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Abhi (into, glow) + Anga (limb)

Abhyanga Definition

Abhyanga is an Ayurvedic warm oil massage that can either be done as a self-massage or by an Ayurvedic massage therapist.

Abhyanga involves using warmed herb infused Dosha-specific oils to anoint the entire body, from head to toe.

From Sanskrit, Abhyanga translates to ‘glowing body’, or ‘massaging the body’s limbs’.

According to Ayurveda, a regular Abhyanga massage promotes overall wellbeing and hosts a myriad of health benefits. The practice is also spiritually enriching and is a vehicle for self love, self care, and connection with your physical body.

Abhyanga is a Dosha balancing practice. However, it is said to be even more powerful for those with a Vata Dosha imbalance.

a woman receiving an ayurvedic abhyanga massage

Abhyanga Deep Dive

Abhyanga is prescribed as one of the Dinacharya (daily practices) outlined in the Brhat Trayi (the great triad of Ayurvedic core texts) to maintain good health and wellbeing.

It can either be performed as a self-massage, by an Ayurvedic practitioner, or by two practitioners simultaneously.

Abhyanga is often performed in the first stage of Panchakarma therapy (cleansing the body), or as a standalone treatment.

It is common to follow up Abgyanga with Svedana therapy (a steam treatment), or with a warm bath.

Traditionally, sesame oil is used in the treatment, however, Dosha-specific oils can be used depending on both the season and the individual’s Vkrtti (out of balance constitution).

The oil is massaged in a circular motion on the joints, chest, and abdomen, and in an up and down motion on the arms and legs.

a woman getting an ayurvedic abhyanga massage on her feet by two practitioners

Abhyanga Benefits

Abhyanga is said to remove Ama (toxins) via the skin, open the minor Srotas, melt away Kleshma (fat secretions that block the Stotas), and clean and moisturize the skin.

Other benefits include:

  • Improved circulation
  • Softened and supple skin
  • Aging prevention
  • Improved sleep
  • Energized body and mind
  • Improved digestion
  • Detoxified body
  • Improved joint health
  • Balanced Doshas
a woman getting an abhyanga massage on her back

abhyanga In Your Life

Practice Abhyanga at home with warmed dosha specific oil. Sit on a towel and begin your massage at the scalp, working your way all the way down to the soles of your feet. Be very present in your body and make your way down slowly. The massage should take around 15 minutes. Allow another 15 minutes for the oils to soak in before rinsing off.

Alternatively, search for an Ayurvedic massage center near you and nourish your body with the full experience.

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To go deep and expand your yogic knowledge, access our free Yoga Terms Encyclopedia, where we host a profound wealth of ancient and timeless yogic wisdom in an accessible modern format.

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Maria Andrews is a 200h Registered Yoga Teacher, long distance runner, and adventure lover.

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