Udvarthana (Udvarthanam) is a kind of Ayurvedic dry powder massage. You may have also seen it written as Udwarthana or Udwarthanam, as they call it in south India. It can be done with or without the addition of oil or ghee depending on the client’s Ayurvedic body type and condition, the location and season of administration.
Ayurvedic practitioners and therapists use Udvarthanam as a remedy for metabolic and lifestyle disorders which are common in today’s fast paced, media-centric lifestyle. Udvarthanam is not just limited to lifestyle disorders but it has a solution to a wide array of problems. It is included as a part of the Dinacharya (Ayurvedic daily routine) and can be done regularly before a bath or shower. You can also receive this technique from an Ayurvedic massage expert.
The word Udvarthanam or Udwarthanam is derived from a combination of two words (Urdhwa + Varthanam). The word Urdhwa refers to upward and the other word Varthanammeans to move. It got its name Udwarthanam as in this massage, the strokes are performed in an upward movement or in other words, in elevation.
This massage therapy involves a body scrub or Ubtan, referring to the traditional Indian paste of natural herbs and grains. Udwarthanam is significant on its own as it is opposite to the traditional or conventional Ayurvedic massage callend Abhyanga, in which strokes are performed from above to downwards.
Udwarthanam massage is done opposite to that of the body hairs which is generally pointing downwards. This movement is called Pratiloma gati in Sanskrit, or in English, opposite to the hair growth.
The ancient Ayurvedic master physician Vagbhata described Udvarthanam under Dinacharya, the regimen to be followed daily. He mentioned that Udwarthanam should be practiced after Abhyanga (oil massage) and before taking a bath. With reference to the above verse, Master Vagbhata mentioned the benefits of Udvarthanam as follows: Udvartana (massaging the body with soft fragrant powder) mitigates Kapha dosha, liquifies fat, produces stability (compactness and strength) of the body parts and excellence of the skin.
Ancient Ayurvedic master Charaka mentioned Sharira parimarjan, which is similar to Udvarthanam. Udvarthanam falls under personal hygiene and is advised to be practiced regularly as a daily regimen after oil massage and before taking a bath. Chakrapani Datta explains that the Sharira Parimarjan mentioned by the master Charaka is the same as the Udvarthanam. Chakrapani states that Udvarthanam has to be done after Abhyanga and since Charaka mentioned it after Abhyanga and before Snana(bath), it should be Udvarthanam only.
Ancient Ayurvedic master Sushruta also mentioned the benefits of Udwarthanam inSushruta chikitsa sthana. Master Sushruta explains that Udvarthanam pacifies Vata dosha, dissolves Kapha and fat, stabilizes body parts and provides brilliance to the skin.
Types Of Udwarthanam
Udvarthanam can be of two types, wet and oily or dry. Wet and oily powder massage is called Snigdha Udvarthanam. Dry powder massage is called Ruksha Udvarthanam.
- Snigdha Udvarthanam refers to massage with a paste of herbal powders mixed with medicated oil or ghee. Alternatively, the herbal powders can be fried in medicated oil or ghee and rubbed over the body.
- Ruksha Udvarthanamas the name suggests, is dry powder massage. Here the herbal powder is directly rubbed or stroked (without mixing oil) over the body in an upward direction following Abhyanga (oil massage). Ruksha Udwarthanam can lead to skin abrasions or skin damage especially in people with sensitive skin or dry skin. It must be administered with caution whenever it is advised by your Ayurvedic practitioner.
When To Do Wet Or Dry Powder Massage
Indications Of Snigdha Udvarthanam (Oily Powder Massage Or Utsadan)
- Where there is Vata aggravation.
- When the person is weak and needs strengthening.
- For stability.
- In cases of pain.
- For skin health and glow.
- In the rainy season or when there is a natural aggravation of Vata.
- For those living in dry living conditions like in dry inlands or deserts.
Indications Of Ruksha Udvarthana (Dry Powder Massage Or Udgharshana)
- Where there is Kapha aggravation.
- When the person is strong.
- When there is excess fat accumulation in the body.
- When the person is lethargic, overweight or lazy.
- When the person is suffering from stiffness, cold, and rigidity.
- When there is excessive accumulation of fluidity (kleda) in the body and dryness is to be induced in the body.
- When the skin is too oily.
- When there is excessive sweating in the body due to excessive fat.
- In winter or spring seasons.
- For those living in Anup(wet, marshy, near sea) lands.
- In cases of bad body odor, severe itching and dirty skin.
- When skin tightening and compactness is needed.
- When there is shrotorodh or severe blockages and obstruction in the body channels hampering free circulation of nutrients.
Mobilizing Fat And Excess Kapha
The ancient Ayurvedic master Sushruta elaborated that Udvarthanam brings about dissolution or liquidation and mutilation. Thus in Udvarthanam herbal powders are rubbed onto the body in an upward direction so as to cause dissolution or mutilation of the unwanted and undesired elements of the body, mainly fat and excess Kapha dosha, which causes blocks in the channels or srotas. It also helps to mobilize them out of the body to establish normalcy and health.
To mobilize or mutilate fat or any blocking elements, rubbing should be done with sufficient pressure and in an opposite direction to the hair growth so that the effect reaches into the deep tissues.
What Sushruta Says
Sushruta mentioned two types of Udvarthanam, Udgharshan or rubbing with dry (non oily) herb powder and Utsadanam, rubbing with an oily paste. He further explained that dry and oily anointments cause a widening of the opening of blood vessels and stimulation of tactile heat. Oily anointments promote luster of skin, cleanliness, lightness of the body and cheerfulness of the mind. Dry anointment alleviates itching, allergic patches and Vata dosha.
Udvartana Technique & Procedure
This Ayurvedic powder massage is done in seven body positions by rubbing and massaging with pressure for a specific period. It reduces excess fat accumulation under the subcutaneous tissues of the skin. Powder massage is done with wet or dry medicated herbal powders for about 15 to 45 minutes. However, the maximum benefits can be achieved when an Ayurvedic massage therapist gives Udvartana. At the outset we will see how Udvartana can be done at home as a daily regimen.
At Home Powder Massage
- Do full body massage with warm sesame oil or olive oil.
- Rub herbal powder with maximum tolerable pressure and movements. If your skin is sensitive, you can mix the powder with warm sesame oil or olive oil for making a paste. Then rub this paste on the skin.
- You need to move your hands from the feet to thigh, and the hands to shoulders.
- Do this massage on fatty areas of the body, rubbing the powder thoroughly.
- The direction of movement of your hands should be opposite the direction of regular oil massage. That is, go opposite the direction of hair growth.
- On the abdomen, go from the pelvic bone to the chest. On the hips, movements should be from the thighs to the lower back.
Take a steam bath after this massage if possible. If you cannot have a steam bath, you can take a warm water bath. This is a simple procedure which can be performed at home daily as Ayurvedic master Charaka mentioned in his text under personal hygiene.
Udwarthanam as a therapeutic procedure is carried out in Ayurvedic Panchakarma therapy centers (detox clinics) to ward off an array of health issues where the involvement of Kapha dosha is predominant.
Let’s take a look at how Udwarthanam is performed for therapeutic purposes, as in the Ayurvedic cleansing process known as panchakarma. All panchakarma procedures as we know them are performed in three stages. The pre-treatment procedure is called Purva karma. The treatment proper is called Pradhan karma. Post-treatment procedure is known as Paschat karma.
Pre-Treatment Procedure (Purva Karma)
First is preparation of the client. The client is thoroughly examined and the prakriti (basic constitution) and vikriti (state of disease) are documented in detail. Materials needed for the body treatments are collected before hand. For Abhyanga, a medicated oil suitable for the health condition and the person is selected.
Classical Ayurvedic oils used for Abhyanga include the following:
- Ksheera Bala Taila
- Mahanarayana Taila
- Kottamchukkadi Taila
- Mahamasha Taila
- Pinda Taila
- Plain sesame oil can also be used for massage.
Some classical herbal powders used for Udvarthanam include the following:
- Kolakulathadi Churna
- Kottamchukkadi Churna
- Triphala Churna
The pre-treatment procedure (Purva karma) is as follows:
For the Abhyangam, the medicated oil chosen for Abhyangam is warmed. A whole body massage is given for 15-20 minutes and the person is then prepared for Udwarthanam. It is important that the Abhyanga massage is done simultaneously and synchronously on both sides of the body to maintain uniformity.
The Procedure Proper (Pradhan karma)
Udvarthanam is done in the same chronology of doing Abhyangam. It is done covering all the seven postures of Abhyanga:
- Position 1: Sitting on the massage table with lower limbs extended.
- Position 2: Lying on the back (supine position)
- Position 3: Lying on one side, turning towards the left (left lateral position)
- Position 4: Lying on the belly, face downwards (prone position)
- Position 5: Lying on the right side (right lateral position)
- Position 6: Repeat position two, supine position
- Position 7: Repeat position one, sitting position
The herbal powder is taken in a bowl. It is rubbed over the body in a reverse direction (upward) or opposite to the direction of body hair growth, from below and upwards in a synchronous way.
On the upper limbs, the powder is rubbed in the reverse direction from below (hands) upwards towards the shoulders in a synchronous way.
On the lower limbs, the powder is stroked from the foot upwards towards the hips covering synchronous massage over the legs, thighs and buttocks.
Over the abdomen, the powder is massaged synchronously in a clockwise direction alternating with a counter-clockwise direction. Rubbing from below (pelvic area) upwards (to the lower border of the rib cage), left to right and right to left strokes are intervened for best results.
Over the chest, the powder is massaged over the chest from below and upwards, intervened with side to side strokes, left to right and right to left strokes for best results.
Covering the back, the powder is rubbed upward starting from sacral region to the upper back passing through mid back. Side to side strokes are given with gentle pressure in the spaces between the vertebrae. Over the neck, light strokes are given between collar bone to chin and shoulder to the lower border of the occiput, the back of the head or skull.
Care should be taken not to put pressure because important blood vessels supplying and draining the brain and head are passing through the neck region. This procedure is followed by sudation (steam bath) or hot fomentation.
Post-Treatment Procedure (Paschat Karma)
The body of the person is wiped clean with a sterile clot, tissue or sterile cotton pad to remove the powder or the paste from the body. Then a thin layer of oil is smeared on the body to prepare her or him for steam. A full body steaming is given using a decoction ofdashamoola and other Ayurvedic herbs. The person sits in a steam chamber. The time of steam varies from 10-15 minutes depending on the prakriti (body constitution) and vikriti (morbidity) of the person. Season should also be taken into consideration. If Udwarthanam or Utsadan (oily/wet) includes the face as a part of the procedure, then steam shall be given separately for the body and face. First steam should be given to the whole body by placing the client in the steam chamber. After the whole body steam, the client should be given facial steam after a period of five minutes. This is followed by a warm water bath.
The patient is allowed to rest for an hour and advised to take a warm water bath. If the procedure is done in an Ayurvedic outpatient department, the patient can take a bath at home after an hour or so.
After Abhyanga or Udwarthana or any other external measure of treatment, the activated cells in the body release a small amount of toxins back into the system. These toxins need to be thrown out of the system and nitya virechana (daily purgative) serves the purpose. If the Udwarthanam is being done for weight loss then nitya virechana or purgation will add to the effect.
Udwarthanam tones and exfoliates the skin, reduces fat tissue and weight, makes the skin radiant and glowing and improves skin complexion. It removes bad body odor and toxins, and cleanses the skin.
Udvarthanam (Udvartana) is very effective in reducing fat accumulation. Overweight people can also get benefits from this technique to control their body weight. Rubbing herbal powder helps break down cellulite and increases the burning of accumulated fat.
Abdominal Fat Accumulation
If you have loose skin on the arms, thighs or buttocks or if you are suffering from abdominal fat accumulation, then Ayurvedic powder massage is very efficacious in this situation. It helps to reduce subcutaneous fatty tissue and cellulite. It reduces body weight and assists other weight loss therapies.
Udvartana (powder massage) reduces Kapha and Ama. In rheumatoid arthritis, Ama is a main causative factor, so it is beneficial for reducing symptoms and inflammation of the joints. In some cases, rubbing the herbal powder with pressure can increase pain, so rubbing should be gentle and performed under the supervision of an Ayurvedic practitioner initially.Ruksha Udvartana, the dry powder massage, is more beneficial when stiffness with a feeling of heaviness is the main symptom as compared to joint tenderness. If joint tenderness with redness is the main symptom, then Snigdha Udvartana (powder massage with oil) is more beneficial.
It removes body stiffness and helps to open blocked pores of the skins. It facilitates the absorption of beneficial oils in the skin.
Increases Skin Glow
The opposite-direction stokes that are performed in Udwarthanam help to soften and exfoliate the skin and remove the dead cells from the skin, giving you a beautiful and lustrous glow. This will be noticed after the Udwarthanam for several days.
This massage is one of the Ayurvedic detoxification therapies. It cleanses the body and removes bad body odor. Udwarthanam removes Ama or toxins from the body. It helps to prevent various diseases, which are caused by accumulation of toxins.
Exfoliates the skin
Ayurvedic powder massage tones and exfoliates the skin, removes toxins and prevents skin diseases.
Improves Blood Circulation
Ayurvedic powder massage improves peripheral blood circulation.
Revitalizes The Sense Of touch
Herbal powder massage or Udvartana revitalizes the sense of touch.
Stress Reduction & Rejuvenation
This masage can be used for stress reduction and rejuvenation.
Duration Of The Procedure:
The duration of therapeutic Udwarthanam varies from 7-14 days depending on the intensity of the health condition and the condition of the client. The procedure is carried out for a period of 25 minutes per session.
How It Works
The probable mode of action of Udwarthanam can be explained by the following.
- The application of Udwarthanam being pratiloma gati(direction opposite to hair growth) provides many benefits.
- Digested by Bhrajakapitta (a sub type of pitta), residing on the skin.
- Tactile heat generation due to friction of the herbs rubbed on the skin acts on the rasa dhatuor lymphatic system.
- Removes obstruction in the rasaand sweda vaha srota.
- Systemic effect dissolves the fat stored in the adipose tissue.
- Twacha(skin) being upadhatu of mamsa (muscle tissue) increases the mamsa dhatu agni due to tactile heat generation.
- Medo dhatuvitiation is corrected.
The herbs used in Udwarthanam powder or paste usually have properties to alleviate Kapha, Vata, Ama and Meda. The herbs possessing a hot potency and unctuous nature are used for Snigdha Udwarthanam to alleviate Vata. Those that are dry in nature are used for dry Udwarthanam to alleviate Kapha, Meda and Ama. These herbs break the composition of stagnant and morbid Ama, Kapha and Meda. They liquefy, mobilize and throw the toxins out of the body. This removes the block in the body channels enabling free transportation of nutrition and oxygen essential to all tissues, thus recharging and rejuvenating the body.
In Udvartana, due to increased friction to all parts of the body the increased heat generated helps in digesting the Ama, thus correcting metabolism in obese people.
Probable Side Effects And Contraindications Of Udwarthanam
Udgharshana and Ruksha Udvartana are the same thing, dry powder massage. However, the Ayurvedic text Sushruta Samhita has specifically described the ingredients of Udgharshana. It includes brick powder or the powder of dried, baked earth and Reetha (Soap nut) powder among others. This procedure may not be suitable for people with sensitive skin. The common side effects of using brick powder include rashes and fine cuts on the skin, which may cause pain and a burning sensation. Using Reetha powder or Triphala powder is a safer alternative to brick powder.
Contraindications Of Udwarthanam:
- Those with a high Pitta condition or Pitta related disorders like inflammation, redness, a rise in local temperature and burning sensation should avoid Udwarthanam.
- Those with diseases associated with severe pain, degenerative arthritis (osteoarthritis) and colic should avoid Udwarthanam.
- Those with wounds and cuts should avoid Udwarthanam.
- Those with burns should avoid Udwarthanam.
- Those with too dry skin (the typical Vata constitution) should avoid Udwarthanam.
- Those in old age should avoid Udwarthanam.
- Infants and kids under 10 years of age should avoid Udwarthanam.
- Pregnant women should avoid Udwarthanam.
- Those with oozing skin conditions should avoid Udwarthanam.
- Those with tissue depletion and emaciation should avoid Udwarthanam.
Udvartana (Udwarthanam) Powder Ingredients:
Herbs should be selected according to the person’s body type. Here are some herbs, which are used in Ayurvedic powder massage or Udvartana.
Herbs Used For Kapha Body Type And Weight Loss
Triphala powder has the property to reduce body weight. It can be used internally or orally to lose weight, but is also beneficial for reducing cellulite if used externally on the body in an herbal powder massage. The ingredients of Triphala are: Emblica Officinalis or Amalaki (Amla or Indian Gooseberry), Terminalia Bellirica or Bibhitaki, and Terminalia Chebula or Haritaki.
You should take all these three ingredients in equal quantity by weight for a Kapha type body for maximizing weight loss.
Herbs Used For Pitta Body Type For Weight Loss
If your body is Pitta type, you can use the following massage powder. All ingredients should be used in a fine powdered form.
- Cyperus Rotundus or Nagarmotha–50%
- Barley or Yava Churna–20%
- Emblica officinalis or Amalaki–15%
- Valeriana Wallichii or Indian Valerian–5%
- Terminalia Chebula or Haritaki—5%
- Centella Asiatica or Gotu Kola–5%
Mix all the ingredients together in the provided ratio. This powder massage can be used in Pitta type body for weight loss benefits.
Formulation for Utsadan Or Oily Powder Massage
This herbal formula supports glowing skin.
- Emblica officinalis or Amalaki—15%
- Licorice or Yashtimadhu–15%
- Rose petal-15%
- Turmeric or Haldi–5%
Mix all the ingredients in the above given ratio and massage onto the skin. This mixture should be used with Chandanadi oil, sandalwood massage oil or Kumkumadi Oil for maximum glowing effects on the skin.
This research shows the effectiveness of Udwarthanam in reducing weight. In Udwarthanam, due to the increased friction to all parts of the body, the increased heat helps in digesting Ama, thus correcting metabolism in obese people. It could be assumed that due to the increased friction to all parts of the body, the beta 3 receptors present in the adipose tissues of subcutaneous fat are stimulated so the triglycerides present in the subcutaneous tissue will break down into fatty acids.
These fatty acids are carried to the liver due to the effect of centripetal massage, which increases the circulation to the internal organs for conversion of fatty acid to bile. The bile that is formed in the liver is expelled out through the feces. When this therapy is added to a low carbohydrate diet along with physical exercise, fats are utilized for energy production. The bile that is formed is expelled out through feces. Hence the reabsorption of bile will be decreased, in turn utilizing the lipid, which is circulated through the blood.
A Case Study
A case study was conducted at OPD and IPD of SDM College of Ayurveda & Hospital, Hassan, Karnataka, India on obesity management through Ayurveda.
A patient presented with signs and symptoms of increased body weight, fatigue and joint pain. Considering sthoulya to be Santarpan janya vyadhi and following the principle of “Guru Cha Aptarpanam Chikitsa”, the line of treatment administered was Udwarthanam (lekhan or scraping).
Udwarthanam is indicated in Vata and Kapha disorders by causing liquefaction of Kapha and Meda (fat), promoting metabolism and removing heaviness, itching, toxins, reducing excessive sweating and improving the appetite. This is followed by “Pariseka”, a type of sudation which is indicated in Vata and Vata-kapha disorders. with dashamoola kwatha. Along with Shaman chikitsa (disease pacifying Ayurvedic formulations) and modification of diet and lifestyle, Udvartanam showed effectiveness in the management of obesity and quality of life.[Dheeraj Kumar Tyagi, Shivakumar, Obesity management through Ayurveda-A case Study. J Ayurveda Integr. Med. Sci. 2017;4:320-328]
The main benefit of Udvartana is to remove toxins through the skin. However Ayurvedic practitioners mainly recommend it for reducing excess fat accumulated under the skin. It also tones the skin and provides strength to the body. Other benefits include improvement in skin complexion, skin exfoliation, stress relief and relaxation.
Depending on the action of the powder massage, Udwarthanam can be dry or ruksha Udwarthanam or oily or snigdha Udwarthana. Utgharshanam mentioned by the Sushruta Samhita is predominantly dry massage and Utsadan is predominantly an unctuous procedure. Snigdha Udvartana is powder massage done with herbal paste prepared mixing the herbal powder with medicated oils. This herbal paste is rubbed over the skin. This type of Udvartana helps improving skin texture, complexion, glow and tone. The main purpose ofsnigdha Udvartana is to exfoliate and rejuvenate the skin and to prevent skin diseases. According to Charaka Samhita, snigdha Udvartana is useful in weak and delicate people. It also includes people with sensitive skin who cannot tolerate rubbing of the dry herbal powders. Ruksha Udvartana uses dry powders of herbs for rubbing. Herbal ingredients which are rough and dry in nature and reduce excess Kapha are used. Ruksha Udvartana is beneficial for reducing excess fat under the skin. According to Charaka Samhita, rukshaUdvartana is useful in obese people.
According to Sushruta Samhita, herbs used in Utsadan (oily powder massage) have both actions of strengthening the body as well as reducing fat. Its mixture is also prepared from powdered herbs mixed with medicated oils. Actually, it is a sub-type of snigdha Udvartana with unique herbs having strengthening and fat reducing properties. This is used in people with very dry, sensitive and delicate skin.