The benefits of Ayurvedic Self-Massage (“Self-Abhyanga”) are similar to the benefits that are available from other massage practices, whether they are performed by a massage therapist or ourselves. The advantages of massage performed by a professional therapist is that we can completely relax and receive the massage, and also that a skilled, intuitive therapist can work with places we cannot reach on ourselves. The advantage of self-massage is that we can experience massage more often. Even when time is limited, we can do a quick daily Ayurvedic massage as a regular part of our daily routine.
It would be lovely to have an hour a day for self-massage and showering, but it may not be possible every day. While we can give ourselves a full body self-abhyanga in 15 or 20 minutes, there will be days when even that isn’t practical. The most important parts of self-massage are the feet, the head/ears, and the navel.
Massaging the feet relieves roughness, fatigue, clogged blood vessels, and insensitivity to touch. It increases foot strength, improves eyesight, promotes sound sleep, and has an aphrodisiac effect.
Using brisk strokes and the palms of the hands, begin simultaneously on the tops and sole of the foot. Men, start with the right foot and women, start with the left. Work the fingers around and between the toes. Finger pressure will work the arch. Pause for a few seconds in the center of the arch, which is a “marma” (pressure point–more on those in another article).
Head massage relieves headache and promotes sound sleep. It helps the hair grow longer, prevents balding and early graying, and brightens the complexion.
If you won’t have time to wash your hair, you can just touch the top of the head with oil and circle the spot with your fingers, rather than a whole head massage.
Massaging the ears balances Vata dosha (the most common imbalance). It prevents ear ringing, stiffness in the neck, headache, and improves hearing.
Put a drop on your pinky fingers and add a little oil into the ears. Put a little oil into the navel. Rub clockwise spirals out from the navel. Put a drop or two on your pinky or a cotton swab, and oil the inside of the nose.
Give yourself the gift of a few minutes of stillness–you’re worth it! Sit or lie down comfortably. Breathe. Drift. Daydream. Or Meditate. It takes at least 10 minutes for most of the oil to soak in. It may be tempting to skip this step–don’t cheat yourself out of allowing the oil to do its best job for you.
Soap just your armpits and groin (go very lightly with soap on all mucous membranes, which are delicate). Let warm (not hot) water run over the rest of you, pat dry, and know that just the right amount of oil will remain on your skin to protect you all day.
Morning routines like this have a powerful effect on our body/mind that last throughout the rest of the day. Our bodies love routines, and respond generously. A full abhyanga is still important, but beware falling into the trap of thinking that if you can’t do it all “perfectly” you shouldn’t bother to do any of it.
See marciarandalldebard.comfor more Ayurvedic Daily Routines. Look to the right sidebar; click “categories” and select “Ayurveda”.
As a student in Kerala Ayurvedic Academy’s AWC (Ayurvedic Wellness Counselor) program, I often find myself in discussion about Ayurveda with potential rogis (Ayurvedic clients), friends and strangers. The idea of a natural healing method is VERY appealing to most people, and they often are interested in learning more about it. When they hear that I am also certificated in Ayurvedic formulations, they naturally want to know which concoctions and decoctions will work for their particular issues. However, when they learn that the formulations are not just an add-on to their current diet and lifestyle patterns, their interest often sags.
Think about it, though–this is exactly the Western model of medicine. We eat what we want and when we want and refuse to exercise (or we over-exercise). Change can be uncomfortable, and we don’t want to make changes our lifestyle, whether the change is using a tongue-scraper*, oil-pulling*, or eating for our dosha* . We just want the doctor to prescribe a magic pill to cure the ills caused by our choices. Or if we’re more naturally inclined, we search the web for the latest supplements and natural remedies which we want to use as a magic bullet to target our dis-ease. Meanwhile, we want to continue the lifestyle choices that got us the health we have, even if it means taking the pill or supplement for the rest of our lives!
People have told me that they will try the Ayurvedic lifestyle strategies as a last resort.
They have told me they refuse to give up habits they love but which Ayurveda says are undermining their digestion (and by extension, their overall health). Read more: Changing Effortlessly
Ayurvedic self-massage is one of the daily practices that Ayurveda says will lead to a longer, healthier, and more joyful life. You can find articles detailing the daily practices at marciarandalldebard.com. Just click “Ayurveda” under “Categories” on the right side bar.
Ayurvedic self-massage is called “Self-Abhyanga” or “self-abhy”. “Abhy” means “movement” in Sanskrit, and “anga” means “body”. It refers to moving toxins toward the center of the body where they can be flushed away with sweat, urine or feces. It’s also very soothing, working with the nervous system to relax the body and calm the mind.
In Sanskrit, the word “sneha” (oil) also means “love”. When we take the time to provide ourselves with love and appreciation through self-abhy, we affirm a positive relationship with our bodies. It’s wonderful to replace those worn-out messages of criticism about this or that body part with self-affirming messages during self-abhy!
Self-abhy strengthens the body, increases stamina, and tones muscles. It smoothes the skin, prevents wrinkles, and improves the sense of touch. It calms the mind and helps promote sound sleep. Read more: Ayurvedic Self-Massage
This is the last in a series of three articles on the scientific studies that support meditation. Once again, there was more research than I could include in the last two articles on meditation benefits, so this month I’ll address even more meditation benefits. You can find previous articles by choosing the category “meditation” in the right side bar at marciarandalldebard.com.
In a long-term study over a 5-year period, African Amercian participants who had been diagnosed with coronary heart disease were divided into two groups. The first group was instructed in diet and exercise, and the second were taught meditation. Over the 5-year period, the meditators had 48% fewer heart attacks, strokes, and early death from heart disease. In Time Magazine (November 2012) Robert Schneider, the lead author of the study said, “It’s like discovering a whole new class of medications.” This study was first published in “Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes” (Sept 2012).
In a Massachusetts General Hospital study led by Dr. Randy Zusman, patients being treated unsuccessfully with medications were taught a meditation technique (relaxation response). After the study, 40 of the 60 participants were able to reduce their medication due to their drop in blood pressure. Apparently meditation increases the nitric oxide, which opens up blood vessels and allows blood pressure to drop.
The University of Wisconsin-Madison in conjunction with researchers in Spain and France found rapid reduction in pro-inflammatory genes–the very genes that are being targeted with anti-inflammatory and analgesic drugs. Read more: Even More Meditation Benefits
There was more research than I could include in last month’s article on meditation benefits, so this month I’ll address more meditation benefits. You can find last month’s article by choosing the category “meditation” in the right side bar at marciarandalldebard.com.
Last time, we discussed how meditation actually changes our brains, and I referred to Harvard neuroscientist Sara Lazar, who was one of the first scientists to actually test the anecdotal evidence. She found that longterm meditators have more gray matter in the auditory and sensory cortex areas of the brain. They also have more gray matter in the frontal cortex, which is responsible for decision making and working memory. In addition, she found that this additional gray matter in the prefrontal cortex was the same in 50-year-old brains of longterm meditators as it was in 25-year olds!
In Dr. Lazar’s second study, she compared brand-new meditators to long-term meditators. Read more: More Meditation Benefits