If I told you there was a phenomenal self-care technique that would calm your frazzled nerves, balance your energy, help you feel deeply nourished, and level-up your courage and strength to feeling invincible…
Would you think I was delusional?
Or would you be like, “Wait, What? I’m all in!”
That’s what I thought!
What high-achiever or spiritual seeker doesn’t want to unkink their central nervous system and the woes of an over stimulated culture?
The topic I’m sharing with you in the post was a GAME CHANGER for me when it came to decreasing pain, illness, and general feelings of overwhelm.
And I’m going to warn you right now, don’t dismiss it because you think that it’s too good and too simple to be true.
I see that reaction ALL the time. And it breaks my heart because the Truth is…
Healing happens as a result of the simple consistent actions we take.
And this is one action that can create profound healing. No kidding!
So many people think that they’re just going to wake up one day, after taking a magic pill, and everything will be different after having one great big healing event or epiphany.
Sorry, nope! I have rarely seen that happen in my 27+ years in healing practice.
So how about I give you one really fabulous tool, that works for EVERYONE, (no matter where you are on your healing journey or what your issues or imbalances are), and you practice implementing it into your routine?
Sound like a plan?
Let me introduce you to the sacred anointing practice in Ayurveda known as Abhyanga.
In the middle of my 10 year healing journey out of daily pain I was magically led to Ayurvedic medicine. I had no idea at the time just how profound this ancient healing system would be.
But the synchronicity of its introduction into my life wouldn’t allow me to ignore it. Also, after my first encounter with it I felt a deep sense of knowing resonate through my heart and soul. I literally heard what felt like the voice of God tell me, “Pay attention, this is important”.
Abhyanga is the anointing of the body with oil. Often infused with herbs and usually warm, the oil is massaged into the entire body before bathing.
Annointing the body with oil is an ancient practice that many in the holistic healing world are familiar with. But I’m not talking Young Living and Do-terra oils here.
Abhyanga is based on a completely different premise and has very different results.
The Sanskrit word sneha means both “oil” and “love,” and so the effects of abhyanga are similar to being saturated with love. Both experiences can give a deep feeling of stability, warmth and comfort.
And the first time I did Abhyanga, some 15 years ago, that is exactly what I felt. It was transformative!
I had been living away from home for 3 months and was feeling scattered and overwhelmed. My energy felt frazzled. I had anxiety and insomnia, and my menstrual cycle was a mess. My brain felt like it was on fire.
After one morning session…
with vata massage oil, I truly felt like I had been soothed with a blanket of love. I have made Abhyanga a part of my morning practice ever since. And I’ve been teaching my clients how to do it with herbal oils specific to their imbalances and conditions with marvelous results.
No, it doesn’t happen 7 days a week for me, every single week.
In the summer, if I find myself getting over-heated, or short-tempered I do it 3 or 4 times a week with pitta massage oil.
When my hip was bothering me and I found my mind going to fearful thinking, “Oh no, do I have arthritis in my hip?” I put extra attention to that area and used maharanyan oil.
Like any other healthy and life-enhancing practice the benefits lie in consistency.
Ayurveda recommends abhyanga as part of your morning ritual, but that doesn’t mean you should take and “all or nothing” approach.
Two times a week is better than no times.
I’m willing to bet that when you do this a few times and really tune into the sacredness of this time that you spend giving love to your body, you will have a strong desire to be in this space several times a week.
Here are just a few of the benefits of doing abhyanga and applying oil to the body:
- Imparts softness, strength and color to the body
- Decreases the effects of aging
- Bestows good vision
- Nourishes the body
- Increases longevity
- Benefits sleep patterns
- Benefits skin
- Strengthens the body’s tolerance
- Imparts a firmness to the limbs
- Imparts tone and vigor to the tissues of the body, (Remember? The issues are in the tissues!)
- Stimulates the internal organs of the body, increasing circulation
- Pacifies vata and pitta
What does this all mean for someone trying to heal pain, anxiety, adrenal fatigue, or other imbalances?
Well it is extremely healing to the central nervous system and has no side effects like Xanax and antidepressants do. It helps to gently release old emotions and traumas that have been buried in the tissues.
It is a routine that you can do at home, (cost effective!) that will re-connect you to loving your body and giving it the soft, gentle, caring attention that it craves.
And it’s super soothing for your psyche!
But wait, there’s more…
On the days that you might not have time to do the whole process, or when you’re feeling REALLY scattered and you need to get grounded NOW…
You can focus on doing abhyanga on your head/scalp and feet for a still beneficial mini-session. I taught my dad to do it on his legs and feet at night with Brahmi oil and it healed his restless leg syndrome. (Bye-bye nasty Gabapentin!)
Okay, ready to get started?
Let me first just tell you the times when it’s not a good idea to do this ayurvedic massage.
When Not to Do Abhyanga
- During the menstrual cycleMassage with deep pressure during the menstrual cycle is not advised in Ayurveda, as it can initiate a release of ama (toxins) from deep tissues at a time when the body is already a bit taxed. If you choose to do it during your cycle, it is best to apply the oil gently and for only about five minutes.
- During pregnancyThe reasoning is similar here. It is not a good idea to stimulate any sort of detox process during pregnancy. This precaution protects the growing embryo and fetus against any unnecessary exposure to ama.
- Over swollen, painful areas or masses on the body(Or do so only with the knowledge and consent of your health-care practitioner).
- Over infected or broken skin
- When there is great physical discomfortA thick, white coating on the tongue often indicates high levels of ama.
- During any sort of acute illness such as fever, chills, flu, or acute indigestion
- Directly after taking emetics or purgatives
- When you have a serious medical condition(Unless your health-care practitioner says it is okay to do abhyanga).
Here’s the simple routine for doing Abhyanga:
Put about ¼-½ cup oil in an 8 oz. squeeze bottle. Make sure the oil is not rancid. Yuck, not good for you!
Place the bottle of oil in a pan of hot water until the oil is pleasantly warm.
Sit or stand comfortably in a warm room, on a towel that you don’t mind ruining with oil accumulation. Make sure you are protected from any wind.
Apply oil generously to your entire body.
Massage the oil into your body, beginning at the extremities and working toward the middle of your body. Use long strokes on the limbs and circular strokes on the joints. Massage the abdomen and chest in broad, clockwise, circular motions. On the abdomen, follow the path of the large intestine; moving up on the right side of the abdomen, then across, then down on the left side.
Massage the body for 5–20 minutes, with love and patience.
Give a little extra time and attention to massaging the oil into your scalp, ears and feet, at least once a week. Apply oil to the crown of your head (adhipati marma) and work slowly out from there in circular strokes. Oil applied to the head should be warm but not hot.
Put a couple drops of warm oil on the tip of your little finger or on a cotton ball and apply to the opening of the ear canal. (If there is any current or chronic discomfort in the ears don’t do this without the recommendation of your health care practitioner).
Enjoy a warm bath or shower. A vata, pitta or kapha dusting powder can help rinse off the oil without drying out the skin. You can use a mild soap on the “strategic” areas.
When you get out of the bath, towel dry. Keep a special towel for drying off after your abhyanga because it will eventually get ruined, due to the accumulation of oil.
Put on a pair of cotton socks to protect your environment from the residual oil on your feet.
Applying a high quality essential oil to your wrists and neck can further support balance.
Make this a regular part of your self-care routine and you’ll be amazed at the benefits to your well-being.