Ayurvedic oil massage

Abhyangam – The Power of Ayurvedic Oil Massage

Abhyangam is the traditional form of Ayurvedic oil massage that delivers immense health benefits. The use of warm (sometimes, cold) herbal oil formulations for different types of massage movements is relaxing to the body and mind. As an Ayurveda doctor in Chennai, I have seen a steady increase in awareness for Abhyangam, not just as a treatment option but also for its wellness benefits.

However, many of us are still not clear about Abhyangam and the overall procedure. So, here is a little note about Abhyangam.

Purpose of Abhyangam

Ayurvedic oil massages have two critical elements – plenty of herbal oils (specific oils for specific purposes) and specific massage techniques depending on the purpose of the abhyangam. Both these elements are critical in improving the circulation of blood across the body, especially the extremities of the body – the arms and legs.

However, the process has to be done carefully else it will cause a blood flow overload on the heart, especially in the case of a full body massage. Oil massages are recommended to be part of a person’s daily routine. This procedure has innumerable advantages.
1. It’s a powerful detoxification procedure, rejuvenating the body and mind. Along with svedana, Abhyangam forms a critical part of the Panchakarma therapy.
2. The process nourishes the body and has been proven to improve the skin and body’s complexion and youthful appearance. It helps keep dry skin at bay because of the lubricating effect on the body and helps the skin stay young.

3. Oil massages are a great option for weight reduction, since the process removes toxins from the body and burns fat

4. This procedure has a calming effect on the nerves and supports relaxing sleep. Interestingly, the moment the procedure is complete, you will definitely feel a peaceful sense of satisfaction.

5. Abhyangam helps in overcoming stress and their common signs including fatigue and stiffness of the body.

6. Abhyangam is definitely a critical component of therapy in case of vata rogas; however, the procedure is effective in case of pitta and kapha rogas too, with different components, including herbal powders.

Popular oil massage ingredients

Yes, oil is the star of Abhyangam, with a wide range of herbal oils delivering specific health benefits.
1. Sesame oil is a popular choice, with its antioxidant capabilities making it tone of the most preferred options for Abhyangam for vata rogas.

2. Other herbal medications like ashwagandha are used depending on the specific condition the massage is focused on.

3. Other popular ingredients include ghee, coconut oil, jojoba oil, sunflower oil, almond oil, and brahmi oil. Of course, there are many specific herbal formulations that provide focused relief.

How is Abhyangam performed?

Different Ayurvedic experts perform Abhyangam using different procedural approaches. But the general approach includes the following steps:

  1. In the first step, apply warm oil using the fingertips with a gentle pressure and definite strokes.
  2. The second step includes ensuring that the oil seeps through the skin.
  3. The third step includes applying controlled pressure and definite movements across the entire body for the oil to entirely seep through and to enhance the circulation. Perform the massage at a slow pace, with more pressure applied at the distal ends of the body and lighter pressure applied to sensitive regions such as the neck and heart region.

The direction of massage strokes and the extent of pressure applied are critical for achieving the desired results. For example, straight strokes help improve circulation in the hands and legs, while circular strokes work magic at joints and the abdomen.
A short period of rest after the massage, followed by a warm bath, completes the magic. Yes, your body feels oily but this is essential for the oils to take complete effect.


There are different types of abhyangam for different purposes, from full body and face massages to foot massages and procedures focused on the marmas. Experts perform procedures for specific body conditions; for example, for sprains and fractures. But before you proceed with abhyangam, make sure that you approach a well-experienced Ayurvedic specialist who has expertise in Ayurvedic oil massage and is entirely knowledgeable in the intrinsic details.