Ayurveda’s Daily Ritual for Self-Care
Self-care holds an important place in Ayurvedic medicine. In fact, Ayurveda gives us a complete self-care system on achieving balance, called dinacharya (the daily routine). Ayurvedic self-care practices focus on balancing, prevention and healing from head to toe using diet, lifestyle, and treatments. One of the most rewarding practises is performing a daily self-oil massage, called Abhyanga.
Daily self-massage is one of the best gifts you can give your body! It’s a quick and positive way to unlock the body’s innate healing ability, revitalize the mind and empower you to maintain your body’s optimum health.
The main purpose of Abhyanga is to enhance the flow of vital energy (prana) around the body. Self-oil massage not only improves circulation, stimulates the lymphatic system, improves skin health and integrity, boosts energy and alleviates stress, but cultivates positive feelings of self-love, self-acceptance and boosts self-esteem. It’s the ultimate act of self-care.
The ritual of self-Abhyanga is traditionally performed before bathing in the early morning. It helps to remove toxins accumulated throughout the night and prepare your body for the day ahead. The use of warm oil is essential for this massage. The oil is able to flow through the channels of the body, nourishing the deeper layers of bodily tissues. The oil also has a special quality that helps us cultivate positive emotions.
The word for oil in Sanskrit (the ancient langue from India which the ancient Ayurvedic Texts are writing in), is ‘Sneha’. The words ‘Sneha’ also translates as Love in Sanskrit. This is because the ancients say that being saturated in warm oil cultivates the same feelings of being deeply in love. Therefore, abhyanga is the perfect act of self-love.
By taking 5-20 minutes daily, you are cultivating these warm feelings of being drenched in love and directing them towards to innermost being. It’s like giving yourself a big warm hug every morning! If performed with a calm and positive attitude, it is a powerful tool to strengthen positive emotions and ultimately self-acceptance.
Use nourishing, warming oils such as Black Sesame or Almond. Just 5-15 minutes daily can have profound benefits on your body and mind. Your body will love you.
How to perform a Self-Abhyanga massage:
- Perform a self-oil massage every morning before you shower.
- Warm the oil between your hands, or, if in a particularly cold environment, place the bottle of oil in some hot water for a few minutes.
- Pour a tablespoon of warm oil onto the crown of your head and massage vigorously in circular strokes.
- Gently massage your face, neck, and ears, applying more oil when needed.
- Move onto your limbs, starting from the extremities and working towards the center. When massaging your limbs, use long strokes with an open hand and use small circular strokes around the joints. Always massage in the direction towards your heart.
- When massaging your stomach, use large circular movements in the direction of digestion (clockwise) to aid peristalsis.
- Reach around to the back and spine, using both hands well oiled, and massage as well as you can.
- Apply a generous amount of oil and pay extra attention to your feet and hands. Individually massage each finger and toe and, vigorously with deep circular strokes, massage the palms and soles.
- Let the oil soak in for a few minutes then take a warm bath or shower. Showering after your message allows your pores to open and for the oil to be absorbed more deeply.