Doshas

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Vata-Pacifying Abhyanga

The primary qualities of vata 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 vata.

If your vata is high, either in your prakriti or vikriti, doing abhyanga daily can be highly beneficial, even life-changing, as vata is restored to its normal condition. Just be sure to do abhyanga in a warm place, and avoid getting chilled afterwards.

Types of Oil That Are Best for Vata

Organic Sesame Oil or Organic Almond Oil is considered to be the “king of oils;” it is the preferred choice of oil for vata because it is inherently warming. If possible, use one that is organic and untoasted. Almond oil is also a good choice because it is warming. You may also consider using Vata Massage Oil, especially if vata is high in your Vikriti. The herbs in this oil enhance the vata-pacifying qualities of sesame oil/Almond Oil. Vata massage oil can be used alone.

For increasing strength and stamina Ashwagandha/Bala Oils may be the best for you.

Mahanarayan Oil is made from over twenty Ayurvedic herbs and is traditionally used to support comfortable movement in the joints. If you warm it, massage it into the affected joints or muscles and proceed with your regular abhyanga, it can be fabulously beneficial. Following this with a warm bath with 1/3 cup each baking soda and ginger powder (provided there is no skin irritation) can enhance the effects even further.

For small, localized areas, ghee is a deeply nourishing and hydrating oil for the skin, and it is especially suitable for the dryness of vata-type skin.

 

Pitta-Pacifying Abhyanga

The primary qualities of pitta are: oily, sharp, hot, light, fleshy-smelling, spreading and liquid. Since pitta and oil share a number of qualities it is ideal to use herbal oil when you are trying to balance pitta. The addition of herbs enhances the pitta-pacifying properties of the oil.

Types of Oil That Are Best for Pitta

Pitta pacifying herbal oils, such as Pitta Massage Oil, are best for abhyanga. 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 herbal oils, use Sunflower Oil or Coconut Oil for your abhyanga. If you spend a lot of time in the sun, you may wish to add some Neem Oil to whatever you use for your basic abhyanga oil; it is said to reduce pitta in the skin.

In general, gently heat the oil for abhyanga. Oil applied to the head should be cool in the summer and slightly warm in the winter.

Pitta Dusting Powder—Optional

If dusting powder does not irritate your skin, you may enjoy using chickpea flour in the place of soap. Make a paste with the flour and water, gently apply a small amount to the body in the shower, and let it rinse off with the oil.

 

Kapha-Pacifying Abhyanga

The main qualities of kapha are oily, 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 actually decrease kapha.

Sometimes the best massage for kapha is udvartana, massaging the body with soft, fragrant powders, like organic calamus powder. The Ayurvedic sage Vagbhatta says udvartana “mitigates kapha, liquefies the fat, produces stability of the body parts and excellence of the skin” (Ashtanga Hrdayam: Sutrasthana: II: 15). Sushruta, another Ayurvedic luminary of the past, writes that udvartana, “reduces the fat and the aggravated kapha of the system, smoothes and cleanses the skin and imparts a firmness to the limbs” (Sushruta Samhita, Cikitsasthana, XXIV: 49).

Sushruta also says, “Anointing the body with oils imparts a glossy softness to the skin, guards against the aggravation of vata and kapha, improves the color and strength and gives a tone to the root-principles (dhatus) [tissues] of the body” (Sushruta Cikitsasthana: XXIV: 28).

Types of Oil That Are Best for Kapha

Abhyanga with warm oil is best for kapha. While Sesame Oil, almond oil, olive oil and corn oil are all warming, herbal oils such as Kapha Massage Oil are a superior choice for kapha, as the herbs impart more kapha-pacifying properties to the oil. (If you are using Sesame Oil, opt for untoasted sesame oil; toasted varieties are more expensive and have a very strong natural scent). It is usually best to use less oil for kapha abhyanga than for vata or pitta.

Kapha Dusting Powder—Optional

To accent the positive effects of abhyanga for kapha-types, vigorously rub an appropriate kapha dusting powder into the body before or after performing abhyanga, either while working in or rinsing off the oil. You can use chickpea flour, but organic calamus powder (vacha) is also nice.


Ayurvedic Abhyanga Routine

  • Put about ¼-½ cup oil in an 8 oz. squeeze bottle. Make sure the oil is not rancid.

  • Place the bottle of oil in a pan of hot water until the oil is pleasantly warm.

  • Sit or stand comfortably in a warm room, on a towel that you don’t mind ruining with oil accumulation. Make sure you are protected from any wind.

  • Dry Brush all your body.

  • Apply oil generously to your entire body.(Read about each dosha application way, Read more…)

  • Massage the oil into your body, beginning at the extremities and working toward the middle of your body. Use long strokes on the limbs and circular strokes on the joints. Massage the abdomen and chest in broad, clockwise, circular motions. On the abdomen, follow the path of the large intestine; moving up on the right side of the abdomen, then across, then down on the left side.

  • Massage the body for 5–20 minutes, with love and patience.

  • Give a little extra time and attention to massaging the oil into your scalp, ears and feet, at least once a week. Apply oil to the crown of your head (adhipati marma point) and work slowly out from there in circular strokes. Oil applied to the head should be warm but not hot.

  • Put a couple drops of warm oil on the tip of your little finger or on a cotton ball and apply to the opening of the ear canal. (If there is any current or chronic discomfort in the ears don’t do this without the recommendation of your health care practitioner).

  • When you massage your feet, be sure to wash them first when you shower, so you don’t slip.

  • Enjoy a warm bath or shower. A vata, pitta or kapha dusting powder can help rinse off the oil without drying out the skin. You can use a mild soap on the “strategic” areas.

  • When you get out of the bath, towel dry. Keep a special towel for drying off after your abhyanga because it will eventually get ruined, due to the accumulation of oil.

  • Put on a pair of cotton socks (organic, if you can find them) to protect your environment from the residual oil on your feet.

  • Applying a high quality essential oil to your wrists and neck can further support balance. If you are not familiar with which essential oils are balancing for each dosha, try rose or mitti for vata, rose or khus for pitta, and hina or myrrh for kapha.

  • Enjoy.