If you have ever attended a lecture of a holy person, or a sadhu in the Himalayas, at the mouth of the Ganges River, you know that these people practice an oil massage daily, known as abhyanga.
This is a massage of the knees, legs, and thighs, but extremely gentle, similar to stroking. It shows the importance of a loving touch, and heightened awareness.
This kind of an oil massage conveys a message of love, affection, and pleasure. Ayurveda states that it is “better for you than for who you are massaging.”
Namely, when we do something affectionately, attentively, we focus on the process, not on its goals, and it is done easily, but it provides great effects.
It has been scientifically proven that massage stimulates the release of oxytocin, the naturally secreted hormone in the body that promotes physical health, as well as kindness, love, bonding, and empathy.
Studies have shown that humans will not flourish even if they take great care of their health, in the absence of loving relationships.
Namely, oxytocin is the bonding hormone secreted by the baby, mother, and even father during childbirth, and it has a connecting power that lasts the entire life.
It is released whenever you love someone, give, touch, bond or care for other people, but without any needs and expectations. This hormone rejuvenates and rebuilds, so the more you produce, the more you get.
It is released in response to touch, as well as massage, warm temperature, and low-intensity stimulation of the skin. Hence, massage aids the body to relax, and deal with stress, as it reduces the production of stress hormones, such as ocorticotropin hormone (ACTH), beta-endorphin (BE), and nitric oxide (NO).
Another study published in the professional peer-reviewed journal Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, evaluated the blood levels of 95 subjects for numerous amounts of chemicals before and after a 15-minute massage.
Researchers found that oxytocin levels have been elevated by 17% in people who received massage, while the controlled group had reduced amounts of this hormone by 9%.
Moreover, it has been found that ACTH (adrenocorticotropin), which is elevated with stress, has been increased by 30% in the control group, and has decreased by 20% in people who received massage.
One of the mechanisms of oxytocin is by changing the skin microbiology in the case of a massage. Its levels are elevated through touch, and it changes the microbes as it supports measurable health gains.
In a study, subjects were given probiotics, so that their oxytocin levels increased, in order to measure the microbial impact.
This increase significantly changed hair and skin quality, regulated hormonal balance, boosted the immune system, increased the overall health, improved reproductive and fitness factors, accelerated the ability or healing wounds, and positively affected social behavior and attitude.
Namely, nerve endings exist everywhere on the body, so the sensory ones on the skin are subjected to the continuing tactile, emotional, circadian, microbial, and environmental stressors. For instance, the loving application of oil on the arm calms over a million nerve endings.
In the case you travel a lot or work too much, a shower and an oil massage in the evening can provide astonishing effects, as the body will be relaxed, calm, and you will become much happier.
Do you know any other way to calm 20,000,000 nerve receptors in the skin in a few seconds?
An oil massage calms the nervous system, and science has confirmed that the skin treatment with attention and love releases oxytocin.
Moreover, microbes responsive to the oxytocin are concentrated on a moist and healthy skin, as the nutrients are needed for the microbes in the form of amino acids, water, and fatty acids. On the other hand, the healthy skin microbiome gets compromised it the skin is stressed, dry, or treated with chemicals.
Some microbe species and all microbes in the normal skin flora feed the sebum which is released by the skin, so this ancient practice of massaging the skin has a more logical ground after all.
Therefore, the application of oil to the skin in the form of a massage provides numerous health benefits, such as:
- reinforces the all-important skin barrier of the body
- Balances vata and the nervous system
- Forms a beneficial environment for microbes
- Soothes over 1.8 billion sensory nerves on the skin
- Boosts the release of oxytocin, which is a hormone linked to love, bonding, and optimal health
- Proliferates beneficial microbes which are needed for a general physical and mental health and mood
Furthermore, note that it is of high importance to not just apply the oil on the skin, but to do it in a loving manner, in order to obtain an effect of positive emotions on microbes. Studies have shown that these microbes do not survive in the case of stress.
For example, a study conducted on mice showed that the ones sharing a cage with more aggressive mice had decreased amounts of beneficial bacteria, reduced overall diversity of the gut microbiome, and increased amounts of harmful bacteria, making them more prone to inflammation and infection.
Researchers have also found that during a stressful exam week, the stools of university students had reduced good bacteria than during the less-stressed days.
Yet, do not forget the outer skin, which wraps into the oral cavity, mouth, gut, respiratory system, and digestive tract. Ayurveda also treats these skin areas, with methods like swishing oil around in the mouth on an empty stomach for 10-20 minutes.
This has been scientifically confirmed as beneficial, as the swishing with high-quality coconut oil modifies the enzymes in the mouth, and thus boosts the effects of the oil, and thus eliminates fat-soluble toxins out from the oral cavity, leading to fresh breath and a healthy mouth.
Ayurveda has another beneficial method with tongue scraping, which involves boosting digestive enzymes, reduction of strep mutants, which lead to tooth decay, elimination of bacterial load, reduction of volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs) which cause bad breath.
Traditionally, it advises that the tongue scrapers, or the Charaka Samhita, should be made of gold, tin, silver, copper, or brass.
Hence, the proper care of the outer and inner skin will provide amazing health benefits and boost the general well-being.
Other included references linked in Life Spa’s article:
- Charaka samhita Ch V -78 to 80.
- Charaka Samhita. Sutrasthana. Ch 5. Verse 71-75