Everything You Need To Know About Ayurvedic Massage
7 minutes read
The feeling of serenity after a massage is hard to beat, and a relaxing Ayurvedic massage can take it to a whole new level. Based on 5,000 years of ancient Indian principles, this massage technique is less ‘pummel your muscles until they turn to mush’ and more ‘caress them with warm essential oils to balance your mind, body and spirit’. If the second option sounds like heaven right now, stay with us; you will want to hear about this. Discover everything you need to know about Ayurvedic oil massage in this guide, with insights from Traditional Chinese Medical Practitioner Emilia Herting.
What is an Ayurvedic massage?
Ayurvedic massage harnesses the ancient wisdom of Ayurveda, aka. ‘The Science of Life’ and ‘Mother of All Healing’. Ayurvedic therapists use warm herbal and essential oils alongside massage strokes to help balance three mind-body principles known as doshas: Kapha (earth and water), Pitta (fire), and Vata (space and air). In addition, it is said to balance the energy centres (chakras) and help energy flow throughout the body, leaving us feeling revitalised and peaceful. You can perform the massage on yourself (and a partner if they’re lucky!) or visit a trained therapist.
Are there different types of Ayurvedic massage?
Yes, Ayurvedic massage comes in many forms, each with a different technique and reported benefits:
- Abhyanga (abee-yan-ga), uses oils to boost immune system function, promote circulation and help you reach deep relaxation
- Marma, which combines oils with light circular movements to stimulate the body’s healing system, relieve stiff muscles, boost circulation, and manipulate energy (prana)
- Odyssey Ayurvedic Massage, which combines five ayurvedic techniques, including Garshana to exfoliate and detoxify and Abhyanga (see above)
- Gandharva (gaan-darva), which uses sound therapy and touch to promote feelings of bliss and vitality
- Pizichilli (pitzi-chilli), which is sometimes called an ‘oil bath’ and helps boost circulation, get rid of toxins and purify the body
- Vishesh (vi-shesh), which uses slow, firm stokes to help release lodged impurities and leave you feeling relaxed
- Shirodhara (shiro-dar-a), which involves pouring warm oil onto the third-eye chakra and helps you to relax into a calming awareness
From the Clarins treatment menu, the Ultra Relaxing Facial, £64, is inspired by Ayurveda, and specifically shirodhara. The word ‘shirodhara’ comes from the two Sanskrit words ‘shiro’, meaning ‘head’ and ‘dhara’, meaning ‘flow’.
“At Clarins, we were inspired by the shirodhara method and created the Ayuroma touch,” says Lucy McClure, Training Development Manager – Treatments. “We apply three drops of your chosen oil to the third eye and thymus gland to calm and release stress.”
What is an Abhyanga Ayurvedic massage?
The most popular Ayurvedic massage, Abhyanga involves applying warm essential oils (usually infused with herbs) to the whole body, from the scalp to the soles of your feet. Emily Herting told us that it:
“Deeply nourishes the body, hydrates dry skin, calms the mind, and leaves you feeling grounded and re-energised, whilst skin feels revitalised and radiant.”
She recommends you do it every day before your shower or at least 3-4 times a week to help boost immunity and improve circulation. Emily also suggests doing it with a partner as a bonding exercise.
Read Next: Décolleté Massage: Why You Should Try It Now
What is an Ayurvedic yoga massage?
If you want to zen out, you can’t do much better than an Ayurvedic yoga massage. These yoga sessions can be as slow or dynamic as you like, typically combining passive stretches, breathing and oil massage. Doesn’t that sound like bliss?
What are the benefits of an Ayurvedic massage?
Just like Ayurvedic medicine, Ayurvedic massage is prevention-oriented. Instead of waiting for something to go wrong in the body, this practice focuses on supporting your overall health and wellbeing so you are less likely to get ill in the first place. However, this is not to say that it won’t help with some pre-existing conditions.
We asked Charlotte Hollands, Clarins Treatment Training Manager, for a round-up of the top benefits:
Personalised for your health
One of the main benefits of Ayurvedic massage is that it can be personalised to best meet your health and wellbeing needs. After chatting to your therapist, they can choose specific oils and movements that will help you best.
Relaxes the nervous system
Our nervous system is made up of nerves (or neurons) that control many mechanisms in our body and help us communicate with the world around us. The automatic nervous system plays a direct role in physical stress responses. While some of these stresses are normal and healthy, e.g., feeling nervous about a new job or first date, feeling stressed all the time (chronic stress) can seriously affect our health.
Various studies, including one from The Department of Rehabilitation Medicine in Korea, have found that heat and massage can help to relax the nervous system. As Ayurvedic massage combines the two, with an extra dash of essential oils, you can see why this technique can be so calming and rejuvenating.
Supports the lymphatic system
In Ayurveda, the lymphatic system is deemed the most important system in the body and is the primary focus when treating any condition. Ayurvedic massage techniques like tapping, squeezing, kneading, and other traditional massage strokes can help increase circulation and lymphatic drainage.
Poor circulation (blood flow around the body) can leave you with skin conditions, poor memory, brittle nails, and other ailments. You can improve it by reducing stress, stretching, and getting oil massages. Can you see where we’re going here? Ayurvedic massage ticks all the boxes, giving you another reason to try this therapeutic practice.
What to wear during an Ayurvedic massage
Got an Ayurvedic massage booked but need help deciding what to wear? Make sure you wear something comfortable that you don’t mind getting a little oily – better leave the Gucci tracksuit at home.
How to make Ayurvedic massage oil at home
If you’re going to whip out the old towels and give your partner (or yourself) an at-home Ayurvedic massage, you’re going to need some oil. Here’s how to make your own:
- Heat 1 cup of sesame oil or ghee in a saucepan until it’s starting to boil (but not smoking).
- Take it off the heat and stir in ½ cup of mixed herbs, you can choose from fresh ginger, fresh basil, lotus root, turmeric, fresh orange peel, etc.
- Cover and let it steep for at least 1 day.
- Strain the oil through a double layer of cheesecloth or a coffee filter into an airtight container.
- Add in 6-7 drops of essential oil if you want some added aromatherapy benefits.
Or you can try the Relax Treatment Oil, £43, which contains camomile, basil, geranium, and petitgrain plant extracts. Attempting a facial massage? We love reaching for Double Serum, £60, for this. The formula is enriched with 21 plant extracts, including turmeric – an ingredient that’s popularly used in Ayurvedic treatments for its healing properties.
Our favourite Ayurveda-inspired products to try
Chāmpo Pitta Volumising Shampoo
If you have fine or thinning hair that needs a volume boost, you must try Chāmpo’s Pitta Volumising Shampoo, £18. The formula contains Haritaki fruit, an ingredient that’s used in Ayurvedic medicine for strengthening and nourishing. Various other plant extracts in it help nourish the hair, build resilience and invigorate the scalp. The result? Fuller, stronger hair. No wonder one bottle of this shampoo gets sold every minute.
Ranavat Fortifying Hair Serum
The Fortifying Hair Serum, £70, from Ayurvedic brand Ranavat, can be used on both the hair and scalp. When used as a serum, the blend of amla extract, jasmine oil, and sunflower oil helps manage frizz and adds lustre to your locks. Alternatively, you can apply it on the scalp and give yourself a head massage, and leave it on as an overnight mask too. The ingredients will help strengthen the roots and nourish the scalp.
Deja Mind Balance Natural Nootropic
Interested in a more inside-out approach to beauty? We love the Deja Mind Balance Natural Nootropic, £35. Each capsule contains an adaptogenic blend of 11 Ayurvedic super-herbs (including ashwagandha, tulsi and brahmi). They help improve mood, relieve stress and improve focus.
Uma Pure Bliss Wellness Oil
Uma’s Pure Bliss Wellness Oil, £68, is concocted with a blend of oils (like clary sage, sandalwood and ylang ylang) that come together to create an uplifting scent. This little bottle has many uses. The brand recommends massaging a few drops between your toes, on the bottom of your feet, pulse points, temples and behind the ears to envelope yourself in the uplifting scent. You could also add a few drops of the oil to your bath water for a relaxing soak.