By Gillian B
Ayurveda, the sister science to yoga, has been practiced since ancient times. For those not familiar with Ayurveda, it is one of the worlds oldest holistic healing systems with a focus on healing disease and imbalance by aligning your body with nature. One of the first practices prescribed is often Abhyanga. Abhyanga is a self-massage done by anointing the body with warm oil. (2)
There are many incredible benefits to this practice of next-level, self-care mainly because it is a form of touch therapy. Interestingly enough, sneha is a Sanskrit word which means both oil and love, a knowingness of being cared for, cherished and comforted. The effects of Abhyanga are similar to saturating your entire being to the depth of your core with love. (3)
When practiced consistently it can have a very empowering effect on all levels of your being. While facilitating healing in the emotional body, this powerful practice also increases the flow of prana or qi throughout the body. However, these are just a few of the many amazing benefits of Abhyanga!
Here are some others: (1)
- Calms and soothes the nervous system,
- Enhances the ability to remove toxins,
- Softens and reinforces the skin as well as helps restore color and vibrancy to the body,
- Helps regulate sleep patterns,
- Stimulates internal organs as well as increases circulation,
- reduces the effects of aging,
- makes hair grow thick, full, strong and luxurious,
- benefits stiff neck and jaw,
- enhances vision,
- Benefits ligaments, veins and tissues,
- Relieves exhausted feet as well as helps repair and rejuvenate stiff, rough feet.
Abhyanga has become such a huge, important part of my life. I have seen and felt the incredible shifts since practicing consistently. I’m so excited to share with you how to integrate this special ritual into your daily routine, and watch as your relationship with yourself changes as well as your skins appearance, and your overall health.
To get started you will need:
- a towel that you don’t mind ruining
- either sesame (better in cold weather) or coconut oil (better in hot weather)
- a warm, relaxing, comforting space
- a hot cup of tea or water
- a small bowl to put the oil in
How to Practice Abhyanga:
1) Once your oil has been heated, get yourself comfortably seated on your towel. Be sure to create a warm, comforting space where there are no drafts or distractions.
2) Generally, you start with your scalp and head. As you begin, poor the oil over your scalp and be sure to use not only your fingertips but your whole palm as you massage the oil deep into your scalp.
3) Start to make your way behind your ears, your ear lobes, and face. As you begin to make your way to your arms and longer limbs be sure to use long, circular motions. Apply pressure in and around the joints as you kneed the oil deep into the tissue.
4) In and around your torso start on your right side going up and around to your left side in circular motions. Move your way down your legs to your feet. Be sure to spend extra time on your feet as they carry you and your weight day to day giving them extra love and attention.
5) The entire process should take approximately 15-20 minutes, so don’t rush the process! The more love and attention you give to the different parts of your body the better you will feel!
Please see the video below for full instructions:
Healing the Emotional Body with Touch Therapy
Yes, we can heal ourselves! Abhyanga can be incredibly powerful tool especially if you take the time to really nourish and nurture yourself. If you put love and intention into each stroke while practicing you can connect with yourself on a deeper level!
We happen to be living in a very exciting time on the planet. As we continue to grow and evolve, so has science. There is now research showing what is happening on a cellular level, which helps us understand why this ancient practice is so beneficial.
According to Ayurveda, toxic emotions or ama are negative or repressed emotions that turn into stored toxins, which get trapped in the cells of our bodies. This helps explain why, more often than not, we tend to repeat the same unhealthy patterns and behaviors throughout our lives, despite consciously trying to break out of these habits. (2)
When negative emotions such as anger, grief, jealousy, resentment, sadness, or trauma don’t get expressed they become repressed and stored in the body. Overtime this can be very detrimental to our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual being. This alters the chemicals in our body which can create disease, compromise immune systems, alter mood, decrease energy, and block the flow of energy through our bodies. (2)
How does this happen?
We live in a world where many of us don’t feel safe to express our emotions, particularly the unpleasant ones. We prefer to only show the good ones, and even when we are feeling unhappy or dissatisfied we have a tendency to mask or hide them. Energetically, we stuff them down but we can only do this for so long before they start bubbling to the surface. When they do start coming to the surface it can be quite overwhelming. Imagine a lifetime of unwanted feelings, memories, and events all coming through like a tidal wave all at once?
But what can we do to release the pressure and pain stored inside and heal ourselves?
Not only is it incredibly helpful during a time of healing or distress, but it would be wise to practice before you get to the point of overwhelm to help prevent an accumulation of ama.(2)
Abhyanga has been known to be one of the most effective touch therapies to help repair emotional disharmony. It has been proven in many studies that touch, hugging, cuddling, increases oxytocin and aids in healing. What is even more special about Abhyanga is it is a self massage therapy therefore you are giving your-self the love, attention, and comfort that your inner child has been begging you for probably for most of your life. Practicing Abhyanga lets your inner child know that it is okay to feel those unwanted feelings, it is okay to express your emotions.
This kind of touch therapy is used to gain access to your emotional issues no matter how deeply stored they are. Dr. Pert, who studies neuroscience and the relation to your emotions, has found that one of the main entry points for repairing emotionally damaged receptors are found in the skin. The skin is, of course, easily accessed through touch. (2)
So there you have it! Not only is Abhyanga an incredibly sensual, relaxing experience that helps you feel and look great, but it helps heal you on all levels, emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually!