How to Do Abhyanga Without Making a Mess
The body of one who uses oil massage regularly does not become affected much even if subjected to accidental injuries, or strenuous work. By using oil massage daily, a person is endowed with a pleasant touch, trimmed body parts and becomes strong, charming and least affected by old age. —Charaka Samhita Vol. 1, V: 88-89
Ayurveda’s ancient texts have many positive things to say about the benefits of abhyanga, the age-old Ayurvedic practice of self-massage with warm oil. If only they’d added a few lines about how to avoid gunking up your towels, bathtub, and pipes! Fortunately, there are some simple measures you can take to keep your bathroom sparkling clean and your environment safe.
The Benefits of Daily Oil Massage
First, a few words about abhyanga and its myriad benefits. Daily oil massage is a cornerstone of dinacharya, the Ayurvedic daily routine that promotes health and longevity. Each day, before your morning shower, simply warm up a bit of massage oil and, following the Ayurvedic technique, apply it to your body to nourish and tone your skin, relax your nervous system, improve circulation (especially to nerve endings), lubricate your joints, increase mental alertness, and improve elimination of impurities. It’s best to use either cured sesame oil or a dosha-specific herbal massage oil or, for a luxurious experience, try our Youthful Skin Massage Oil for Men and Women. If you have time, let the oil penetrate your skin for about 5-20 minutes, then shower and thoroughly wash off the oil.
Here’s a demo that shows how to do your daily oil massage. (Note: a little bit of oil goes a long way. For most people, a ¼ cup more or less will do.)
Set Aside Abhyanga Towels
When you’re doing your abhyanga, it’s easy to get oil everywhere! To keep things contained, set aside a special towel to sit or stand on during your morning massage. Keep a few paper towels handy, so you can wipe off any excess oil (especially on your hands and feet) before hopping in the shower or touching the faucet knobs.
Clean Abhyanga Towels Separately
Oil can gradually build up on towels that you use to sit on or dry with when you do abhyanga. Ayurvedic expert Nancy Lonsdorf, M.D., recommends washing oily towels separately in hot water using your regular laundry detergent along with ½ cup of Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda. If your towels are very oily, add a full cup of the Super Washing Soda. Note: Spontaneous Combustion is a real danger! Oily towels can be a fire hazard in the dryer and should be washed thoroughly before drying. Use the medium or low-temperature setting on your dryer when machine-drying abhyanga towels, or opt to air-dry them. Never store oily towels in a pile or out in the open. Keep them separate from other laundry, and if you cannot wash them immediately, keep them in a metal container with a lid. Never store them in a warm or hot car if you intend to take them to a laundry facility.
Safeguard Your Drains
Oil can build up in drains, too. Save yourself the hassle and expense of having to call a plumber by taking some simple preventive measures. Dr. Lonsdorf recommends using a hair catcher in your drain (always a good idea anyway) and liquid bath soap instead of a solid bar. After completing your shower, while the shower water is still hot, pour a little dish soap down the drain to help break up the oil.
Scrub Your Tub
Ideally, give your tub or shower tiles a quick rinse with hot water and a little kitchen dish soap or baking soda after each shower to avoid buildup. It’s easy to do and takes just a minute or two. Scrub your tub vigorously once a week with tub cleaner or dish soap to keep things clean, shiny, and grime-free. Baking soda can be abrasive, so be careful using it on finely finished fixtures. Giving yourself a daily oil massage is a lot like changing the oil in your car. If you do it regularly, your engine will stay in excellent condition and require a lot less maintenance over the years! With these simple clean-up tips, you can enjoy all the benefits of abhyanga without the mess and plumbing stress.
The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have any serious acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. If you are seeking the medical advice of a trained ayurvedic expert, call or e-mail us for the number of a physician in your area. Check with your doctor before taking herbs or using essential oils when pregnant or nursing.