The Ayurvedic practice of abhyanga, or oil massage, touts physical benefits like released muscle tension, lymphatic drainage, and more nourished skin from head to toe. It stands out from other massages due to its focus on the skin, rather than just the underlying muscles—from the oils used to the circulation-stimulating movements, it’s more like a facial massage for your whole body. For someone used to massages that my body like the lump of pizza dough popular wisdom (you are what you eat!) says it is, abhyanga isn’t that.
Your therapist’s main goal is relaxation, and in India, the practice is tied deeply to the notion of self-care. “Sneha is the root word for this type of massage in Sanskrit,” explains Ayurvedic doctor Pratima Raichur, “which also translates to mean ‘love.’” Depending on your skin type, Ayurveda suggests performing abhyanga anywhere from once a week to once a day.
What makes it different from a regular massage?
The heavy use of essential oils and focus on specific energy points in the body makes an Ayurvedic massage different from your run-of-the-mill Swedish massage. Plus, don’t expect a ton of actual massaging the treatment is much more focused on manipulating your energy fields and freeing emotional burden than working out the kinks in your muscles.