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Ayurveda Massage: Abhyanga and Marma Points

Ayurveda massage, like the other components of the ayurvedic tradition of India, strives to harmonize your body's rhythms with nature.

One aspect of ayurveda looks at the body in terms of three energies called doshas: vata, pitta, and kapha. Each person has a dominant dosha, although any of the three could be out of balance, creating health problems.

This article discusses abhyanga and marma point massage. Another part of the ayurvedic tradition is Indian head massage.

Abhyanga Ayurveda Massage

Abhyanga is ayurvedic massage that involves anointing the body with oil. If you receive abhyanga from a massage therapist, expect the use of a generous amount of oil, with the type of oil chosen based on your dominant dosha or on the dosha that's out of balance. Commonly used oils include:

  • For vata: sesame or castor oil
  • For pitta: coconut or sunflower oil
  • For kapha: almond, mustard, olive, or sunflower oil.

A complete abhyanga may include elements such as:

  • Shirodhara: A stream of warm oil poured onto your forehead for up to 15 minutes for the purpose of calming and balancing your endocrine system.
  • Karna puran: Pouring oil in your ears to balance the vata dosha in your head.
  • Nasya: Five drops of oil placed in each nostril to balance the nasal passages.

How To Do a Self-Abhy

Ayurveda encourages daily self-abhyanga done in the morning, before your bath or shower, to help release toxins that may have built up during the night.

Make a massage oil, choosing an appropriate oil for your dosha and adding essential oils if desired. Store your massage oil in a plastic flip-top bottle. To do a self-abhy:

  1. Warm your massage oil by placing the bottle under hot running water for a few minutes.

  2. Place warm oil on your fingertips and apply the oil lightly to all of your body.

  3. Let your skin absorb the oil for four to five minutes.

  4. Massage all of your body, using your whole hand to apply even pressure. Use straight strokes on areas such as arms and legs and circular motions over your head or joints. Go light on sensitive areas such as the abdomen or over the heart. In areas with lots of nerve endings — such as the palms of the hands and bottom of the feet — apply more oil and massage longer.

  5. Relax for 10 to 15 minutes.

  6. Take a warm bath or shower.

Marma Point Massage

In ayurveda massage, a marma point is a physical location on your body where two or more types of tissue meet. However, ayurveda also sees these points as intersections of prana (breath) and vital life force that house the doshas.

Dosha imbalances block the flow of energy in the body, and the purpose of massaging marma points is to unblock the energy. (Marma massage is part of abhyanga but may also be a separate massage.)

Marma point massage is a light stimulation of marma points using massage oil and essential oils chosen based on your dosha imbalances. Unlike acupoints in Traditional Chinese Medicine, marma points are large, from one to six inches in diameter. Ayurveda believes that these points are a bridge between the physical and energetic bodies.

For more information: Marma Points of Ayurveda and Ayurveda and Marma Therapy.

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Photo Credit: Therme Loipersdorf CC