In the ayurvedic tradition, therapeutic oil massage is said to balance the three bodily humors, or doshas—vata, pitta, and kapha. According to Vasant Lad, the founder of the Ayurvedic Institute in Albuquerque, New Mexico, these doshas create a “unique, biochemical lab” in every individual’s body. And since the combination of vata, pitta, and kapha are endless, each person has a constitution that is “as unique as his fingerprint.” In most of us, however, one dosha is primary, another is secondary, and the third is least prominent.
Ayurveda recommends choosing massage oils according to dominant dosha. To determine what your dominant dosha is, take this dosha quiz, and then choose an oil from the list below.
Note: Organic, cold-pressed, unrefined oils are the purest, healthiest oils you can use on your skin.
For dry skin (vata): Use a warm, heavy oil such as sesame, almond, avocado, or bhringaraj.
For sensitive or overheated skin (pitta): Use a cooling or neutral oil such as olive, sunflower, coconut, castor, or ghee (clarified butter).
For oily skin (kapha): Use a stimulating oil like mustard, or a light oil such as flaxseed, corn, canola, or safflower.
If you’d like to learn how to give yourself an ayurvedic foot massage, read Sole Wisdom: The Benefits of Ayurvedic Foot Massage. Or follow these simple instructions for a full-body self-massage, from Vasant Lad:
“Before you go to bed, rub a few ounces of warm (not hot) sesame oil all over your body with special attention to the ears, nostrils, and other openings. (If you’re having trouble sleeping, rub some oil on the soles of the feet and into the scalp.) Then take a warm bubble bath and scrub your body with soap. Your muscles will melt, and you’ll sleep like a baby.”
Former Yoga International editor-in-chief Shannon Sexton writes about food, travel, yoga, and natural health.