A full body massage or Abhyanga (the Ayurvedic practice of self-massage) is a fantastic way to give love to yourself, reconnect with you body and ground yourself in the present moment.
Traditionally we would use warm, herbal oil, but there are lots of things you could use to massage yourself in times of uncertainty.
Oil. Coconut, sesame, olive, or special herbal oils (including those infused with CBD or cannabis) are all great for nourishing your skin during this practice. For best effects, warm the oil beforehand and then let it soak into your skin for 15-30 minutes after your massage, taking some time to relax and focus on your breath. Follow with a hot shower or bath.
- Lotion. Don’t have time for a shower? Just use some lotion. You won’t be left feeling greasy and your body will thank you for the extra hydration.
Soap. Try giving yourself a massage in the shower as you lather up with soap. Plus, washing your hair is the perfect opportunity for an incredible scalp massage.
This self-massage technique isn’t exactly muscular, it works on a cellular level. It nourishes the body, spirit, and mind while also detoxifying by increasing circulation (like facial Gua Sha), enhancing relaxation, and restoring energy.
According to the Chopra Center these are the benefits of Abhyanga:
- Nourishes the entire body
- Imparts muscle tone and firmness to the limbs
- Lubricates the joints
- Increases circulation
- Stimulates the internal organs
- Moves the lymph, aiding in detoxification
- Increases stamina
- Calms the nerves
- Benefits sleep—better, deeper sleep
- Makes hair (scalp) grow luxuriantly, thick, soft and glossy
- Softens and smoothens skin
- Pacifies Vata and Pitta and stimulates Kapha— follow this link to learn more about Doshas.
Try these techniques, starting at your head and ending with your feet, but then find a massage routine that resonates with you. If something feels uncomfortable, avoid it. If you need to spend extra time in an area, do so. This is about pausing to tune into your body, then listening and responding to its needs.
WHEN TO MASSAGE
Before bed: Relax the body and mind before laying down for sleep.
In the morning: Energize yourself and create a positive mindset as you begin the day.
- If you are using oil, warm it in a pot of hot water
- Find a serene, comfortable space in your home where you can be alone and sit down, or stand up, on your towel.
- Apply oil first to the crown of your head and work slowly out from there in circular strokes—spend a couple of minutes massaging your entire scalp. Try some extra TLC with our Jade Comb here!
Close your eyes, and focus on your breath.
Face: Massage in circular motion on your forehead, temples, cheeks, and jaws (always moving in a upward movement). Spend extra time around your eyes.
Be sure to massage your ears, especially your ear-lobes. Spending time massaging every part of the ear and the area behind it.
Massage your neck, shoulders, and chest with long, firm motions. If you carry tension in this area, spend special time applying extra pressure and focus on releasing that energy.
- Use long strokes on the limbs (arms and legs) and circular strokes on the joints (elbows and knees). Always massage toward the direction of your heart
- Try smiling and sending loving intentions to your organs.
- Massage the abdomen and chest in broad, clockwise, circular motions. On the abdomen, follow the path of the large intestine; moving up on the right side of the abdomen, then across, then down on the left side
Bring your hands firmly down one side of your body, massaging the area around your rib cage. Massage as much of your back as you can reach.
- Finish the massage by spending at least a couple of minutes massaging your feet. Feet are a very important part of the body with the nerve endings of essential organs. Spend time here, carefully massaging each of your toes.
Don’t forget your hands. They work for you all day long, give them a little love!
- Sit with the oil for 5-15 minutes if possible so that the oil and love can be absorbed and penetrate into the deeper layers of the body
- Enjoy a warm bath or shower.
- When you get out of the bath, towel dry gently. Blot the towel on your body instead of rubbing vigorously
Focus on your breath and work on slowing it down to a steady rhythm while you massage.
Long, soft strokes are more relaxing whereas short, circular strokes with firm pressure are more energizing.
Enjoy the feeling of having nourished your body, mind, and spirit and carry that with you throughout your day
Did you know? The Sanskrit word Sneha can be translated as both “oil” and “love.” It is believed that the effects of Abhyanga are similar to those received when one is saturated with love. Like the experience of being loved, Abhyanga can give a deep feeling of stability and warmth.
These are some exceptions when Abhyanga is not recommended
- During the menstrual cycle: Massage with deep pressure during the menstrual cycle is not advised in Ayurveda, as it can initiate a release of ama (toxins) from deep tissues at a time when the body is already a bit taxed. Some people don’t like to stop Abhyanga during their cycle because they have very dry skin. If you choose to do it during your cycle, it is best to apply the oil gently and for only about five minutes.
- During pregnancy: The reasoning is similar here. It is not a good idea to stimulate any sort of detox process during pregnancy. This precaution protects the growing embryo and fetus against any unnecessary exposure to ama.
- Over swollen, painful areas or masses on the body (Or do so only with the knowledge and consent of your health-care practitioner).
- Over infected or broken skin
- When there is high ama or great physical discomfort. A thick, white coating on the tongue often indicates high levels of ama.
- During any sort of acute illness such as fever, chills, flu, or acute indigestion
- Directly after taking emetics or purgatives
- When you have a medical condition (Unless your health-care practitioner says it is okay to do Abhyanga).
< Pictures via Pinterest - unknown author but would love to give credit. >