Daily self-massage. An intro to abhyanga.

Based on the principles of Ayurveda, a typical daily routine should include nurturing food, exercise, meditation and, my absolute favourite technique, abhyanga. This is the practice of warm, oil, self-massage which has a number of health and wellness benefits including improved circulation, detoxification and lymphatic drainage. And it also soothes away tension, anxiety and stress. I love it. 

There is so much I could share about this ritual including its origins in ancient India, techniques for each dosha, how to select your oil etc. But, the most important thing to do when you first try abhyanga is to find the oil you like and to make sure you spend an adequate amount of time massaging your entire body. It is best to do it daily. But, even if you can only do it a few times per week, take 20 minutes to massage every achy bone and muscle. This video from Banyan Botanicals provides a great demo if you want to learn the proper technique.

It is important to massage the entire body from the crown of your head to the fascia on the soles of your feet, including the areas that a massage therapist will shy away from in the western world. These spots include breast tissue, lymph nodes in the arm pits, your stomach, buttocks and even the glutes. Don't be shy. The whole body can benefit from increased circulation and it also helps with cellulite. And I don't know anyone who wants that on their rear end.

Depending on your unique constitution, and your personal preference, you can use a simple base of sesame or almond oil for their warming effects during a cold and dry winter. Or, you can try coconut oil which is cooling and great for all constitutions during the hot summer months. If you would prefer a different scent, you can infuse the base oil with any of your favorite essential oils. I love adding in jasmine or lavender for their calming effects. Using 10-20 drops in an ounce of base oil is a good rule of thumb. But, once again, it can be tailored based on your preference. 

I have provided links so you can purchase some of my favourite oils including coconutsesame and almond oil. But, you can find these oils just about anywhere these days including your local health food store or Whole Foods. Just be sure to only use organic oil. I find the best way to know if it is a good, natural, organic oil is to see if you recognize or can read the ingredients on the label. If you have never heard of an ingredient, put it back on the shelf. I follow the same rule with the food I eat. If my grand mother has never heard of it, I don't eat it or put it on my skin. Period.

For me, the best time to do an abhyanga massage is right after my daily shower in the morning. But, many people do it prior, so the oil can absorb while the pores are open under the hot water. My only issue with that is the oil tends to clog the drain. I also have long hair, so the combination is not pretty (when it comes to drain maintenance that is). So, I do it afterwards and make sure I leave time for it to absorb before I get dressed. Every once in while I bring it with me to the gym and do it in the change room. You should see the reaction I get from my fellow gym rats and yogis. Priceless.