Santa Barbara Wellness Directory
Finding Your Bliss - Ayurvedic Massage

by Claudia Ward, L.Ac.

I have to confess that I am a massage addict and have therefore tried every kind of massage and bodywork on the planet, I have been myofascially and neuro-structurally released, and between Rolfing, Esalen Massage, Lomi Lomi and Hellerwork have been kneaded, oiled and rubbed in any way and form known to human kind. And then one day I had an Ayurvedic massage…. ! It was the most heavenly, blissful and luxurious experience, I had never felt so pampered, and cared for during a bodywork session. My skin glowed from the deeply nourishing warm herbalized oils, my mind deeply rested, this was not just a massage, it was a spiritual experience!

Formerly of the no-pain-no-gain conviction I suddenly realized that all my aches and pains had mysteriously disappeared during this session in spite of the light touch that is typical for an Ayurvedic massage. When the nervous system relaxes, the body relaxes, and lets go of a lot of tension and pain. The lymph flow is stimulated and toxins are eliminated. This is why this form of massage is so good for people suffering from chronic conditions, such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, joint and muscle pain, anxiety and stress. The skin becomes smooth and soft, the body’s energy levels deeply recharged, nerves are calmed resulting in better, deeper sleep, and it also helps in losing weight! A lot of weight issues can be attributed to stress in our lives, balancing our nervous system through massage is a good way to counteract nervous tension. Pain, too, is aggravated by stress due to the release of cortisol. studies have shown that injuries take twice as much time to heal when a person is under stress.

Oh, how I wished I could have a massage every day! Well – actually there is a way to get a massage every day, or even twice a day, without costing an arm and a leg and without taking up too much time. Ayurveda has a solution: the daily Abhyanga massage, a great way to start the day. Here is how it goes:

Ayurvedic Oil Self-Massage (Abhyanga)
One of the best ways to start the day is to do a full-body oil massage in the morning before taking a bath or shower. A full body, warm Ayurvedic oil massage before showering in the morning is recommended for almost everyone. It has a soothing effect on the nervous system, strengthens the circulation, and helps to remove toxins from the body. It also keeps the skin moist, supple and youthful. It strengthens immunity and counteracts stress.

What Oils to Use for the Daily Abhyanga
Sesame oil (unrefined and organic) is a good universal choice, especially for those with Vata imbalances, because they tend to have very dry skin. If someone has high Pitta (heat), coconut oil is better, for individuals with Kapha imbalances dry brushing or almond oil are recommended.

How to do the Abhyanga
Allow about 15 minutes in the morning. The massage can be done either standing up or sitting down in a comfortable warm room. Ideally the oil should be heated beforehand to a little above body temperature. Start by massaging the head region, with small circular movements. Just do the face if you do not want to get your hair oily.

Then do the neck, throat, shoulders, arms and hands. Massage the limbs with long straight strokes up and down; for the joints use circular movements. The chest and stomach areas should be massaged very gently. Use circular strokes on the chest, straight up and down strokes over the breastbone and solar plexus. Women should pay specific attention to the area around the breasts, so important for breast health!

For the abdomen use a slow, circular, clockwise movement.
Massage the back and base of the spine up and down with the flat of the hands - as far as you can comfortably reach.
The legs are done in the same manner as the arms: circular movements on the joints, straight strokes on the limbs.
Finally, massage the feet and the soles of the feet. Best results are achieved if you leave the oil on for 15 minutes before taking a bath or shower so that the body has time to absorb the oil.
If you are short of time, then massage only the face, ears and soles of the feet.

I use an old towel to wrap myself into after applying the oil. I leave the oil on for a few minutes while I brush my teeth, and do other Ayurvedic morning procedures, such as using the neti pot for cleansing the sinuses or cleaning my tongue with a tongue cleaner. I use an old towel to dry myself off (it will get a little oily – so I wash it separately).

Voilá! What a way to start the day! Great way to end the day, too! It really helps me get a good night’s sleep when I am stressed out. Just massaging the feet will improve sleep tremendously.

Doing the daily Abhyanga will change your life! I simply love how Ayurveda has so many simple tips and tricks that can really make a difference.

And of course, we also offer a wide variety of Ayurvedic treatments at our center. Here is a short description of some the authentic Ayurvedic therapies that are available:

Abhyanga massage (with one or two practitioners)
The Sanskrit word Abhyanga literally means “loving hands”.
Abhyanga massage is a gentle but firm whole body massage from head to toe using warm medicated oils. Oils are chosen according to the dosha or constitution. When performed by two practitioners with synchronized motions it is an absolutely blissful experience!

A profound treatment using Ayurvedic oils poured in a steady stream over the forehead and scalp. It allows the body's natural healing mechanisms to release stress from the nervous system. This therapy stimulates the nervous system by releasing neuro-hormones and creating feelings of relaxation and wellbeing.

Medicated steam bath that eliminates impurities from the body, improves the tone and complexion of the skin, reduces fat and is used in the treatment of certain rheumatic diseases. Precious herbs and herbal leaves are boiled and the steam is passed over the entire body. Deeply cleansing for the body and mind.

Marma Therapy
Marma points are connected with each other by energy channels called Nadis. Under normal circumstances, energy should flow uninterrupted through the Nadis. Due to external influences like stress, tension, lack of rest etc. energy tends to get blocked. Marma therapy is a very good treatment to help release this blocked energy. The Marma points are actually identical with acupuncture points, however, instead of needles, aromatic oils are used to stimulate the energy points.

A specific treatment for the sinuses and head, including a head-, scalp- and neck massage, steam inhalation and specific oils for opening the sinuses.

Bliss Therapy
The name says it all! A two-hour blissful experience of Abhyanga (warm oil massage), svedana (herbal steam) and shirodhara (warm oil poured over the forehead).
A wonderful treatment that deeply nourishes body, mind and soul, bringing about a feeling of profound relaxation.

About Claudia Ward

Claudia Brachtl, L.Ac. is cofounder of The Prana Center, Santa Barbara's exclusive healing center for Ayurveda and Chinese Medicine, offering authentic Ayurvedic bodywork, marma therapy, consultations, nutrition, acupuncture and Pancha Karma cleanses. She is a Licensed Acupuncturist, Diplomate of Acupuncture, Diplomate of Chinese Herbology and an Ayurvedic practitioner.

Claudia may be contacted at:

USA Phone and Fax: 805-560-9727
email: [email protected]
web site:

See Claudia's page in Our Wellness Directory

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