I love spending lazy days at my grandparents’ house. Even though I am 25yrs old and do not really have a “summer holiday” per se, I make it a point to visit them every summer anyways. Laying down in my grandma’s lap on a “Chatai” (floor mat) and her fingers running softly through my hair, has the power to take away all my modern-day built-up stress from working in the fast-paced Advertising world.
While Grandpa cooked us lunch (he is an excellent cook), Grandma told me stories in her gentle, sing-song voice. Often the stories would be of my childhood and more often they would be about the things that she had learned during her life’s adventurous journey.
The insights of her life helped me to “quietly” remedy what I was doing wrong in mine, inspired me to live my life to its fullest and aim higher. Grandparents are a bag of practical knowledge and they have so much to teach us if only we have the patience to listen to them.
I was amazed by how sharp-eyed Grandma still was, no detail escaped her. Today she began to tell me about Abhyanga, the art of massaging oneself with warm oil. I guess this came about from my haggard look, the poor condition of my skin and I was a bit embarrassed.
ABHYANGA – A UNIQUE SELF MASSAGE
Abhyanga, a Self-Massage before a bath, has its root in Ayurveda, the traditional indian medicine system. The warm oil is gently massaged into the whole body from head to toe and it is believed to promote overall health and wellness.
Unlike the deep massage used to take out the knots and kinks in the muscles, the pressure used in this massage is light and soothing and immensely relaxing.
BENEFITS OF ABHYANGA
Grandma says that Abhyanga has many health benefits, many of which will be immediately evident and others will be realized after regular practice of Abhyanga.
Abhyanga retains skin moisture. A barrier is created between the skin and the water by applying the oil before a bath. This ensures that the oil is not drained from the skin. The water locks the moisture in, making it easy to be absorbed.
It is known to Reduce the Signs of Ageing by nourishing, softening and smoothing the skin.
The warm oil and massage relax the muscles and reduce stress and fatigue, calms nerves, increases stamina and mental alertness. Massage with warm oil extracts the toxins from the body which get washed away during a bath. The circular movements on the joints improve joint health. It improves blood circulation to all parts of the body and stimulates the internal organs. The tender love and care make the hair healthy, luxurious and shiny.
HOW TO PERFORM ABHYANGA
“I agree that it seems like a daunting task” says grandma, “and it will be if you take it like a chore”. "The tip is to take a step back from the busy schedule and relax to rejuvenate yourself for another hectic day.”
Abhyanga is relatively easy to perform by yourself and you don’t have to think about going to an Ayurvedic facility or a spa for this.
ESSENTIALS FOR ABHYANGA
- Very few things are required for this massage.
- A squeeze bottle for holding the oil and effortless application.
- A container, with a non-slip bottom, to hold hot water. Dip the oil bottle in the container to warm the oil. Be careful not to scald yourself.
- A warm room to keep you cozy.
- A separate towel for use for Abhyanga only as it would be hard to get the oil out of it. Light up fragrant candles or diffuser oil lamps to truly make it a relaxing and pampering session for yourself.
THE ACT OF ADMINISTERING SELF MASSAGE
- Test the oil on your inner wrist. It should be warm and not hot.
- Take some warm oil in your hands and gently massage it into your scalp in circular motions.
- Move down to your temple, face, cheeks and jaws, massage using circular, upwards motions.
- Ensure to massage the ear, ear lobe and even apply a little oil in the outer ear with your pinky finger.
- Massage your arms and legs with long strokes and all the joints with circular motions.
- Always massage the abdomen in clockwise circular motion while looking down.
- Massage the back in upwards and outwards direction from the spine.
- Don’t forget to massage the palm of your hands and the sole of your feet as they have nerve endings of vital organs.
- Relax for a minimum 15 mins to allow the oil to be absorbed by the body. This time should be spent well in mindfulness.
- Have a bath with lukewarm water. Use only a gentle wash. If possible, avoid it.
- After the bath, pat yourself dry and avoid vigorous rubbing.
OILS FOR ABHYANGA
Grandma says that oil depends on one’s constitution, imbalances and the influence of the seasons. Sesame seed oil and coconut oil have long been the oil of choice for daily self-abhyanga for thousands of years.
Sesame seed oil is warming in nature and should be preferred by people with excessive cold in their system. It should also be the oil of choice for late fall, winter and early spring. It helps to reduce sun damage caused by UV rays’ exposure.
Coconut oil is cooling in nature and should be preferred by people with excessive heat in their system. It should also be the oil of choice for late spring, summer and early fall. The saturated fats in the coconut oil Keep Your Skin Moisturized.
Sweet Almond Oil should be opted for if you have very dry skin as it is excellent at hydrating. It gives relief from itching, is anti-inflammatory and has pain relieving properties. As it is an antioxidant, it protects the skin from damage.
Castor oil is excellent at relieving joint pain. So it should be preferred by people with arthritis. It contains anti-inflammatory properties. Do take your time to massage it in as it does not absorb easily.
There are more oils which can be used (Olive oil, Sunflower Oil, Jojoba Oil, Neem Oil, Safflower oil etc.) or the coconut and sesame oil can be fortified with herbs for additional benefits as they are excellent carrier oils.
FORTIFIED OILS FOR ABHYANGA
When herbs are added to the oils as per ancient Ayurvedic recipes and techniques, they are known as medicated or fortified oils. These can be selected for specific issues like Mahanarayana oil is used for treatment of arthritis, paralysis, Muscular and Joint Pain etc.
Ashwagandha oil or Ashwagandha/Bala may help in increasing strength and stamina.
There are a variety of massage oils offered by Ayurvedic brands. Even if you are unsure of what you want, just opt for one to start with and you can keep figuring out your path from there.
ESSENTIAL OILS FOR ABHYANGA
Grandma loves essential oils for their aroma as well as the benefits that they provide. I love her beautiful handcrafted wooden box of essential oils, something she is extremely proud of. No wonder then that she loves to add essential oils in her oil for Abhyanga.
Lavender essential oil when she is seeking tranquility. It promotes tissue growth, reduces hyper-pigmentation, diminishes blemishes and brightens and evens out the skin tone.
The slightly sweet, intoxicating, woody aroma of Frankincense Essential Oil, with a hint of spice is perfect for a morning session of meditation to calm the mind, improve focus and memory. It helps to rejuvenate and tighten skin, reduce visible signs of wrinkles, age spots, Stretch Marks and even out the skin tone.
………………And there are more essential oils that you can choose as per your preference.
Grandma says that taking time out for yourself and anointing with oil is self-love and respecting your body, mind and soul.I have convinced grandma to give me a head massage and then I will continue with the rest of the abhyanga. I am not sure if I will be able to make it a part of my daily routine but I will certainly do it as many times as possible in a week to start with.