Abhyanga or Self-Massage:
“The body of one who uses oil massage regularly does not become affected much even if subjected to accidental injuries, or strenuous work. By using oil massage daily, a person is endowed with pleasant touch, trimmed body parts and becomes strong, charming and least affected by old age.”
-Charaka Samhita Vol. 1, V: 88-89
(One of the ancient texts of Ayurveda)
Self-massage is one of the ultimate self-care practices. By massaging your own body you are consistently toning/healing/rejuvenating your muscles, increasing circulation, deeply restoring the nervous system, lubricating the joints, softening the skin, and breaking up toxins and fat that could be sitting stagnant. Plus, you are enacting deep self-love and relaxation that you probably don't gift yourself often as of this moment.
It might be awkward at first, but I promise you will crave it. The goal of Ayurveda, this blog, this practice is to keep coming home to you-- how you actually are not what your imbalances make you think you are. Find a warm, cozy, private spot and massage away what's stuck and won't let go.
- If you have the time to warm the oil, do so on a stovetop on low heat until it is perfectly warm.
- In the winter months, sesame oil is best because it is heating. In the summer months coconut oil is best because it is cooling. For all seasons in between sunflower is very neutral and can be used by itself or mixed with either sesame or coconut.
- Option to add some essential oils to the base oil (or even your bathwater): lavender, mint, and rose are some favorites that add a subtle scent to the skin. Add these AFTER warming the oil if you choose to do so.
- If some days you are feeling very heavy and slow you can just use the loofah or gloves before the shower and that will help rev up circulation and metabolism.
- The slower you go, the more benefits you reap. Take this time to self-soothe and relax. You deserve it.
- If you do not have time or patience (it happens) for the full practice, massage the oil on some important areas for you; your heart, your low back, any aches or pains you have, e.t.c. At night massage your feet before bed for better rest.
- Designate a towel for this practice because over time the towel will get a little rough from all the excess oil you wipe off after your shower or bath.
- Use a loofah glove or silk glove on your dry skin first. Quickly and lightly brush your skin to gently exfoliate the dead skin and start the detoxing process.
- Take warmed oil and generously coat your skin.
- Start with your extremities: the head, hair, and ears or toes, feet and ankles. End with your abdominal area.
- Work your way up or down to move towards your belly; use strong vigorous strokes on the muscles and circular movements on the joints.
- When you find a place of discomfort, stay there a bit and give that area some more attention.
- Once you get to your belly, use a clockwise motion to move toxins loosened by the massage through your G.I. tract and down for best chance of elimination.
- Wait 10 minutes if possible then step into a warm bath or shower. Do NOT use soap. The oil has a cleansing property and you want a light coating on your skin like you would have after using lotion to protect your skin for the rest of the day.
- The hot water opens the pores in the skin and lets the oil seep deeply into your tissues for repair and rejuventaion. This is not a cetyl-alcohol-filled-lotion application where it just stays on the surface of your skin and you wonder why you are always still dry. This is a legitimate, skin softening, health improving practice.
- Step out, towel off with a designated towel and get dressed.
- Smile for accomplishing such a beautiful gift to yourself.
Last suggestion! Most of my life (until the past few years with Ayurveda) I have fluctuated with my weight so when I first started this practice I would vigorously, almost angrily rub my hips with the oil. I wanted the fat to break apart and never ever return. After about six months of this, my hips always felt a little sore so I decided one day to just gently rub them with the oil. When I touched the skin around my hips I felt a shock of anxiety run through me! My heart raced a little, my mind felt a little frantic, and my hips all of sudden felt achey and painful. I realized that my angry, negative-intentioned hip massage was actually creating a fear response for my body when I touched that area. I wasn't relaxing myself, I was literally hurting myself. My last suggestion is to not just have an intention to love but POUR all the love you have into your massage as you touch your body. Be mindful of your self-talk and don't let that translate into your hands.