As I transition to managing the Well Being Center at the Sivananda Ashram Yoga Retreat, our services include Ayurveda and other Healing Modality Treatments. Massage is daily on my mind here, as we provide Therapeutic Massages and Thai Yoga Massages.
This Guest Blog was contributed by Jennie Hastings (SriDevi). She is a past BestYOU contributor, and her advice is wonderful for all of us - virtually no cost, convenient and filled with love.
“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 great ancient texts of Ayurveda)
As a massage therapist or bodyworker you know the benefits of massage. You know massage helps flush toxins through the body, toning the lymph system and muscles, increasing feelings of relaxation and well-being, and decreasing stress and tension. You are an expert at helping people feel better in their bodies through the art of touch. You probably receive massage and bodywork from other therapists as a form of self care. But did you realize that you can massage yourself?
Perhaps this is a silly question. If you are anything like me you have a basket full of tools that help you work on yourself. I've spent tons of time digging into my forearms with my fingers, rolling around on a tennis ball or foam roller, or going at my rhomboids with a Theracane. This kind of self-massage was always a somewhat desperate attempt to mitigate the strain of over-working. I never thought about massaging myself unless I was already in pain.
It was only recently that I learned the art of self-massage and how a regular routine augments my life and keeps me out of pain. Self-massage, or Abhyanga as it is called in Ayurveda, is a form of self care that has been around since before humans got around to writing about it almost two thousand years ago. Abhyanga is oil massage that uses long strokes that move towards the heart, not unlike the Swedish technique most of us learned in school.
In Sanskrit, which is the original language of Ayurveda, the word for “oil” and the word for “love” are the same. The application of oil to a body then is the same as the application of love. Abhyanga describes a technique that can be given to another person, but mostly it refers to a massage given to oneself.
The major benefit of self-massage is that there are few obstacles to receiving one. There is no need to make an appointment, it is done in the convenience of your own home, and the length of the massage can be adapted to your schedule. There are lots of videos and articles online that describe how to do Abhyanga. I will share with you a way that works for me.
In the morning, before I take a shower, I put a plastic bottle filled with organic sunflower oil in a warm glass of water. When I get out of the shower I dry off and put some of the warm oil in the palms of my hands. With long strokes I apply the oil from my ankles to my hips, and from my wrists to my shoulders. I spend extra time around my knees and elbows. I apply the oil on my face and neck, helping the lymph flow down out of my head. I massage my abdomen in a clock-wise direction, then massage over my chest in a figure eight. I pay particular attention to the sides of my torso, drawing up from my hips towards my armpits. I sweep from the base of my head over my upper trapezius, giving myself extra attention in the places that need it. I use enough oil that I feel moisturized, and not too much that it stains my clothes when I put them on.
In the evening I might repeat the whole process, but if I don't, I always massage my feet. At the end of the day a foot massage is so relieving. There are so many nerve endings and reflexive points in the feet that, when massaged, soothe the entire body. I have a bottle of sesame oil with jatamansi essential oil in it that helps to warm my feet and ground my energy. After my foot massage I put on socks and go to bed. It helps me sleep and have good dreams.
One of the most helpful aspects of Abhyanga is self-love. Slowing down life enough to take the time to give yourself a thorough massage is nurturing on so many levels. It increases oxytocin, which in turn creates better thoughts, feelings, and relationships. Abhyanga is prescribed in Ayurveda to help with insomnia, scattered thoughts, and dryness of the tissues. It improves digestion. It helps the skin, the largest organ of the body, detoxify. There are other benefits too, some that can only be understood through experience.
I notice how some times I will rush through my Abhyanga with very little mindfulness. Just getting it done. And then I'll notice how good it feels to slow down, to feel the oil between my palms, to slowly sweep my hands over my body with attention and presence. When I'm really being mindful I repeat an affirmation in my mind while I massage myself.
Practicing Abhyanga regularly is extremely supportive to your health.You can use different oils depending on your constitution and the season and climate you are in. Sesame oil is good for the winter as it is warming and heavy. Coconut oil is better for the summer as it is cooling and lighter. Sunflower oil is a good general oil to use. Make sure to buy organic oil from the grocery store that you would eat. Anything you put on your skin is ingested into your body.
I was a massage therapist for more than a decade before I came to fully understand the amazing health benefits of massage. I gave thousands of hours of massage to other people and felt them transform through treatment plans that had them coming in once a week or sometimes even twice. But it was not until I began to massage myself, everyday, that I realized how profound massage truly is.
Thank you SriDevi Jennie for the insightful post and thank YOU for taking this journey with me!
For more from Jennie Hastings, check out http://inspiredmassagetherapist.com/
Loving Life and Living Love,
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