Why should I practice Abhyanga?
In Ayurveda, the hands are seen as the vehicle for conveying and bestowing love, affection, and healing energy. In Sanskrit, the term sneha translates as both “oil” and “love.”
Based on these two facts alone, self-massage represents not only a therapeutic practice, but a powerful act of self-love as well.
Massaging herbalized oils onto the skin allows the healing properties of the herbs, base oils, and essential oils to be administered directly to the skin and subdermal tissues, which include the lymphatic, muscular, adipose, skeletal, nervous, and reproductive tissue layers.
Self-massage is an incredible tool for stress-management and improving your sleep! Warm oil acts like a soft, heavy blanket to soothe the nerves, calm an overactive mind, and ground scattered energy.
… and that’s just scratching the surface!
Why Oil? Why not lotion?
Lotions are typically water-based, which means they are not lipid-soluble -- ie, not readily absorbed by the skin. Instead, they provide a quick-fix moisturized sensation, then easily evaporate from the skin, leaving it drier and more depleted.
Applying oil to the skin feeds our skin microbes. These microbes form the skin-associated lymphoid tissue (SALT), the protective barrier below the skin which plays a substantial role in our immunity and ability to ward off harmful pathogens. So, the more oil we use, the more we allow these beneficial microbes to grow & thrive!
How do I practice Abhyanga?
❖ Place bottled oil in a hot water bath to gently warm the oil.
❖ Pour a small amount into hands and starting at the lower legs, slowly start to massage up-and-down the long bones (shins, thighs, etc) and circularly around the joints (ankles, knees, etc).
❖ Work up through the length of the legs, around the hips, across the collarbones, around the shoulders, and down the arms and hands. At the abdominal/low back areas, massage in a circle up the right side, across the belly/back, and down the left side. Finishing with the feet feels particularly sweet & grounding. Full practice should take approx. 30-45 mins.
❖ For best effect, follow up with 5mins+ of legs up the wall/bed/couch etc to reinforce the sensation of heaviness & groundedness throughout your mind & body.
❖ Traditionally, a complete practice ends with a hot shower or steam to open the pores and dilate the blood vessels closest to the surface of the skin, allowing for maximal absorption and delivery of therapeutic properties. There are occasions, however, where it feels more supportive to allow the oil to absorb naturally overnight in order to avoid the drying qualities of a hot shower, ie during cold & dry spells. Use your judgement!
❖ Head to bed! Avoid getting on your computer, phone etc; capitalize on all grounded state you’ve cultivated in mind & body through this practice and let it guide you towards restful sleep.