I am a massage junkie. What's not to love... you get kneaded like dough and stress melts away. Why don't we do what we can to feel this way more often? Do a form of it at home regularly, as part of a self care routine, and you might not need someone else to dig into your knots so often. You might also be able to help yourself mediate conditions such as depression, anxiety, insomnia, and more.
Abhyanga, A Best Practice
Abhyanga is self massage. As part of the 5000-year old sister science to yoga (Ayurveda means "science of life"), self-massage with body oil daily is like medicine you give yourself every day to maintain wellbeing. There are few self-love expressions that are more supportive than anointing yourself with specially-chosen, healing oils.
Ayurveda says that accumulated toxins build up in the mind and body daily - everything from pent-up stress and grief to that overly-processed, expired, frozen burrito you "accidentally" ate for lunch. The act of working oil into the skin, the largest organ in the body, simultaneously addresses physical blockages to release toxins, while infusing the healing properties of the body oil into you. Add a specific essential oil blend to your body oil for abhyanga, and now we're talking (more on that later).
The Benefits of Abhyanga
Along with this practice comes calmer nerves, better sleep, joint support, mental clarity, flushing impurities by moving lymph, reduced chronic fatigue, deeper sleep, nicer skin, and more. Abhyanga isn't just about stress-busting, but a means to nourish your whole self - like maintaining a car well can keep in running in good condition for years. It balances the doshas, too (pacifies Pitta, soothes Vata, stimulates Kapha).
Want to go the distance? Oil up! Here's how.
Step One: Prepare Your Oil
Different types of people might benefit from different oils, but jojoba is pretty good across the board. I love this blend (adapted from a NY Aromatics Institute blend) for centering and honoring inner warmth, stoking digestive fire, and cleansing (numbers = drops of essential oil).
2 oz bottle of jojoba oil
14 black pepper
5 drops helichrysum (optional skin healer)
Note: if you run hot or are dealing with hot flashes, chemo, or similar conditions, replace ginger with cypress or fennel and black pepper with 7 drops spearmint.
Step Two: Prepare Your Environment
Put away your devices to give your full attention to you and your breathing during this practice. Quiet or some soft music is fine too. Budget a minimum of five minutes (but obviously, you can spend more time).
Step Three: Massage
Warm your oil in a glass cup/mug and test the oil for temperature
Sit in a warm room
Apply the oil to the crown of your head and work it down your hair
Massage your scalp, temples, forehead, jaws, ears, ear lobes
Work down your body and massage toward the heart, using long strokes for your arms, circular strokes for your elbows
Massage your abdomen, starting on the right side, across, and down the left side (path of digestion)
Work down your body, using long strokes for your legs, circular strokes for your knees
Spend extra time massaging your feet and sit so that the oil can absorb into the layers of the body (this would be a wonderful time to meditate)
Step Four: Rinse
Classically, Ayurveda asks us to take a gentle, moderately-paced warm bath or shower afterward without scrubbing or a ton of soap (the oil has already absorbed) and dry yourself gently with a soft towel (versus vigorous, agitated drying). Ayurveda also asks us to do this in the morning.
However, we all know modern life sometimes doesn't allow us to practice the way the ancients did, so do your best. An option to accommodate real life: do this at night, bathe lightly, and do a super gentle rinse if you tend to shower in the morning (like a 60-second, no soap shower). Sometimes I find a nighttime abhyanga is just the thing I need to relax from the day.
An Anti-Aging Treatment, Too?
According to one of the ancient texts of Ayurveda, abhyanga is also a beautifying routine, as you're taking the best care of your skin and all the things inside that affect the outward appearance of the skin.
“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
At first, you might say, I don't have time for this... which is something to note. True, we all experience the challenge of time, for real. But, we can try to prioritize the things that are good for us, and that is self-care.
The most important thing to remember if you believe abhyanga could really help you, little by little and then a lot, is to try to incorporate it daily, period. Or, at least try to do it a few times a week. What if you just started with your feet? What if you just did your hands? Start somewhere. Then, expand as you can.
You might come to look forward to abhyanga as the best part of your day. Not only does it feel like a treat, it's essential self care that's stood the test of time.
If you would like to chat more about daily self care routines or specifically choose oils to add to your abhyanga routine, let's figure out what you need for seasons and circumstances. Book an essential oils consult with me!