Experience a Deeper Kind of Wellness: Abhyanga-Swedana (steam)


This blog post is part of series of posts which are intended to give you an experiential glimpse into the Ayurveda Treatments available at Agni Ayurveda.  Each treatment is rooted in the ancient and traditional practices of Ayurveda and is tailored to the individual’s constitution and current condition.  Ayurvedic protocols are cherished because they address the whole being (the soul, the mind, the senses, and the body).


ABHYANGA—full body treatment with warm oil


Abhyanga is the the queen of treatments offered at Agni Ayurveda.  It forms the basis of the daily rejuvenation and detoxification protocol of Panchakarma.  Self-abhyanga is one of the most commonly recommended self-care practices in an Ayurvedic consultation. The treatment  involves generous  quantities of warm herbal oils poured over the entire body.  These oils are rhythmically rubbed in with gentle precision.   It’s a little bit of heaven on earth.


I came to my Abhyanga a few days after a massive cross country drive, visiting with family, and a flight home to the high desert of New Mexico.  I was exhausted, having difficultly sleeping, nervous and irritable, and ached in all sorts of unexpected places. After checking in with my basic constitution and what was going on, Lisa began warming a blend of oils for me.  I undressed and slipped into the warm nest of the massage table.


The Sanskrit word sneha means oil or oily.  It is the term used to denote applying oil to the body. (In abhyanga that’s a lot of oil.)  Sneha also means love (like motherly love), moisture, friendship, tenderness, and a great many other things.  Let me tell you, from the moment that the oil crossed over my forehead to begin the treatment, I felt like love was being poured in and through me.  The heat, pressure, and the subtle rhythmic strokes helped me to receive that love.  


Systematically, the treatment is designed to quiet the senses, and to circulate blood, lymph, and prana (life energy) through the whole body.  It is both nourishing and detoxifying.  Ears, nose, scalp, each received loving touch of warm oil, and my mind stilled.  As the oil and the focus shifted to the core and extremities of the body, I felt increasingly aware, and yet so deeply relaxed.  There was no moment of force or pressure, yet the heat of the oil and the skillful attention to marma points (energy points similar to acupressure points) supported me coming back into harmony and relationship with all aspects of myself.



There came a moment when my entire body had been well oiled and rocked, and Lisa encouraged me to get up.  (I considered refusing and just basking in the oil and floating off into a pool of bliss, yet I consented.)  Entering the steam box was a treat. (This contraption is just nifty—you get to sit surrounded by warm steam yet with your head cool and calm above.  The photos from our photo shoot didn’t do it justice by you can do a websearch for pictures of a swedana box to get the idea.) It’s a great add-on to the abhyanga. Any last places of holding melted in the warm moisture and the oil moved deeper.  It also reenergized me enough to consider leaving the building at some point and going home.  Once home I was able to digest more of my trip and sleep soundly.  I woke up with buoyant energy and an open heart.


Soaking in love (sneha) during my abyhanga-steam is helping me love up the world a bit more.  That’s a deeper kind of wellness.


--Sulis is an Ayurvedic Self Care Educator, retreat cook, and one of the friendly faces behind the front desk at Agni Ayuveda