Self-Care Practice: The Daily Oil Massage (Sneha)
Self-oleation is one of my favourite ayurvedic self-care practices.
Also called sneha (meaning both “oil” and “love”), it is a practice which is believed to have effects similar to being saturated by love : it is deeply healing, nourishing, strengthening and beautifying to all aspects of you.
The Benefits of Self-Massage (Sneha)
“By using oil massage daily, a person is endowed with pleasant touch, trimmed body parts and becomes strong, charming and least affected by old age” – Charaka Samhita
- Promotes softness, lustrous and youthful skin (and decreases wrinkling);
- Nourishing, grounding and relaxing — calms the nerves, decreases stress and anxiety
- Balances the emotions and calms the mind
- Improves sleep
- Improves muscle tone and firmness of the body;
- Lubricates and promotes flexibility of muscles and joints;
- Moves the lymph, assisting with detoxification of the body.
When to Practice Self-Massage?
All types benefit from this nourishing treatment at least once per week.
Vatas benefit from daily massage, pittas from a massage 3-4x per week, and kaphas, 1-2x per week.
You can also increase the frequency during periods of stress, and in the Canadian fall and winter.
Avoid oleation if you are menstruating, suffering from slow digestion, constipation, fever or high kapha symptoms (e.g spring time, nasal or lung congestion).
How to Do Your First Ayurvedic Self-Massage
This practice will take 5-15 minutes, depending on how much time you have. Most doshas will benefit by using unrefined sesame oil.
- Fill a large bowl or yogurt container with hot water. Place your bottle of oil bottle inside the container to let it warm for 3-5 minutes.
- Choose a space in your home that is warm and where you do not have to worry about making a mess (e.g. in the bathroom). Sit on a large towel.
- Take some oil into your hands and start by rubbing oil into the bottoms of your feet and toes. Take your time here, as your feet are considered to be one of the most important areas of the body to massage.
- Slowly work your way up to your ankles, calves, knees, thighs and hips. When you are massaging joints (ankles, knees), rub in a circular, clockwise motion. When you are massaging long bones (e.g. legs, arms), rub the oil in an up and down motion. Rub vigorously with a medium amount of pressure so that the oil really penetrates the tissues.
- Work your way up to your lower back and abdomen. At the lower back, you can rub in a circular motion at the base of the spine. When you are massaging the abdomen, try to follow the bowel pattern, starting from the right lower part of the abdomen, moving in a clockwise motion to the left lower part. You may also want to massage the second and third chakra in a clockwise motion.
- Move your way to massage your breasts and shoulders, then hands, fingers, wrists, arms, elbows and shoulders, and neck, using the same technique as above, using a circular, clockwise motion for joints and breasts and an up and down motion for long bones (e.g. arms).
- You can also place a light amount of oil on your face (patting it in lightly) and top of the head (tapping on the crown chakra)..
- Return to any area of your body that you feel needs extra care, such as cracking joints or any areas where you have pain.
- Before you shower, you may wish to wipe off any excess oil with a towel (to avoid clogging the drain).
- Shower with warm to hot water. Stay in for at least 5 minutes to allow the water’s warmth to help the oil to penetrate more deeply.
- To avoid risk of fire, keep any towels associated with your oil massage or showering out of the dryer.
Enjoy the benefits of this nourishing practice throughout your day.
About the Author
Briya Freeman has been teaching courses in meditation and natural healing since 2011, including The Bloom Project, an online course for women in natural self-healing and radiant living.
Briya is a long-term student of Berdhanya Swami Tierra, a female mystic and shaman of South American origin. She also holds studies in ayurveda at Anjali School of Ayurveda (Kerala, India) and a Bachelor’s degree in Commerce from the University of Ottawa.