Doshas and Abhyanga
Updated: May 9, 2021
If you read my previous blogpost on Abhyanga and you are still confused about if it's applicable to you or if you should do it or not and what type of oil is best for you. Here are your answers. If you are here for the first time, please read my post on Abhyanga Basics (I have linked it below for your reference at the end of this post).
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 pleasant touch, trimmed body parts and becomes strong, charming and least affected by old age.–Caraka Saṃhitā: Sūtrasthāna: V: 88-89.
Abhyaṅga should be resorted to daily, it wards off old age, exertion and aggravation of vāta. –Aṣṭāṅga Hṛdayam: Sūtrasthāna:II:8-9
It is beneficial to follow a particular dosha-pacifying abhyaṅga if that dosha is currently high. For example, if you are nervous, anxious, your heart is racing, and you feel cold and dry, your vikrati is likely high vāta, and using a vāta pacifying oil for your abhyaṅga would be most beneficial.
If no dosha is currently out of balance, it is good to consider the dominant dosha including the current season and weather. For example, if you are feeling healthy, but you know that Pitta is your dominant dosha, and the weather is hot and humid, it would probably be best to choose Pitta-pacifying oil.
If you are not sure what your vikṛti or prakṛti is, you can see an Ayurvedic practitioner. If that is not an available option for you, you can take the self-quiz dosha tests in my printable section.
If you have more than one dominant doshas in your prakṛti, you will want to pacify doshas according to season.
If you are a pitta-kapha combination, pacify Pitta during the warm weather and kapha during the cold weather. If you are a pitta-vāta combination (which I am), pacify Pitta during the warm weather and vāta during the cold weather. If you are a vāta-kapha combination, pacify vāta during cold or dry weather and during the change of seasons and pacify kapha during cold or wet weather. More extensive guidelines for each dosha are outlined below.
VĀTA PACIFYING ABHYAṄGA
The primary qualities of vāta are dry, light, cool, rough, subtle and mobile. Most of these qualities are opposite to those of oil. This is why warm oil is especially good for pacifying vāta.
If vāta is high, either in your prakṛti or vikṛti, doing abhyaṅga daily can be highly beneficial, even life-changing, as vāta is restored to its normal condition. Just be sure to do the abhyaṅga in a warm place and avoid getting chilled afterwards.
Types of Oil That Are Best for Vāta:
Sesame is considered to be the “king of oils;” it is the preferred choice of oil for vāta because it is inherently warming. If possible, use one that is organic and untoasted.
Almond oil and mustard oil are also good choices because they too are warming.
For increasing, strength and stamina Ashwagandha oil or Ashwagandha/Bala oils may be the best for you.
PITTA PACIFYING ABHYAṄGA
The primary qualities of pitta are: oily, sharp, hot, light, fleshy smelling, spreading, and liquid.
Types of Oil That Are Best for Pitta:
Applying Bhringaraj oil or Brahmi oil to the scalp and soles of feet at bedtime may reduce pitta and encourage sound sleep. If you don’t have medicated oils, it is recommended to use the cooling sunflower or coconut oil for abhyaṅga. If you spend a lot of time in the sun, you may wish to add some Neem oil to whatever your basic abhyaṅga oil is, because it is said to reduce pitta in the skin.
In general, gently heat the oil for abhyaṅga. Oil applied to the head should be cool in the summer and slightly warm in the winter.
KAPHA PACIFYING ABHYAṄGA
The main qualities of kapha are unctuous, cool, heavy, slow, smooth, soft, and static. Kapha and oil share most qualities. Because like increases like, using oil, especially cool oil, may increase kapha rather than decrease it. However, because oil has the ability to absorb the qualities of substances it is prepared with, appropriate herbal oils can decrease kapha.
Vāgbhaṭa says udvartana “mitigates kapha, liquefies the fat, produces stability of the body parts and excellence of the skin.” (AH: Sūtrasthāna :II:15) Suśruta says udvartana, “reduces the fat and the aggravated kapha of the system, smoothes and cleanses the skin and imparts a firmness to the limbs.” (Suśruta Saṃhitā: Cikitsāsthāna: XXIV:49)
NOTE: Udvartana is an invigorating full body massage done in a rhythmic motion using herbal powder or paste. This massage also improves muscle tone and circulation apart from cleansing and nourishing the skin. Udvartana is highly recommended for dissolving excessive fat from the body.
Prakriti means one's psychosomatic constitution or mind-body type. In Sanskrit, the word Prakriti means nature. Vikriti is synonymous with a disorder, disease, or pathological manifestation.
Types of Oil That Are Best for Kapha:
Abhyaṅga with warm oil is best for kapha. Sesame, corn, and mustard oils are all helpful because they are warming.
If you are using sesame oil, opt for untoasted sesame oil; toasted is more expensive and has a very strong natural scent. Less oil is needed for kapha abhyaṅga than for vāta or pitta.
WHEN NOT TO DO ABHYAṄGA
Over swollen, painful areas or masses on the body, without the knowledge and consent of your healthcare 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 abhyaṅga.
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 healthcare practitioner says it is okay to do abhyanga
During the menstrual cycle. Some women don’t like to stop abhyaṅga 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.
As always, the references are posted below and please let me know in the comments if you do abhyanga and what changes it brought in your daily life? I prefer doing abhyanga at night time, take bath, have my dinner and brush my teeth and go to sleep. Since is started performing abhyanga, I have had such good sleep and I feel calmer and at peace with myself- you know that feeling of everything is under control.
Dr. Claudia Welch. https://drclaudiawelch.com/abhyanga-ayurvedic-oil-massage/
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