As fall’s cool air morphs into winter’s chill I seek out my favorite local Ayurveda specialist for an ancient medical treatment that for many years has worked better for me than the annual flu shot. Abhyangha, the word sounds so exotic for such a simple treatment. The treatment so simple that it’s hard to believe that it really works — a light massage of large amounts of medical-grade aromatherapy massage oils applied to the body.
Winter brings with it dry, cold air. Heating your house too can be very drying to your skin, your nasal passages, and throat making your body weak and brittle, more susceptible to bacteria and viruses. You are like a dry cracked desert. Sneezing and runny noses can even be deceiving as it seems that even though your nasal passages are full of gooey wetness they can really be reacting to the dryness all around. Your body, a vast electrical conduit has become frayed, unable to make synaptic connections between chils, sneezes and overall irritability.
In the cold weather months abhyangha is my Linus blanket. It guards me against the cold, brings me back into balance. Like plants that need water to insulate their roots from the cold, we too need insulation — that’s what the oil does. Robert Sachs compares oiling yourself during cold weather to putting on a wet suit for diving. He even recommends to step outside pre-abhyanga and then again after if you need proof.
How does it work? In an abhyangha session, the oil is rubbed in long, even strokes over the body. Starting at the top of the head and working down the body to the feet the oil flows into your pores as liquid into a cup. This sets in motion the real healing effects of the treatment. The Chopra Center explains that the skin then releases, “A pharmacy of chemicals that can have health-promoting effects on the physiology.” As your pores become saturated the oil flows back to the skin’s surface carrying excess toxins from the body. Sometimes at this point it feel likes I’m sweating, unless I’ve hit delta or some other state of awareness or deep sleep.
Stay well this cold season with abhyangha!
When you awake you may feel rejuvenated with energy surging through your body like you’ve just had the best workout of your life. If you’ve been tired, stressed and under the weather, though, be prepared afterward to go home and get in bed because your healing is just beginning.
Either way abhyangha offers your body unmatched support for adjusting to cold weather, a change of seasons, and just plain old stress relief.
Find your local abhyangha specialist or begin a daily self-abhyanga practice and let me know how it goes.
Oh, and it’s great for kids too!
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