It has been age old practice in South India to apply oil to the whole body with a gentle massage followed by warm water bath. For women, this is to be observed on Fridays and for men Saturdays.
A recent study by Dr K. N. Agarwal of Delhi has shown the health benefits of oil massage on 6 week old infants. The study concluded that sesame oil as the most beneficial of all other oils. Oil massage also helps in increased secretion of thyroid and insulin.
South India is a hot region with very high temperatures during the summer. Rapid deforestation, depletion of underground water, environmental pollution etc add to the woe. The Siddha saints regard human body as a microcosm that reflects the larger Universe. When the earth gets polluted due to the reasons mentioned above, a corresponding disharmony sets in, in the human body too. This is there for all of us to see. The nature strikes back with vengeance; natural calamities and epidemics like H1N1 are on the rise. The three doshas, vata, pitta and kapha get vitiated. Oil massage and bath once a week will help pacify the vitiated doshas to a large extent.
This way of bathing benefits human body and mind immensely. The skin is able to maintain its sheen and luster. The muscles get strengthened. There is improved blood circulation. Oil massage relaxes the body and energizes it. There is a sense of complete relaxation. When the muscles and joints are massaged, the body fluids stagnant at these points move on and toxins if any get eliminated. A relaxing oil massage and bath once a week will keep you energized and alert throughout the week.
Sesame oil, coconut oil and castor oil can be used for this purpose. Take sesame oil and coconut oil in equal quantities. Castor oil of one third volume is added to this mixture. Drop a few pepper corns, betel leaves, a pinch of camphor to this mixture and heat it to a bearable level.
Apply this warm oil all over the body. This should be done ideally in the mornings. Allow this oil to soak into your body for 20 to 30 minutes. Use warm water for bathing. You can add a few drops of eucalyptus oil, or eucalyptus leaves to the warm water meant for bathing.
You can also use massage oils available in the market. These oils are made by adding basil leaves, clove, jasmine, sandalwood etc. They give out a very nice, relaxing aroma.
Abhyanga snan is observed on Deepavali day. It is a full body massage with oil followed by a ritual bathing.
You can wash away this oil using soap nut powder or handmade soaps. Handmade soaps do not contain chemicals that could harm the skin in the long run. They retain skin moisture. I will share some more benefits and tips on oil massage in subsequent posts.
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