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Ayurvedic Massage: Complete Guide

Ayurvedic Massage: Complete Guide

In this guide, we discuss the various kinds of ayurvedic massage and their health benefits. We also explain how you can experience some of the benefits of ayurvedic massage at home using an acupressure mat.


Ayurveda can be an integral part of your health regime and a way to treat illness and rejuvenate the body. One aspect of the practice of ayurveda is known as ayurvedic massage. Ayurvedic massage is utilized as a powerful regimen for healing. It is a unique experience that focuses on complete relaxation leading to stress relief in the entire body. It uses essential oil in combination with various motions and pressure which work on specific energy fields with a view to liberating and freeing the body from stress and blockages.

Ayurvedic massages utilize a holistic approach that not only relieve physical stress, but also work at a mental level in order to restore peace to the mind. It is not merely a physical massage, but rather a holistic therapy that can relieve all the emotional stress built-up in your body, thereby restoring a sense of harmony.

Ayurvedic massage is based on ayurvedic guidelines which, if followed, can lead to increased blood circulation in the body, strengthening of the lymphatic system, and stress reduction.

Various Types of Ayurvedic Massages and their Health Benefits

woman lying down while being massaged on the shoulders

In Ayurveda, there are various types of massages, some of which are better suited for certain kinds of people. Each individual is different and has a unique balance of doshas, body type and physical constitution. Ayurveda recognizes every individual as unique, hence why there are different types of massages and a variety of different Ayurvedic oils available and recommended based on body type.

1. Abhyanga

Abhyanga is a full body warm oil Ayurveda massage that can help you recharge your mind and body. A daily warm oil massage routine can help dissolve all of your accumulated toxins and stress. For this kind of massage, an Ayurvedic oil is recommended based on your dosha type and medical condition.

Abhyanga is a form of self-massage. For improved health and well-being, consider giving yourself a full body oil massage daily. It will nourish your body, balance your doshas, improve your strength and bring about more restful sleep.

How to Perform an Abhyanga Massage

  • Abhyanga is generally performed in the morning before bathing using a suitable Ayurvedic oil.
  • Put a little oil into a small vessel and put the vessel on a hot pan. Once the oil is pleasantly warmed, remove it from the pan.
  • Dip your fingertips into the warm oil and energetically massage your entire body.
  • This will create further heat in your body, which will help your body absorb the oil.
  • Use enough oil so that your hands glide smoothly over your body.
  • Use herbal Ayurvedic hair oil for your hair and scalp.
  • Use up-down strokes for limbs and circular motion for the joints.
  • 15 to 20 minutes of massage is advised, followed by a bath with an herbal ubtan, which is a powdered mix of Ayurvedic herbs and natural ingredients.
  • Muscles get toned
  • Increased blood circulation
  • Improved mental alertness
  • Removal of toxins from the body
  • Better sleep patterns
  • Strengthens the body

Abhyanga nourishes the largest organ of your body, being the skin. It also allows the body to release toxins which will increase its functional efficiency. In fact, a pilot study conducted to investigate the effects of abhyanga revealed that it has a promising effect on reducing stress and is also helpful in reducing blood pressure.

2. Pizhichil

In Pizhichil massage, a special kind of vessel called a Kindi is used in which warm essential oil is contained. This vessel is kept a few inches above the body. Depending on the person's health condition, a suitable Ayurvedic oil is chosen. This massage works especially well for balancing vata dosha.


Pizhichil is done under the guidance of a trained Ayurvedic physician. In this treatment, warm Ayurvedic oil is poured using Kindi with a simultaneous massage. In general, 60 to 90 minutes of massage is performed every day for a period of 14 to 21 days.


Through izhichil, you can experience the amazing health benefits of both oil therapy and heat therapy. In addition, this type of massage:

  • Strengthens immunity
  • Improves blood circulation
  • Rejuvenates the body
  • Helps in the healing of fractures
  • Enhances muscle development
  • Helps in the treatment of nerve disorders and weak nervous systems
  • Can help treat rheumatic diseases such as rthritis, paralysis and hemiplegia.

This is a wonderful massage therapy that can completely rejuvenate the nervous system, maximize healing potential, and enhance muscle tone.

3. Udvartana

woman being massaged on the back while lying down using Ayurvedic powder

In this type of massage, a dry Ayurvedic powder or herbal paste is utilized during the massage. This dry powder massage is very beneficial for kapha dosha. It facilitates a detoxification process in which excess fat and cellulite are removed through the process of scrubbing and massaging.


An Ayurvedic powder or paste is prepared with a mixture of different herbs. Approximately 45 minutes of massage is advised with upward strokes over the entirety of the body. This process helps detoxify the body and activates the body’s metabolism.

  • Helps reduce body fat
  • Eliminates body odor and helps combat excessive sweating
  • Beneficial in the treatment of cellulite
  • Helps remove excess toxins from the body
  • Aids in the treatment of diabetes, obesity, skin problems and varicose veins
  • Aids with muscular dystrophy and Parkinson’s disease

Udvartana is a great option if you are trying to lose weight and control your cholesterol level. It also helps enhance your skin tone.

4. Shirodhara

Shirodhara is a special type of head massage in which a constant stream of herbal medicated oil is poured on the scalp in a manner that stimulates the nerves in your head. Shirodhara is a wonderful therapy that relieves mental stress, improves alertness and eases headaches. Studies have revealed that Shirodhara leads to a state of relaxation as seen during meditation. Studies have also shown that it can have significant health benefits, including decrease in anxiety, hypertension and stress.


Ayurvedic herbal oil is poured on your forehead. Initially, it is poured in a specific pattern from right to left, after which time the oil is set to pour into the middle of the forehead. This oil flow continues throughout the massage which lasts for about 30 minutes. This soothing therapy activates the cranial nerves and induces calmness.

  • Reduces mental stress, inducing calmness and relaxation
  • Stimulates a powerful energy point in the forehead, which helps reduce anxiety Improves clarity and focus
  • Helps with better sleep quality
  • Particularly useful for those with vata dosha

Shirodhara is the best massage type for supporting overall health and wellness and mental clarity.

5. Garshana

woman being massaged along the jawline looking relaxed

The Garshana massage does not involve any oil or herbal powder. Instead, raw silk gloves are used to stimulate the body. This massage stimulates the lymphatic system which leads to the elimination of ama (digestive toxins) from the body. This massage also helps in the elimination of dead cells, making the skin clean and radiant.


Garshana is a light, vigorous massage using raw silk gloves in a manner comparable to using a dry body brush. As a result, this massage type is sometimes called “dry brushing”. This massage is done using circular motion at joint areas and long strokes. Garshana massage normally ends with a shower. For an extended session and more benefits, abhyanga massage can be performed after the garshana massage is complete.

  • Stimulates better metabolism and digestion
  • Removes ama
  • Exfoliates the skin
  • Promotes lymphatic drainage
  • Stimulates blood flow and circulation

After a garshana massage, you will typically feel lighter, more energetic and ready to be active. It refreshes the skin and helps remove toxins.

6. Njavarakizhi

Njavarakizhi is well known for increasing body perspiration. It is a form of massage that induces sweat by applying heat and warmth to the body. This massage therapy utilizes a special milk which is processed with herbs and combined with a special type of rice called njavara. This substance, combined with the massage therapy, provides minerals and nutrients to the body’s tissues.


Before the commencement of njavarakzhi, a a full body abhyanga massage, or a shirodhara massage, should be performed. Small cotton bags filled with the special type of rice are dipped in milk and an herbal paste, which is then applied on the body. Downward strokes are used from the neck to lower back and from the hips to the feet. The application of the bags helps lead to the production of heat in the body, which in turn leads to sweating. This massage is highly effective in providing relief from pain, inflammation, and stiffness. It is recommended that this massage therapy be performed on a daily basis for 7 to 21 days.

  • Relief from muscular pain and stiff joints
  • Helpful in the treatment of arthritis and spondylolisthesis
  • Enhances joint flexibility
  • Helps correct imbalance of doshas Improved blood circulation

Njavarakhi is done under the supervision of an experienced Ayurvedic practitioner. Proper diagnosis and skilled therapy will lead to the best results.

7. Ubtan and Elakizhi

In this Ayurvedic massage herbal products are used specifically to increase the skin quality. It enhances skin structure and revitalizes the skin. It is a beauty and skin solution that can make you appear fresh and beautiful.


This massage is a potli treatment process where a combination of herbal leaves are tied in a cloth bag. A hot Ayurvedic oil is applied using this potli which relieves pain and stiffness. The duration of this therapy ranges from 30 to 40 minutes. Elakizhi massage is highly effective in the treatment of illnesses related to bones and joints.

  • Relieves body pain and stiffness
  • Moisturizes dry skin
  • Enhances skin complexion
  • Helps in sprains and sports injuries
  • Increases muscle strength


The types of massages described above can also be performed in conjunction with panchakarma, which is a very important aspect of Ayurvedic therapy.

In particular, panchakarma is a five step procedure which supports and facilitates a complete rejuvenation of the mind and body. It consists of steam baths, removal of toxins, a special diet known as the kichari diet, and other purifying practices. Panchakarma works at a deeper level, eliminating toxins from all channels of your body. It is an extreme detoxifying therapy that can transform you into a completely renewed person.

Panchakarma - The Rejuvenating Process

woman dropping essential oil on arm and bottles of oil on the table

The word Panchakarma is derived from Sanskrit, which means “five actions”. It is a unique process that is designed to meet individual needs. Panchakarma begins with an initial consultation, where the therapy is determined based on your dosha, immunity, digestive strength and other health factors. You will be required to stay in the Panchakarma facility for a required time period, which ranges from 5 to 21 days.

Most commonly followed steps include:

    • Daily massage with warm oil (abhyanga)
    • Herbal steam bath (swedana)
    • Herbal enemas (basti)
    • Lymphatic massage
    • Nasal irrigation (nasya)
    • Other treatments

      Benefits of Panchakarma

      The sole purpose of Panchakarma is purification. Your body will release the toxins accumulated over many years. It is the ultimate way of balancing your doshas and healing your body. In fact, a scientific study conducted on panchakarma treatment has revealed that it reduces anxiety and brings a significant improvement in quality of life. Panchakarma acts as a preventative measure in healthy people and works as a curative therapy in illness.

      Some of the other benefits include:

      • Removal of toxins from the entire body
      • Rebalancing of the doshas
      • Improved immunity
      • Stress reduction and deep relaxation
      • Anti-aging effects
      • Body tissue rejuvenation
      • Stronger digestive system
      • Enhanced meditation and mindfulness

      Who Needs Panchakarma?

      Anyone can choose to perform this detox therapy. Most of us would benefit from panchakarma, given that our bodies are continuously creating toxins and therefore in need of cleansing.

      Some of the signs which may help you determine that you need panchakarma therapy include the following:

      • Fatigue, particularly if you feel tired all day
      • Body pain
      • Bad breath
      • Flatulence
      • Disturbed or foggy mind
      • Diarrhea or constipation

      Panchakarma is a natural detoxifying therapy that brings the body back into balance and helps restore its vitality. During a panchakarma series, a variety of the Ayurvedic massages described above are typically carried out.

      Marmas and Chakras

      Ayurvedic massage brings awareness to the marmas and chakras of our body. Marmas are natural energy points that are connected to the nerve endings in our bodies. Working on these marma points can help revitalize the body. Pain and weakness assemble in these points which can then be manipulated and reduced during Ayurvedic massage.

      There are seven chakras which act as centres in our body through which our energy flows. According to Ayurveda, each chakra nourishes the body’s organs, and when a chakra is blocked illness can result. An Ayurvedic massage opens up these chakras allowing the free flow of energy and vitality.

      An Ayurvedic massage commonly ends with a body scrub with herbal ubtan, which helps nourish the body’s tissues and assists in the removal of the oil. In addition, a steam bath can be offered, which can help enhance the absorption of the oil into the skin.


      Ayurvedic massage can have numerous health benefits. At a minimum, frequent Ayurvedic oil massage is recommended to remove the stress and toxins accumulated in the body. It will make your body and mind relaxed and soothed.

      If you are looking for a way to experience some of the benefits of ayurvedic massage at home, considering using an acupressure mat. You can use an acupressure mat anywhere and anytime, whether you are at home, the office, or traveling. Acupressure mats are also very easy to use; you only need to rest your body on the mat and let gravity and the mat's needles stimulate the various acupoints on your body. Learn more about the origin of acupressure mats, how to use an acupressure mat, and the benefits.

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