I came across this practice some years ago, recommended by one of my teachers as part of a self-care programme. Referred to as ‘Abhyanga’ in the Ayurvedic tradition, anointing the body with warm oil is said to have many benefits including: imparting softness and strength to the body, decreasing the effects of ageing, nourishing the body, regulating sleep patterns, strengthening the body’s tolerance, imparting a firmness to the limbs, giving tone and vigour to the tissues of the body, stimulating the internal organs of the body and circulation*. And if that’s not enough, it’s also quite enjoyable! I found it relatively easy to add into my morning routine (once the children were a bit older) and my massage therapist tells me my skin is well nourished.
Make sure the room is warm and heat your oil, so it is a comfortable temperature. I put mine in a glass jar and place it in a bowl of hot water for a few minutes. Use a towel that you don’t mind getting a bit oily and watch out where you put your clothes, so as not to get oil on them. Massage the warm oil over your entire body, working from the periphery to the core. Spend a little more time around the joints and on the abdomen, use a circular motion which follows the large intestine: up the right side, across and down the left. You can spend anywhere between 5 and 20 minutes applying the oil, depending on how much time you have. On days that you are planning to wash your hair, massage oil into the scalp, starting at the crown with circular movements and working outwards (when you come to wash your hair, apply the first shampoo on dry hair). After applying the oil, take a warm shower without soap and pat yourself dry with a towel afterwards.
Ayurveda recommends a specific oil depending on your ‘dosha’. The general recommendation is sesame oil for vata (not toasted!), sunflower or coconut oil for pitta and corn oil for kapha. Sometimes people don’t like the idea of using sunflower or corn oil – and I agree that the plastic supermarket bottles aren’t exactly appealing. At my local health food store, there are some lovely organic oils in the food section, or you could also look online for special oils with herbs added. Enjoy!
*Source: ‘Balance Your Hormones, Balance Your Life’ by Dr Claudia Welch