Self Abhyanga Practice
We’ve all heard it before… Take care of yourself first. Prioritize your own well-being, because only then can you most effectively care for others. You have to love yourself before you can love anyone else, etc.
It’s easy to understand the truths stated above. However in our busy, modern-day lives, it can be a challenge to put these truths into practice. Oftentimes for the person who tries to get it all done, every day, it can be a superhuman task. Prioritizing for yourself is the last thing on your mind.
You have to eat, so food must be shopped for and cooked. The kids have to be picked up, and they need help with homework and all their extracurricular activities. The house must be tidied, and the dog must be walked (for we know the consequences of making the poor thing wait too long). And then there’s that deadline at work…it is never-ending.
With the busyness of our day-to-day activities, how do you stop and make yourself the center of our own lives again?
It starts with intention. You probably already have the intention, or at least the willingness to have intention, since you’re reading this. So let’s get started. Let’s cultivate the intention to prioritize your own well-being. Start by giving your bodies some love with Ayurvedic self massage or abhyanga.
So just how is self massage done?
- Use comfortably-warm massage oil. (Store your massage oil in a small container and warm it by holding the container under running hot water, or setting it in a bowl or container of hot water.)
- Dip your fingertips into the warm oil and apply it lightly to your entire body.
- Wait a few minutes to let some of the oil be absorbed by your skin, then massage your entire body, applying even pressure with the whole hand — palm and fingers.
- Use circular motions over rounded areas such as your head or joints, and straight strokes on straight areas such as your arms and legs.
- Apply light pressure on sensitive areas such as the abdomen or the heart.
- Use more oil and spend more time where nerve endings are concentrated, such as the soles of the feet, palms of the hands and along the base of the fingernails.
- Pitta dosha would choose Olive or Sunflower oil lukewarm
- Vata dosha would choose Sesame oil warmer
- Kapha dosha would choose Sesame oil warmer
- Do the test to know about your body constitution here
After we are done, relax for 5-15 minutes, letting the oil and the massage do their magic. The longer the oil is on, the deeper it penetrates. During this time, we can read something relaxing and uplifting, and rest; or shave, cut nails, and get ready for the day. Dab excess oil off with paper towels if you like, then follow with a relaxing warm bath or shower. If your schedule simply won’t allow for a daily self massage, at least make it a priority a few times a week.
There are many benefits to self massage; some may even surprise you! Here is a list of some of our favorite benefits from a long-term abhyanga practice.
1. Self massage calms the nerves.
Abhyanga is great for calming and soothing the entire nervous system. The more often you do it, the greater the effect will be. You may notice a general sense of peace and tranquility, even amid the hectic goings-on of day-to-day life. Abhyanga can help us maintain more clarity and calmness if faced with difficult situations or decisions.
2. It increases stamina and alertness.
A great and often unsung benefit of self-massage with herbal massage oils is increased energy and stamina throughout the day. This results because the massaging action boosts the metabolism, helps nourish and replenish skin tone and muscles, tunes up the functioning of internal organs and optimizes the body’s ability to flush and remove toxins; and, if that weren’t enough right there, also revitalizes and energizes the cells of the body. Whew! I’m energized just thinking about it.
3. It creates better, deeper sleep at night
If you’re having trouble sleeping, self massage is great to do shortly before bed. Grab your favorite aromatic massage oil, and take some extra time in the evening to wind down and luxuriate in a warm-oil massage followed by a warm bath.
4. It detoxifies the body & manages weight.
Performing abhyanga on a daily basis is a great way to detoxify. Massaging with warm oil helps loosen toxins from the soft tissues in the body, allowing them to be removed by the elimination systems of our bodies. If we take advantage of this benefit and follow it up with daily exercise, then abhyanga can support healthy weight management in addition to being an effective daily detox. Abhyanga complements a daily workout by toning the muscles and getting the blood circulating.
5. It gives you more “you time”.
It is fascinating, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence, that the Sanskrit word snehameans both “oil” and “love,” as the effects of abhyanga — physically, emotionally and psychologically — are akin to being nurtured with love. Both experiences can give a deep feeling of stability, warmth and comfort.
By making this practice of self-care a priority, we are essentially saying to ourselves and to those close to us that yes, we deserve to be cared for, nourished and loved. It may feel new at first, but the more we prioritize our needs and wants, the easier finding “me time” will become. All those other things we need to do will still happen; the difference is now they’ll get done from a place of greater calmness.
Practicing self-love may rub off on those closest to us, and they may start doing the same for themselves. In relationships, two people can bring to the table only what they have inside, and the more we have to give, the more the relationship flourishes. When both can give, the relationship grows. The more we radiate self-love and self-respect, the more outside respect and love comes our way.
So grab some massage oil and a towel. It’s recommended to have a designated towel for self massage, as it can be difficult to get the smell and feel of oil out of towels. Put on some relaxing music. Diffuse some calming aromas, and just do it. For yourself. For your health. You are worth it.
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