Developing a healthy lifestyle is important on your journey toward balance and well-being, but also challenging because we are asking the youngest versions of ourselves, the deepest attachments we have, to release and do something different. The brain itself cannot recognize a good change from a bad change- it sees change and panics a bit. There is a primal piece of you that believes your safety is being compromised. Together we will work to shift patterns and better understand what is occurring so that deeper healing can occur. Emotions, thoughts and stories may arise. Be patient. Be gentle. Be curious.
By using oil massage daily, a person is endowed with pleasant touch, trimmed body parts, and becomes strong, charming and least affected by old age. — Charaka Samhita: Sutrasthana: V: 88-89
Abhyanga, or self oil massage, is one of several daily rituals (dinacarya in Sanskrit) we can practice to facilitate ideal health. I love this practice at night as part of my winding down routine. Oil massage can benefit both the body and mind. In the body, it encourages the movement of lymph, improves circulation, nourishes the skin, and lubricates the muscles and joints. In the mind, encourages stability, calms the nerves.....but my favorite thing about self oil massage is the opportunity to cultivate self-love. In Sanskrit, the word for oil is the same as the word for love- sneha. Self oil massage done with the intention of love, not criticism, for every part of your body can result in feeling warm, cared for, and comforted. It also can build self-esteem. While you indulge in anointing your body with oil simply tell your body you love and appreciate it, or add a mantra or phrase you are already working with. Taking care of yourself is an act of self-love.
Choose an oil based on the dosha or qualities you are trying to reduce or manage.
Heat the oil to warm it.
Massage from your extremities toward your heart/center. Circular strokes on the joints, abdomen and chest, and long strokes on the limbs. On the abdomen follow the path of the large intestine and massage clockwise, moving up the right side, across, and down the left. Vata can use more oil, and in addition to massaging toward the center of the body, move from head to feet. Pitta can use less oil and move from head to feet. Kapha can use less oil and move from feet to head.
If you have time, wait 15-20 minutes before showering. During this time meditate or rest while the oil is soaking into the skin. This would be a great time to practice your body scan relaxation. Rinse off in the shower. Only use soap where necessary.
Please check with your doctor before using medicated oils if pregnant or nursing. Oil massage is contraindicated for open wounds.
Choosing your oil: In deciding what oil to use we look at our original nature, what is currently out of balance that we want to bring back into balance, and the ebb and flow of Mother Nature outside of us. If you are curious about what would be best for you I recommend working with an Ayurvedic professional to create an inclusive lifestyle plan, which can include medicated oils, herbs, dietary recommendations, movement exercises, aromas, gemstones, and meditation. Below is a quickie reference guide based on some common symptoms. Remember, with Ayurveda, it all depends!
Vata: Sesame Oil
Symptoms of vata imbalance: gas, bloating, constipation, insomnia due to a racing mind, dry skin, anxiety Pitta: Coconut Oil
Symptoms of a pitta imbalance: acid reflux, loose stools, acne, red skin, angry, criticism of self or others Kapha: Safflower or Mustard Oil
Symptoms of kapha imbalance: feeling heavy, excess mucus, excessive sleep or difficulty waking up, melancholy, mild to moderate depression
Source for oil: Banyon Botanicals is fairly inexpensive, and provides quality product. You can find special blends for Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. If you don't know what type of oil to choose go Tri-doshic blend. Please remember that these practices are not a replacement for the work you are already doing with your therapist or doctor. These are complimentary practices to support you in making healthy lifestyle changes. If you have questions or are looking for practices to address certain symptoms or behaviors please email firstname.lastname@example.org.