A daily self-massage (known in Sanskrit as Abhyanga) with herbalized massage oil is one of the most important tools to activate your inner pharmacy and balance your doshas. The skin is the largest organ of the body; it helps us maintain our temperature and is a way by which we can ingest nutrients and release toxins from the body. In Ayurveda, we do a daily self-massage from head to toe as part of our morning routine.
How to do it:
Warm the oil so it is pleasant feeling to the skin. Starting with the head, massaging the scalp, ears and face, moving down to the neck and shoulders, on to the arms and hands, the chest, belly, and back (as far as you can reach comfortably), the buttocks, pelvis and hips, legs and feet. Massage with circular motion on the joints and long strokes on the long bones. If you do not have time for a full body massage (which really only takes about 5-7 minutes), at least do the head, neck, and feet. You really can’t do it wrong and do not be attached to doing it “right”. What’s important is your intention of self-love and giving something to yourself that is nurturing, nourishing and empathetic. Human touch has been found to be very important in health and wellbeing. Babies who are not touched and held can actually suffer developmental and cognitive issues and even death. If you do not have a partner and/or are not getting enough hugs, it can be detrimental to your overall health and wellbeing in ways which you may be unaware. Sometimes we are lacking in this area and distract ourselves with busyness so as not to face our loneliness and/or lack of physical connection with people. Abhyanga is a way of giving that loving, nurturing touch to yourself. Lubricating the body-mind on the outside with oil is a way to loosen toxins from the physiology, decrease physical rigidity, as well as bring awareness to the other ways we may be mentally rigid in our lives. Immune function is another significant benefit of self-massage as the lymph glands located just below the skin do not have a pump like the heart, and rely on movement and massage to release toxins and promote cleansing and detoxification. In addition, self-massage has the following benefits:
Vata (heavier, heating) Sesame, Almond (can add essential oils lavender, vanilla, cardamom, rose)
Pitta (cooling, soothing) Coconut, Sunflower, Olive (can add essential oils sandalwood, patchouli, jasmine, peppermint)
Kapha (lighter, warming) Safflower, Sunflower, Mustard (can add citrus, ginger, peppermint)
There will be more on the doshas in a later post, but in the meantime, enjoy the benefits of this ancient practice as you continue your journey of resurrecting the health and wellbeing you deserve. Enjoy! ; )
Dr. Joanna Carmichael is an RN, Doctor of Metaphysics & Divinity, Interfaith Minister, Ayurveda, Meditation & Yoga Practitioner, Spiritual Teacher and animal activist.