How about a massage? I know. I feel you. While achieving the time to go and treat yourself to a massage, let alone regular massages, is a luxury for most; the ancient ritual of Abhyanga is a self-massage technique for treating your body as temple…all in the comfort of your own home. This Ayurvedic healing practice is the process of anointing yourself with oil and massaging it into the entire body before bathing. Its benefits go far beyond the usual paradigm of simply relieving tension and "chilling out," extending to both mind and spirit, as well as the body.
While this technique of massage is very different in temperament from a Swedish or sports massage, which mainly work on the muscular system of the body, Abhyanga works on the layers of tissue in the body. The ancient Indian healing system of Ayurveda teaches that there are seven dhatus, or layers of tissue in the body, with each being successively more concentrated and life-giving. Massaging and kneading the body in this way restores vigor—your life force—the vital energy for you to go out into the world and give your unique gifts. For these deepest layers to be reached, each area of the body needs to be given time and care, with 15 minutes being the suggested minimum amount of time for the full body. However, do not fret; from even a mere five minutes the body will still experience healing benefits and the skin with luxuriate in the nourishing oil. Simply receiving the love you are giving yourself via the ritual of self-care is also where the magic lies.
I also like to take this self-care practice up a level and add in my body oils from my all organic therapeutic essential oil line Ajai Alchemy. Essential oils can be utilized to enhance each and every moment and are a powerful and direct way to regulate our stress or calming responses. Within a minute our skin absorbs whatever we put on it directly into the bloodstream, and so using an infused oil also adds all the healing wisdom of the plants and botanicals from which the essential oils are derived too. Essential oils are a powerful tool in my well-being kit, and adding them into the ritual of abhyanga potentiates the healing effects of this practice. Use this self-care practice to relax, uplift, soothe, and relieve.
I like to do this after I dry brush, followed by a hot bath at night or shower in the morning.
- A pan of warm water, for warming the oil.
- A glass bottle of oil (sesame is traditional, but you can use almond, sunflower, or coconut oil too).
- A small bowl, for placing the oil in.
- A towel.
- Place the bottle of oil in a pan of hot (not boiling) water, until the oil is pleasantly warm.
- Add a ¼ to ⅓ cup to a small bowl along with a couple of dropperfuls of Ajai Alchemy Radiance Oil ($40). Smell, breathe, and inhale.
- Make space for yourself in a warm room where you are protected from the elements and sit or stand comfortably on a towel.
- Light a candle to really set the intention that this is time for you—even if it may be a busy midweek morning before heading out for work, know that this is your time now. Time you have set aside for yourself—be it 5 minutes—so that you may step out into the world as the shiniest, happiest version of yourself. This simple act of lighting a candle takes a mere few seconds but really sets the scene.
- Applying even pressure with the whole hand, both palms and fingers, massage the oil into the entire body, pouring a little at a time into a cupped hand. Begin at the extremities and work toward the middle of your body; use long strokes on the limbs and circular strokes on the joints and massage the abdomen and chest in broad, clockwise, circular motions.
- Massage the body for 5 to 20 minutes, with love and patience. Be conscious and present with every movement of your hand, and mentally send love to your entire body—you can even visualize it sinking into your core, along with the oil.
- If you are planning on washing your hair; apply oil to the face and scalp—using the fingertips to work it in with circular motions.
- After you have finished the entire body, relax for 10 to 15 minutes (if you have the time), letting the oil and massage work their magic and penetrate deeper.
- Hop into a warm bath or shower and let all your worries rinse away down the drain, too.
This practice is deeply loving and nourishing to the body on every level. It truly is a majestic self-care practice. Its benefits include detoxifying the body, nourishing the skin, and imparting tone to the tissues of the body. The Sanskrit word sneha means both "oil" and "love"—meaning the effects of abhyanga are similar to being saturated with love. Both experiences can give a deep feeling of stability, warmth, and comfort. I like to view it as cloaking myself with a blanket of love before I step out into the world. cushioning me from whatever may then come my way throughout the day.