We’ve all heard it before: take care of ourselves first; prioritize our own well-being, because only then can we most effectively care for others; we have to love ourselves before we can love anyone else; etc.
It’s easy to understand the truth 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, and prioritizing for ourselves is the last thing on our mind. We 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 we stop and make ourselves 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 our own well-being and start by giving our bodies some love with ayurvedic self-massage, known as abhyanga!
Sounds simple, and it is... So just how is ayurvedic abhyanga 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.
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 massage, at least make it a priority a few times a week.
Need more instruction? Check out our step-by-step how-to-practice-abhyanga video.
There are many benefits to abhyanga; some may even surprise you! Here is a list of some of our favorite benefits from a long-term abhyanga practice:
Calms the nervesAbhyanga 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
Increases levels of stamina and alertness throughout the dayA 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.
Better, deeper sleep at nightIf you’re having trouble sleeping, abhyanga 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.
Detox & healthy weight managementPerforming 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.
More “You Time”It is fascinating, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence, that the Sanskrit word sneha means 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 abhyanga, 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.
SAFETY NOTE: All oils are highly flammable. Be sure to observe proper safety precautions. Clothing, linens, towels, etc. that have absorbed oil should be laundered immediately, thoroughly and with special attention. Storing oily towels can result in spontaneous combustion/fire hazard. Automatic drying can overheat the oil residue in cloth and create a fire hazard. If machine drying, use low heat and remove as soon as dry.
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