Ayurveda – Yoga’s ‘sister science’ of holistic medicine and preventative health care – recommends several self-care techniques that not only bring great health, vitality and purification to the body, but also offer an opportunity for compassionate self-care that can bring healing and connection to body, mind and spirit. In a series of Self Care articles, I will share a few of these simple Ayurvedic Self Care techniques with you, and I hope you find them useful and empowering!
Abhyanga Massage is an oil-based self-massage that nourishes, moisturizes and feeds your skin on every level. No need for a cupboard full of lotions and potions, when practiced daily Abhyanga massage will keep your skin soft, supple and glowing even in the most dry climates. Ideally practiced daily in the morning after the Garshana dry-skin brushing massage and before a bath or shower, I like to practice this at night before bed for the most delicious sleep ever!
To begin, have your oil in a small bottle with a pump or squeeze top and place the bottle in a bowl of hot water for a few minutes to warm it. While your oil is warming get undressed, and use your Garshana (dry skin brushing) technique.
Start by squeezing a bit of oil (1-2 tsp) into your hands and working into your scalp with your fingers.
Add a little more oil and smooth onto your face and neck lightly. This is not the massage yet, just getting the oil on.
Keep adding oil as you work down your body, smoothing the oil over shoulders, arms, hands, even your
fingernails. Work all the way down your body, front and back, to your toenails.
Now the massage begins.
On your head and face use your fingers to massage the oil into your scalp and skin. Take a bit of time in each place to massage, smooth and sweep then move on.
Once you are finished with your head and face, now you will use the palm and heel of your hand (rather than your fingers) to massage your neck, chest and upper back with small strokes. As you work down your arms, on your joints (shoulders, elbows, wrists) use small circles, and on your long bones (upper arm, lower arm) use longer strokes. Try to use at least 10 strokes on each place. Work over your back wherever you can reach.
As you work down your abdomen, massage in a clockwise motion on your abdomen to support great digestion (massage upwards on your right side, across your upper abdomen, then down on your left side).
On your legs, again use circles on your joints (hips, knees, ankles) and longer strokes on your long bones.
Massage your feet all the way to the toenails.
Once you have massaged each place the oil will have been on your body for 12-15 minutes and this is enough. Now you can get into the shower and wash the oil off with a gentle soap, shampoo your hair, and wash your face. Your body has had time to take on all the oil it needs, so you are just washing off the excess. If you want a little extra luxury, first take a long soak in the bath, then shower the oil off.
· Ideally practiced daily, first thing in the morning – at least once a week is recommended.
· Oils to use include coconut, almond, or sesame. You can get larger quantities of oil from massage therapy suppliers for much better prices if you intend to make this a regular practice. If you get a litre of oil, also get a small squeeze bottle to put a little oil at a time so you can warm it and work with it more easily.
· You can add some aromatherapy oils to your base massage oil. For ideas on what base oils and aromatherapy oils to use for your Dosha (constitution) there are heaps of websites that will give you a quick Dosha test which will help you determine what is your best massage oil and aromatherapy oils.
Massage Oils: Sesame, Almond, Jojoba
Aromatherapy: Lavender, Geranium, Patchouli, Ylang Ylang
Massage Oils: Coconut, Almond, Sunflower
Aromatherapy Oils: Rose, Lavender, Sandalwood, Jasmine
Massage Oils: Sunflower, Safflower, Sesame
Aromatherapy Oils: Eucalyptus, Bergamot, Lemon, Peppermint
Next month we’ll talk more about the doshas. For now, I hope you enjoy this addition to your daily/weekly self care practice.