Why Ayurveda Loves Oil

This morning I was sitting in the Subaru dealer waiting for my oil change thinking of how much I love the fall—especially since it has been so perfect here in Seattle. Cool crisp mornings and sunny warm afternoons and college football season, which I love. What does an oil change have to do with any of this? Well, sitting waiting for the oil change, noticing the shifts in season I was reminded that fall is the season to take up abhyanga. What is abhyanga? Abhyanga is a full body Ayurvedic oil-massage and highly recommended it all year but especially during fall to bring grounding, warmth, comfort and deep moisturizing to the skin and tissues.

If you tend to be more on the dry side or simply feel the effects of this drying season you should know the importance of practicing self-oil massage. Used inside and out in Ayurveda, oils are more than just a moisturizer; they are an essential ingredient to keep the body nourished, rejuvenated, toned, and supple and to keep all channels clear and flowing. Oil soaks in the skin to reach all our bodily tissues and helps relieve a variety of imbalances caused by dryness including:

  • constipation
  • dry skin
  • anxiety
  • ear and sinus dryness
  • mood swings
  • joint pain
  • worry and depression

Why use oil over lotions? Lotions are largely made of water and alcohol, both drying. More importantly your skin eats and drinks and anything on the skin is absorbed by the body. A general rule is, if we can’t eat it, it should not go on our skin. Oil, while softening our skin, also penetrates deep in our tissues keeping emotional, mental and physical energy balanced.  Abhyanga is not only important to relieve dryness throughout the body but it connects us to our sense of touch. Touch has a calming effect on the nervous system, stimulates healing energy points (marma’s), opens channels, rejuvenates our skin and purifies the body on a deep cellular level.

What to do? 

  • Use warm oil (sesame, almond, safflower). It can be simply warmed in your hands.
  • Prior to your shower, massage the body from feet to head.
  • Use long strokes on long bones and circular motions around the joints and belly.
  • Once the body is coated, wait at least 10 minutes so the oil can soak in and then shower off the excess.

Unless I’m really dirty I don’t wash it off with soap. The excess will wash off but the rest of the oil will penetrate into the skin to nourish the whole body. Your skin will become soft, your mind will be calm and you will feel absolutely nourished. Try sesame oil because it’s generally good for everyone. Shoot for at least three times per week. If you already have supple skin use a lighter oil like almond or safflower. So oil well and your whole being will  thank you for it.