‘Oil is for the body, what love is for the mind’.
In this dry season, the importance of oiling cannot be overstated. Oil acts as a lubricant for the body and its many systems, allowing energy to flow unimpeded, improving skin elasticity, and acting in a way that is nourishing and rejuvenating. The act of massaging the skin actually stimulates growth hormone usually dormant in the tissues, releasing it into the body, triggering the immune system, and keeping a person young and in a state of good health. It is also relaxing, calming and grounding, and facilitates stress and tension relief.
In Ayurveda, different oils are recommended for oiling depending on the ‘prakriti’ or constitution of the individual. A good base oil for many people, especially those with drier skin, is sesame, as it is warming and easily absorbed by most skin types. The oil should be raw (obviously toasted sesame oil is not suitable), and is available online and in many health food shops. Sometimes, oils are mixed with special Ayurvedic herbs, but these are not always readily available, so, in my experience, base oils can still do an excellent job.
Other oils that can be used include: coconut, almond, olive, jojoba, grape seed, sunflower and black seed oil. The choice of oil can change for an individual during a particular time of the year, for example, one would not want to apply a warming oil such as sesame after prolonged sun exposure. In this case, coconut might be more suitable for its cooling properties. It is important to listen to your body and notice how it reacts to the oils during the particular seasons.
While quite expensive, black seed oil can have a particularly powerful effect on skin conditions such as acne, psoriasis and eczema, as it is an extremely potent healer. It can also heal fungal conditions and other issues. I will write more about black seed oil in another post.
The act of massaging the body with oil is known in Ayurveda as abhyanga, and is an extremely common practice in India and other countries. For some reason, many western countries are averse to putting oil on the skin, as they feel it will clog pores or make the skin greasy and unsightly. This is a grave misconception, and is one of the reasons why many people have such dry skin, especially in countries with lots of wind or general dryness. The correct oil does not block the skins pores and will not cause spots. In fact, in many instances, it can heal spots.
There are many books and resources available online regarding how to apply oil for abhyanga. It is, of course, very nice and beneficial to receive an abhyanga massage from someone, and they are available in many places. Just make sure your practitioner is qualified; abhyanga should be non-invasive and relaxing. Abhyanga is not painful, and is very different from deep-tissue or similar types of massage, which are based on the ‘no pain no gain’ sensibility, not beneficial, and can do more harm than good to the recipient.
Here we will talk about self-abhyanga. There is no real wrong way to do this, and even someone who is inexperienced can gain many benefits from it. You can oil before or after a bath or shower, but, if doing after, I would recommend not using excessive amounts of oil as it can stain clothes etc. If you oil before taking a shower, you should leave the oil on the skin for at least thirty minutes and keep yourself nice and warm.
The most important thing is to make sure the oil is warm (unless of course you have sunburn). This can be done by simply pouring a little onto your hands and rubbing them together to generate the heat required, then massage into your body. It is best to massage away from the heart, so down the arms and legs, the back, the buttocks etc. When massaging the face, an upward motion is preferable, as it moves the energy upwards and lifts the face up (like a facelift).
We will be creating a video on this in the future. In the meantime, get hold of some oil and being to make it a part of your everyday routine. If you are not sure of your prakriti, there are many online checks available which, while not always 100% accurate, can give you a basic idea of your body type, and allow you to make good choices about all aspects of your life, including which oils suit your body type.
If you would like to receive an Abhyanga massage, you can contact us to arrange a massage from Yoko.
Thanks for reading and happy oiling!