Read on to learn the history, benefits and types of Ayurvedic massage, plus a step-by-step guide on how to practice it at home for greater mind-body balance and well-being.
by James Han
If you’ve ever experienced a professional massage, it’s likely you had a classic Swedish massage or deep tissue massage for greater full-body relaxation.
Ayurveda, the ancient philosophical and medical system that originated in India, has its own massage techniques that can help you restore mind-body balance, improve your circulation and practice healthy self-care.
Best of all, you can even practice some of its techniques from your very own home — making it an easy addition to your existing wellness routine.
History of Ayurvedic Massage
Ayurvedic massage therapy likely first emerged in 3,000 B.C.E. — possibly earlier — when it was used as part of a natural system of healing. In the thousands of years since then, it’s been a staple and tool of holistic health, helping individuals find greater harmony when their mental, spiritual and physical lives are out of balance. Though Ayurvedic massage was historically linked to social, religious or ritual customs, with classic texts prescribing it for these reasons in addition to health, it’s still used today throughout India to promote general health and wellness, with options for either full-body massage or targeted focus on specific areas of the body.
Types of Ayurvedic Massage
Ayurvedic massage is not limited to a single set of guidelines or therapeutic techniques. In fact, there are many different kinds, some involving the application of warmed oil, sound therapy and more. Here are a few.
This well-known and widely practiced Ayurvedic treatment uses warmed oils and massage strokes to restore balance to your dosha (or Ayurvedic body type) and increase feelings of stability and peace. You can easily practice abhyanga at home by anointing your body with dosha-specific oils to help you relax.
Gandharva is a massage practice that incorporates sound therapy from crystal singing bowls (as well as using warmed oils) to tune your body into higher frequencies and transform your state of mind.
Shirodhara involves the application of a stream of warm oil directly on the third eye chakra (located on the forehead between the brows) to promote feelings of calmness, awareness and greater intuition.
The Benefits of Ayurvedic Massage
Ayurvedic massage comes with a range of benefits that can both provide immediate relief and keep your body strong, supple and relaxed enough to withstand daily stressors and other triggers. It’s a great tool for practically everyone, and you don’t even need to feel imbalanced to reap its benefits — in fact, Ayurvedic massage is often thought of as more of a preventative course of action (rather than reactive), so seeking it out as a healthy individual will still help you in the long run. Here are some of the top benefits of Ayurvedic massage:
- Stimulates circulation. Lack of circulation can reduce your energy — making it hard to focus and concentrate — and lead to other health problems down the line. Efficient circulation can help your body properly eliminate waste and direct blood to all areas of your body, which may even improve your skin and support lymphatic drainage.
- Reduces stress. A small study of abhyanga massage on 20 people found that participants’ heart rates and stress levels decreased substantially after a one-hour abhyanga session.
- Alleviates stiffness. Whether it’s tightness from stress, physical activity or even lack of movement, the circular, gentle strokes used in Ayurvedic massage can help relax your muscles and increase mobility.
- Balances your Vata, Pitta and Kapha. When out of balance, Vata, Pitta and Kapha can lead to feelings that take you out of a stable, relaxed state of mind. Though there are plenty of techniques to restore balance — including meditation and diet — massage is an effective way to experience short- and long-term harmony.
How To Practice Ayurvedic Massage at Home
The best type of Ayurvedic massage to practice at home is abhangya. Here, we’ve put our own spin on this ancient practice to make it easy to practice at home on yourself, or with a loved one. (It’s a great technique that allows couples to bond by taking turns helping each other relax through gentle massage.) To start, all you’ll need is a towel or two (so you don’t stain your floors, clothes or any other objects), a quiet space and REWIND — an Ayurvedic ointment and muscle rub that harnesses the restorative benefits of turmeric, black pepper, clove and CBD, as well as nourishing plant butters and oils, to soothe your body from the outside in.
- Scoop out a quarter-sized daub of REWIND and rub it between your palms to warm it up. (Alternatively, you can set your jar of REWIND in a bath of hot — but not scalding — water until it heats up.)
- Optional. While you’re waiting for your REWIND to get warm, take a quick shower or bath to loosen your muscles, open your pores and get into a calm state of mind. You can take a dropperful of SLOW tincture as well. (Do this only if you feel unclean — you’ll be showering/bathing again afterward!)
- After drying yourself off, find a quiet space and sit on a towel (and wrap yourself up with another blanket or towel to keep yourself warm, if necessary). You can play healing frequencies, mantra music or other peaceful sounds, if you wish.
- Starting with the top of your head, apply REWIND to your body. Use circular motions with light-to-medium pressure, and continue for as long as you’d like.
- Move down to your face, neck, shoulders, chest and beyond, replenishing your REWIND as needed. (Use long massage strokes on your arms and legs.)
- Finish off by massaging your feet and toes, including the soles. Every part of your body should receive attention and love.
- Close your eyes and relax for at least 10 minutes, letting the soothing essential oils and CBD in REWIND seep into your skin. You can use this time to practice a healing meditation with visualization.
- Take a warm bath or shower to cleanse any excess REWIND off your body.
If trying Ayurvedic massage helps you feel more relaxed and balanced, try pairing it with other natural mood-boosters and essential oils amplified with CBD to make it easier for you to cope with the bustle of your daily responsibilities. And if you’re curious to learn more about Ayurveda — including the best herbs or spices for your health and how to correct imbalances in your doshas — check out our comprehensive insights into Ayurveda 101 on our blog.
James Han is a writer, editor and content strategist based in Los Angeles. When he’s not deep in a Google Doc, you can find him reading, watching films and taking long walks.