In Sanskrit the word Sneha means both oil and love.  The practice of Abhyanga or Ayurvedic self massage becomes a beautiful practice of enveloping oneself in both oil and love every day.  During Vata season, which is ruled by the qualities of air, wind, movement, dry, light, cool, and rough, we may feel the effects of these qualities in the form of dryness, joint and muscle stiffness and general ungroundedness, amongst other ailments.  Abhyanga can be a soothing remedy and balm for this.  

Some studied benefits of self massage are: 

  • Stress reduction
  • Improves quality of sleep
  • Increases moisture/softer skin
  • Improves skin health
  • Promotes good circulation and lymph drainage
  • Lubrication of joints
  • Reduces muscle stiffness
  • Decreases the effects of aging
  • Calms the nervous system

How to practice:

 Traditional oil is sesame, but you could also use almond, olive or some other Vata-balancing oil 

  • Gently warm the oil in hot water in a squeeze bottle.  Test the temperature first – it should be comfortably warm, not hot
  • Stand on a towel that you don’t mind getting stained with oil
  • For a daily routine, use long strokes on your limbs (arms and legs) toward the heart and massage in a circular motion around the joints
  • Massage the abdomen in a clockwise, circular motion
  • Massage the neck and chest toward the heart
  • Massage in long stroke on the back toward the heart
  • If you have time for a longer more traditional practice, include the scalp, face, then body, then spend some time massaging the feet
  • Enjoy a bath or shower after, being mindful of the oil on your feet to not slip
  • Try to avoid a harsh soap or scrub on the body
  • When you get out, lightly blot dry with a towel

 *It can be useful to rinse the shower/tub with dish detergent when you are finished to help prevent clogs and the tub from being slippery for next use.


Let the sensation of being wrapped in self love and oil stay with you through the day or as you drift off for a good night’s sleep.