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 first love ourselves before we can love anyone else.
It’s easy to understand this principal. 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 need help with homework and all their extracurricular activities. The house must be tidied, and the dog must be walked (we know the consequences of making the poor thing wait too long) and then there’s that deadline at work. It 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 massage, known as abhyanga!
Sounds simple, and it is… So just how is ayurvedic Abhyanga done?
- Comfortably-warm massage oil is applied to the body with speed, pressure and direction varied to best treat your current mind and body imbalances.
- The type of oil or blend of oils is adjusted as well. The oil is also the \”medicine\”. The oils will be internally warming or cooling and may include blends of herbs and spices for skin and muscle considerations.
- Depending on the dosha imbalance that is being addressed, various motions or techniques are used. For example, Vata requires a calming stroke and will be slower and focused in more downward directions to help ground and balance the mind as well as the body.
- Of course, pressure is always applied within the client\’s comfort zone. However, pressure is also an important consideration.
- More time may be spent where nerve endings are concentrated, such as the soles of the feet, palms of the hands and along the base of the fingernails. Massaging the feet, Padabhyanga-Reflexology is of particular importance in Ayurveda.
After the massage, let the oil and the massage do their magic. Try to maintain this relaxed mind-body state as long as possible. Also, the longer the oil remains on the body, the deeper it penetrates. Excessive oil may be gently removed with a towel. Weekly or monthly massages are recommended if your schedule permits. Daily self-abhyanga should also be adapted for maintaining optimal health.
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 nerves
Abhyanga 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 day. A great and often unsung benefit of 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 night. If you’re having trouble sleeping, abhyanga is a great friend. Combined with taking some extra time in the evening to wind down and pamper yourself with quiet meditation and relaxation helps prepare the mind and body to rest.
- Detox & healthy weight management. Abhyanga 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 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.