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Self-Massage Post #1: The Power of Oils

This series of blog posts will be all about self-care, and specifically Self-Massage: the various methods, types, and reasons behind a number of self-care manual therapy techniques that I have learned over the years.

Today’s post is all about The Power of Oils. As a massage therapist who has studied a bit of Ayurvedic Massage, (predominately in my own self-care routine, and for postpartum mothers). I have learned that sometimes the oils, not the physical manipulations can be the main aspect of the therapy.

In the “mainstream” Massage Therapy profession… oils, creams, or lotions are but the tools in which a therapist manipulates the tissues of a clients body. In Ayurvedic Massage, (and Aromatherapy as well) the medicated (herbal) oils are a huge part of what makes the treatment therapeutic. There are many different Ayurvedic Bodywork Therapies, but a staple practice in Ayurveda (and Yoga), is something called Abhyanga (or self-oilation).

Next time you feel energetically drained, spacy, or ungrounded (or before you travel)…try this self-massage routine with oil.

1. Warm your oil

2. Set out a large towel that will be used for this purpose only.

3. Spend 5-20 minute massaging the body in a warm bathroom

4. Take a hot shower or bath, not using soap.

5. Pat dry using a small/medium hand towel that will be used only for this purpose.

It's extremely important to remember that towels (or clothes) saturated with oil will go rancid after a while. This is why I dedicate one old bath towel, and a stack of washcloths (rather than a whole towel) to pat myself dry. You want to leave a little bit of oil on the skin, but I've found that the oil will either come off on my cloths or on my towel, so I dedicate the small hand towel to get "ruined", rather than my clothes.

To clean your towels you can soak them in vinegar, baking soda, or borax then wash on COLD. Make sure you also HANG THEM to dry. (Oil soaked cloth in the hot drier is a fire hazard). I usually use one washcloth to pat dry, that I eventually TOSS after a number of uses.

The oils you might use will vary depending on your “Dosha” (body-type), and even time of year/life.

I’ve laid out a general choice of oils that can be found in most natural food stores/kitchens, but you can also play around with ordering the special medicated oils from various trusted online sources listed below.

If you’re not sure what your dosha is, take a quiz online at Once you’ve learned about your doshic body-type, make sure you read through the How To, Why, and Cleaning Tips in this detailed article (from Banyan Botanicals. It’s much more thorough than I could be in this blog post. I'm skimping, because...why reinvent the wheel( :

Good House-hold Oils

All oils should be organic, unrancid, and often unrefined. Try mixing oils 1:1 depending on your constitution/time of year. Most of us are a combination of two doshas, and do best with a mix.

Vata - Sesame Oil (untoasted), Ghee, a touch of castor oil

Pitta - Coconut Oil, Olive Oil, Sunflower/Safflower

Kapha - Mustard Seed Oil, Safflower/Safflower, Coconut

Ayurvedic Oil Suppliers

(Simply look for their "Vata, Pitta, or Kapha Oil"…or “Daily Massage Oil”.)

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