Doing daily body and head oil massage (or Abhyanga as it's known in Ayurveda) is surprisingly pleasant, relaxing, and easy for me to do. It is especially helpful during cold, dry weather, or to support yourself when you are nervous, tense, and overly stressed. Basically, you massage your body with love and patience for 5 - 20 minutes. If you take time to prepare a beautiful, relaxing setting in your bathroom, it is that much more pleasant. You should see how peaceful my bathroom is becoming.

It is said a person is "endowed with pleasant touch, trimmed body parts and becomes strong, charming and least affected by old age." Charaka Samhita: Sutrasthanam: V: 88-89

Thanks to Dr. Claudia Welch, here are very helpful instructions:

  • Put about ½ cup oil in an 8 oz. squeeze bottle. Make sure the oil is not rancid.
  • Place the bottle of oil in a pan of hot water [or sink] until the oil is pleasantly warm.
  • Sit or stand comfortably in a warm room, on a towel that you don’t mind ruining with oil accumulation. Make sure you’re protected from any wind. [I turn on a portable radiator before I begin, and wait until the room is really warm.]
  • Apply the oil to your entire body.
  • Massage the oil into your entire body, beginning at the extremities and working toward the middle of the body. Use long strokes on the limbs and circular strokes on the joints.
  • Massage the abdomen and chest in broad, clockwise, circular motions. On the abdomen, follow the path of the large intestine; moving up on the right side of the abdomen, then across, then down on the left side. Massage the body for 5-20 minutes, with love and patience.
  • Give a little extra time and attention to massaging the oil into your scalp, ears and feet, at least once a week. Apply oil to the crown of your head (adhipati marma) and work slowly out from there in circular strokes. Oil applied to the head should be warm but not hot. Put a
  • couple drops of warm oil on the tip of your little finger or on a cotton ball and apply to the opening of the ear canal. (If there is any current or chronic discomfort in the ears don’t do this without the recommendation of your health care practitioner).
  • When you massage your feet, be sure to wash them first when you shower, so you don’t slip.
  • Enjoy a warm bath or shower.
  • A Vata, Pitta or Kapha dusting powder can help rinse off the oil without drying out the skin.
  • You can use a mild soap on the “strategic” areas.
  • Be careful to wash your feet first and to be careful not to slip in the tub.
  • When you get out of the bath, towel dry. Keep a special towel for drying off after your Abhyanga because it can eventually get ruined, due to the accumulation of oil.
  • Put on a pair of cotton socks (organic, if you can find them) to protect your environment from the residual oil on your feet.
  • Apply a dosha-appropriate essential oil to your wrists and neck.
  • Enjoy.
You can find organic dosha-pacifying oils at and rich dosha-pacifying oils at:
(Note: The rest of this article is an excerpt taken directly from Balance Your Hormones, Balance Your Life, by Dr. Claudia Welch)

When or How Not to Do Abhyanga

  • Over swollen, painful areas or masses on the body, without the knowledge and consent of your health-care practitioner
  • Over infected or broken skin
  • When there is high ama (toxicity, often indicated by a thick, white coating on the tongue), great physical discomfort, or acute illness. It is best to check with your Ayurvedic practitioner to see if you have any contraindications, before practicing abhyanga.
  • When you have acute fever, chills, or flu
  • When you have acute indigestion, or directly after taking emetics or purgatives
  • When you have a medical condition, unless your health-care practitioner says it is okay to do abhyanga.
  • During the menstrual cycle. Some women don’t like to stop abhyanga during their cycle. If you chose to do it during your cycle, it is best to only apply the oil gently and for only about 5 minutes.
  • During pregnancy

Laundry, Cleaning, and Plumbing Tips

Some people eventually stop doing abhyanga because they report that their towels or sheets are getting rancid and ruined, their plumbing is getting clogged up, and their bathtub floor is getting sticky with oil accumulation. Others persist and try to find a way around these problems. One of my patients reported that her towels were getting ruined. I asked her if she’d stopped doing abhyanga because of this. She laughed and said, “Hey— ruin my towels or ruin my life? It’s not a choice.” If you’d rather not do either, try these tips: Keep one towel for sitting on when you apply the oil and one that you use only for drying off after your shower. The first will get ruined the quickest. The second will, too, eventually, even with the best laundry techniques. I asked Susan, a massage therapist friend, what she does to keep her sheets clean. She adds a few tablespoons each of vinegar and baking soda to the hot water, once it has filled the washbasin. She told me that this can be a volatile mixture when combined and can eat right through the pipes, as well as the oil. When added to laundry water, though, the corrosive mixture will have stopped its destructive fizzing action by the time the washer drains. There are also some commercial products that Susan tried, which she read about in Massage Magazine. They worked, but she didn’t care for the smell. If you can’t get all the oil out, you might plan to replace your sheets or towels about twice a year. Although it is ideal to practice abhyanga in the morning, some people don’t have time then and prefer to do it in the evening before bed to calm themselves down. If you turn out to be one of these people, wear a “special” set of natural fiber nightclothes for at least an hour after your shower, after your abhyanga. They will absorb most of the remaining oil on your skin. And, if you got oil in your hair, put a towel over your pillow, to protect it.
Keep a bottle of dish detergent in your shower or tub. When you are done washing, squirt some on the tub or shower floor and spread it around with your feet, sort of mopping up the floor. Let the shower flow over it and wash everything down the drain. Doing this every time you wash after abhyanga prevents an accumulation of oil. If your balance is poor, the shower floor is slippery, or you fear you might slip, make sure that you hold on tight to something stable while you do this. Or get somebody else to do it or find another way to keep the floor clean. Please don’t slip and hurt yourself. That would defeat the purpose.
When you launder oily towels and linens, there is a risk of their catching fire if they are too oily or too hot. If a towel is very oily, it’s better to throw it away. If you dry these fabrics in a dryer, it’s better to use low heat. Do not to leave oily towels in a hot car. I actually know someone who was laundering a lot of oily sheets and towels for a spa, left the hot linens in his car in the hot sun in his car with the windows up, and the linens spontaneously combusted, causing fire damage to the inside of his car.
Pour a little environmentally friendly drain cleanser down your drain once a month. I have been told that cold water, used with soap that can dissolve in cold water, causes the oil to bead up and wash along the drain better than does hot water, which makes it stay liquefied and stick to the plumbing. I have not tried this, but it is worth investigation.
©Dr. Claudia Welch November 2001. If you want more information on Ayurveda, or support resources for spas, please see:


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