Massage has been used for centuries as a therapeutic tool for various ailments, injuries, and athletic recovery. Abhyanga, the Ayurvedic practice of self-massage is a self-care ritual that supports the healing of inner ailments and doubles as a profound expression of self-love. When pain or inflammation arises, it is often a call from our body that we need relaxation and self-healing. Self-Massage moves energy through the body which helps to clear the lymph system, relax muscles, release stagnant Qi, and alleviate trapped emotion initiating a deeper connection to self.
Some of the many health benefits of abhyanga massage include, a decrease in the effects of aging on the skin, an increase in muscle tone and circulation, an increase in bowel regularity, calming of the nervous system, improvement in quality of sleep, and increased feelings of self-worth.
The Benefits of Abhyanga
1. Supports the Lymphatic System
Massage increases blood flow and circulation. Self-massage is excellent for balancing lymphatic flow, as our lymphatic system clears more efficiently with direct movement to lymph areas. This helps to support immunity and lowers blood pressure.
2. Promotes a Positive Mood
Massage is very soothing and promotes relaxation. This practice is highly beneficial for those struggling with fluctuations in mood. Massage reduces cortisol and increases serotonin and dopamine levels, which can help to alleviate anxiety and depression.
3. Lowers Inflammation
Self-massage can be done at any time to decrease pain and tension in the body. This increases flexibility, range of motion, and reduces tension in our ligaments and connective tissue.
4. Increases Self Love
When we take the time to nurture ourselves, a flood of love flows in. Abhyanga offers the same qualities as being loved by another person. It invites stability, warmth, strength, and openness.
5. Decreases Stress
Stress takes quite a toll on the whole body. Abhyanga benefits disorders in the ear, decreases stiffness in the neck, and clears stiffness in the jaw.
6. Improves Blood Circulation
Self-massage encourages the removal of metabolic wastes and provides instant energy throughout the body. It helps turn the function of the organs up and increases the ability to flush toxins.
Step by Step Abhyanga Ritual
1. Pick herbs and oil that you love. Almond, coconut, apricot and jojoba are great carrier oils. You can add herbs or essential oils that you feel drawn to.
2. Start by applying some oil to the crown of your head, working in circular motions. Use gentle pressure from your fingertips and massage the entire scalp before continuing to the face. Use the same process on the face and work from the center outward. Don’t forget your earlobes; they are home to some very important nerve endings!
3. Next, move to your hands, wrists and then on to the arms. Use long sweeping motions across the limbs and circular motions on your joints always moving towards the heart center of the body.
4. Continue this long sweeping process with your legs, starting at your ankles and working up (towards your hearts center), using circular motions over the joints.
5. Working on the torso, use a gentle circular/clockwise motion following the path of the large intestine; up the right side of the abdomen, across the top and then down the left side. Work the chest use gentle circular, clockwise motions on the chest/collar bones working in the heart center.
6. Gently yet firmly, complete your massage by giving some extra attention to your feet. We are hard on our feet so they deserve some extra TLC to nourish the skin, prevent cracking/dryness, relieve numbness and improve blood flow. It is best to let the massage oil sit for 15-20 minutes.
7. Finally, enjoy a warm bath or shower using a mild soap only on “necessary” areas (genitals, armpits, and possible hair).