Benefits of Ayurvedic Massage
In Ayurveda, massage is highly praised and recommended as a daily practice. As people follow the daily practice of eating and sleeping, so should they receive massage and discharge waste materials.
Ayurveda believes that pains and aches are caused by obstruction of the flow of vayu (wind) through vayu-carrying vessels, or siras. Heat is generated by rubbing, which makes the body airs expand and move. Circulation of vayu in the siras relieves tension and reduces pain. Massage also promotes a deeper and more natural breathing pattern.
Regular massage relaxes the muscles, nerves, bones, and the whole body. It aids the digestive system by maintaining the proper balance and circulation of body gases; it induces deep sleep, increases the appetite, and generally makes life more joyful.
In therapeutic massage, the type of massage administered and the oil used depend on the condition present. According to Vagbhata, the author of a famous treatise on Ayurveda called Ashtanga Hridaya, those who wish to have health and happiness should massage the body and use oils according to the season. Fragrant and health-giving organic oils are best.
According to another key scripture on Ayurveda, the Sushruta Samhita, oil, ghee, or any other lubricant-depending on the body type, the atmosphere, and the season-should be used for massage. For those suffering from a wind (vata) disorder, massage is the only remedy. Generally, massage of especially tense areas should not be done without a proper lubricant. Areas that are painful should be massaged until some relief is obtained.
The role of massage in sexual enjoyment is emphasized by Vatsyayana, the author of the well-known treatise on sex, the Kama Sutra. In the Bhavishya Purana, a religious scripture, the importance of massage between husband and wife is described in detail. The scripture advises that the wife should be an expert in the art of giving massage. It recommends that massage of the waist region be done gently and slowly, and that the face and neck should be massaged a little harder, with bearable pressure. The head and feet should be massaged the hardest, and for a longer period of time. Those body parts having less flesh, thin musculature (such as the navel area), and certain pressure points below the navel and around the heart, face, and cheeks should be massaged gently. If the husband starts to doze off, rubbing and patting can be done; when he falls asleep, the massage should be stopped. On the body pans that have hair, the massage should be done in the direction of hair growth.
The following benefits of massage can be found in the Ashtanga Hridaya of Vagbhata.
Removes Old Age (Jarahar)
In Ayurveda, massage is described as jarahar, the remover of old age, because it provides nourishment to the seven constituents, or dhatus, of the human body:
- Rasa (fluids, hormones, lymph)
- Rakta (blood)
- Mansa (flesh, muscles, and cutis)
- Medha (fat)
- Asthi (bones and teeth)
- Majja (marrow)
- Shukra (semen, ojas)
By rubbing, squeezing, and pressing the musculature and by manipulating the pressure points, circulation of blood, lymph, and hormones is enhanced. This in turn strengthens the nervous and immune systems, thus delaying old age. The use of oil on the spine, feet, hands, and head increases virility and vitality.
Removes Fatigue (Shram Har)
Fatigue is caused by either physical or mental strain, or both. It can also come from overworking a particular muscle or muscle group, or doing work one does not normally do. When one does not feel emotionally involved in a job or does not like it, his or her body fatigues quickly. Fatigue can also be a product of accumulated toxins. The massage prescribed depends on the type of fatigue present.
For fatigue caused by mental strain, a head massage with a fragrant oil is ideal. A few drops of sandal wood oil added to the base massage oil helps relieve mental strain. To remove heat from the head area, apply a mix of 10 drops of coriander oil and 2 tablespoons of almond or sesame oil.
For fatigue caused by physically straining the muscles of a limb, add a pinch of salt to some warm water and immerse the limb in it. Massage it with a squeezing motion. If immersion is too difficult, soak a towel in the hot salted water and apply it to the painful area. This method is mostly used on the shoulder and waist region. (Alternating hot and cold towel compresses may be used as well.) Gently squeezing, rubbing, and parting muscles removes fatigue. After water treatment, oil should be applied until release is felt. A half cup of mustard, almond, coconut, or sesame oil to which a few drops of lavender, wintergreen, or spirit of camphor oil are added helps to remove strain from aching muscles.
To remove fatigue caused by an accumulation of toxins, you may use an oil that is heating-one that produces a burning sensation on application. This will excite the sweat glands and stimulate the body to release the toxins through sweat. Some heating oils are wintergreen, mint, mustard oil, eucalyptus oil, and oils made from garlic, asafoetida, or fenugreek seeds.
Removes Excess Wind (Vata Har)
The following practices, emotions, or food excesses increase the dosha of wind (vata) and can cause pain in the muscles and joints: constant strain on the nervous system; anxiety; sexual indulgence after eating; eating food stored for more than eight hours after cooking; sleeping during the day; suppression of hunger; fasting; voluntarily repressing any natural urge of the body; cracking of the joints; sexual intercourse during menstruation; oral sex; fear; nervousness; excessive talking; excessive use of pungent, astringent, or extremely bitter foods. Foods such as beans, lentils, soybeans, broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower, when used in excess, produce more vayu and the ailments caused by aggravated wind. Rheumatism and sciatica are two of the most common ailments caused by aggravated wind.
The seat of vata diseases is the large intestines. Colon therapy or water purification, done as soon as the ailment is detected, and regular massage with oil are the only remedy. The Sushruta Samhita strongly recommends oil massage for vata disorders. In Ayurveda, mahanarayana oil, a medicinal oil expressed from various plants, is often recommended for rheumatic pains and sciatica.
Sesame (til) oil prepared with the following herbs and spices is recommended for vata disorders. Cook a clove of garlic in preheated oil until it turns black. Add 1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds and cook 2 minutes. Stir in a pinch of asafetida and heat for 3 minutes more. Finally stir in 1 teaspoon oregano seeds and heat until they turn brown. Strain the oil and store in a container with a tight-fitting lid. To lend a nice scent, a few drops of lavender, mint, or wintergreen oil (or all three) may be added.
Improves Eyesight (Drishti Prasad Kar)
According to Ayurveda, massage can improve ones eyesight. Eyes derive their primary energy from the fire element. Disorders of the stomach in which the digestive fire is high create most eye ailments, although low fire can also cause disturbances. Constant constipation (caused by low fire), indigestion and acidity in the stomach, and aggravation of pitta (bile) impair one’s vision. Massage of the navel area in a clockwise direction with coconut or sesame oil (depending on one’s constitution) before retiring improves eyesight. People who have weak vision or who suffer from eye diseases should massage their feet, especially between the big toe and second toe. They should also have their spine, neck, and head massaged regularly with oil
There are five subtypes of pitta and the one found in the eyes is called alochaka pitta. It aids vision, balances heat in the eye tissues and muscles, and is responsible for regulating light input. Massage of the head and the big toes helps to regulate this fiery element. Eyes have a healing system all their own. Through the chemicals present in tears, the eyes become revitalized. Tears produced by the application of eye remedies such as surma and kajal, ghee, honey, or onion juice are cleansing, rejuvenating, and healthy for the eyes. Tears produced by sorrow, anger, disgust, and sickness are sour and can damage the eyes. The practice of tratak (gazing into a flame until tears come) is a healthy exercise for the eyes.
Massage of the temples with oil or ghee can improve eyesight as well. The practices of jala neti (taking water in through the nose) and massaging the inner walls of the nose deeply and gently with ghee are also quite helpful for the eyes.
Strengthens the Body (Pushti Kar)
Rubbing with massage oil and pressing, with or without oil, is beneficial for the body. It increases circulation and movement of the vital life fluids while at the same time helping to enhance and circulate prank energy. By kneading and pressing the muscles, accumulated toxins are encouraged to leave the body, in exchange the cells fill with nutrient material and prana. The body and the immune system become strong, and stamina, vitality, and virility increase.
Increases Longevity (Ayus Kar)
Massage creates an electrochemical balance in the body. When the body’s immune system becomes strong and toxins are eliminated, longevity is naturally increased. Since an increase in acidity reduces life span, our blood chemistry should always be more alkaline than acidic. Anxiety and stress wear out the system and increase acidity in the system. Balancing the three doshas increases our life span. The use of rejuvenating oils, prepared with herbs and spices, enhances the life force of the body. These oils are absorbed by the skin and digested into the body, with the help of a subtype of pitta called bhrajaka pitta. The absorbed oil protects the skin from dehydration and helps it retain the necessary amount of surface moisture. This moisture helps the electromagnetic energy of the earth to react with the electromagnetic field of the body. In old age this moisture diminishes, the skin becomes dry, and the body does not get enough energy from the environment. Through massage an electrochemical balance can be maintained, which results in health and long life.
Induces Sleep and Dreams (Swapna Kar)
Massage in general, and head massage in particular, is an effective device for inducing sleep. Gentle rubbing, patting, and pressing of the body, especially the feet, help soothe the wandering mind. People suffering from insomnia or disturbed sleep should massage their body before retiring. (Of course, it is better if the massage is given by someone else.) Coconut or sesame oil should be used for the body and feet, and kaddu oil, extracted from the pumpkin seed, should be used for the head.
Strengthens the Skin (Twak Dridh Kar)
Massage with oil makes the skin feel smooth and gives it a glow. Regular application strengthens the skin and removes dryness, the first sign of disturbed wind (vata) in the body. Individuals whose prakriti, or constitutional type, is vata have dry and rough skin; for them, oil massage is a must. For those people whose prakriti is either pitta or kapha, and thus who naturally have oily skin, oil massage is the only remedy when wind is aggravated and dryness of the skin appears. Dryness of the skin can also be caused by meditation, mental work, anxiety and worry, and living in centrally heated homes. For people who get dry skin from cold outside air. central heating compounds their problem.
lust as fire is hot by nature, wind by nature is cold and dry. Since people with a vata temperament tend to have dosed hair follicles; for them it is appropriate to apply the oil against the direction of the body hair to help open these follicles. Once the oil has been applied, the practitioner can then massage in the direction of the body hair. The skin of vata-dominated people absorbs more oil than
that of other types. Skin, like a mirror, reflects the state of the physical body. Wheat germ oil mixed with almond oil is especially good for strengthening the skin. Oils provide natural nourishment to the skin, which gets digested by the bhrajaka pitta.
Aids Resistance to Disharmony and Disease (Klesh Sahattwa)
Rubbing the body with bearable pressure helps make it more resistant to disease. Massage stimulates the production of antibodies and strengthens the seven vital components of the body, the dhatus. The strength that comes from the dhatus gives the powers of tolerance, forbearance, and patience; these qualities can save one from sorrow, agony, adversity, and anxiety. Antibodies strengthen the immune system and oils strengthen the nerves.
Sootbts Ailments Caused by Wind and Mucus (Vata-KaphaNirodhak)
According to the Sushruta Samhita, massage with oil is the only effective remedy for soothing diseases caused by aggravated wind (vata); it proves effective as well in diseases caused by aggravated mucus (kapha).
For vata diseases, sesame oil massage is especially recommended; olive, mustard, and almond oil are also prescribed To help relieve aggravated mucus, congestion of the lungs, or breathlessness, massage of the chest and rib cage region with wintergreen, eucalyptus, mustard, almond, or mint oil is recommended; a mixture of wintergreen, eucalyptus, and almond or mustard oil may also be used. When both wind (vata) and mucus (kapha) are aggravated, the following special garlic/mustard oil mixture is quite effective. Heat 1/2 cup mustard oil over high heat; when it begins to boil, add 2 medium garlic cloves (peeled) and cook until they turn dark brown. Strain and store. For another good wind (vata) and mucus (kapha) oil mixture, add 5 drops each of wintergreen, mint, and eucalyptus to 1/2 cup of almond or mustard oil. For casing breathlessness caused by aggravated vata and kapha, a combination of almond and lavender oil can be beneficial. Also, after massage the recipient can inhale the steam from a few drops of eucalyptus oil placed in hot water, taking care to avoid exposure to cold air.
Improves the Color and Texture of the Skin (Mrija Varn Bal Prad)
Rubbing oil into the skin improves the texture of the skin, gives it a healthy glow, and makes it strong. To nourish the skin and protect it from numerous ailments, add 1 teaspoon turmeric to 1/4 cup each of wheat germ, almond, sesame, and coconut oil; strain and cover. To avoid getting a yellow stain on your clothing after massage, add to this mixture an equal amount of sesame or coconut oil, and take a bath after the massage (wait at least 30 minutes to 1 hour before bathing).
In sum, Ayurveda contends that massage is man’s best friend. It nourishes all seven dhatus, balances the three doshas, cures diseases caused by aggravation or imbalance in the doshas, rejuvenates the system, provides strength and virility, and removes stress and strain. Ayurveda emphasizes the correct use of different oils in massage. They should be used according to the seasons and the requirements of the particular body in question, as determined by pulse diagnosis.