot massage is also called padabhyanga in Ayurveda.
  • Keep the oil for 15-30 minutes followed by a warm water bath.

Abhyanga done in the morning sets the tone for the day. Soak in the feeling of nourishing your body, mind and soul by following this extremely beneficial morning ritual.

Ashtanga Hridya gives following benefits of Abhyanga:


  • Bala – strength
  • Ayu – prolongs life
  • Ojas – tissue nourishment and immunity
  • Jara – anti aging
  • Ksheena – reduces fatigue
  • Vataha – reduces vata
  • Drishtiprasadana – improves vision
  • Nidra – induces good sleep
  • Twak dardyam – improves skin tone and complexion


  • Massage should be avoided soon after a meal. Give a gap of at least 1 hour before and after a meal
  • Soon after shodhana (Panchakarma procedure)
  • During indigestion
  • During fever

Recommended oils for Abhyanga

  • Vata- sesame oil
  • Pitta – coconut oil, sunflower oil
  • Kapha -mustard oil, sesame oil

People who find doing Abhyanga every day challenging should at least make Shiro Abhyanga, massaging on the ear pinna, and behind the ears and Pada Abhyanga a part of their Dinacharya.

Benefits of ShiroabhyangaThe head massage

Ashtanga Hridaya has a mention about the importance of the head. A human body is like an upside-down tree, where the roots are at the top. These roots represent the head. Just as it is important to nourish and nurture the roots of a tree to keep it healthy and fruit-bearing, similarly it is important to nourish the head to keep the body healthy and functional.

  • The head is the seat of the brain and the origin of our central nervous system. Therefore, it maintains the psychosomatic health of the individual.
  • Nourishes the scalp and hair roots, along with all the sense organs.
  • Provides nourishment to the hair making them thick, healthy, and lustrous.
  • Gives a sense of lightness to the head.
  • Good and sound sleep
  • Relaxes the muscles and reduces any muscle stiffness or tension

Benefits of PadabhyangaThe foot massage

The roots of the human tree represent the head. Similarly, the branches represent the hands and feet, which bear the fruits. If the branches are diseased in any manner, the tree will not bear fruits. Therefore, to maintain the health of this human body taking care of our extremities is of utmost importance.

Padabhyanga is done from the heel towards the pad of the foot, this way one can target the maximum nerves which have the endings on the soles of the feet.

  • Removes numbness and stiffness of the legs thereby relaxing the muscles
  • Gives strength to the joints and tissues
  • Balances Vata dosha, thus reducing dryness
  • Reduces stress and anxiety
  • Invokes a sense of deep relaxation and sound sleep
  • Helps in maintaining a healthy vision
  • Keeps the soles of the feet soft and supple leading to better absorption

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