In Western culture, massage is typically seen as an indulgence, associated with going to the spa or treating oneself every few months. Otherwise, massage is associated with pain and a resource employed to fix a physical issue. It is not something we incorporate into our daily routines. But in the East massage is an integral part of self-care for body and mind. Here we reveal how it works and why you should make it a daily habit. In Ayurveda, focus is put on the regular practice of “abhyanga” or self-massage.
The key with self-massage is consistency, if we try something once, we never allow ourselves the chance to discover its true benefits. For example, when we start going to the gym, we don’t go once and and expect to see results the very next day. We begin a training program and understand that it takes time to build strength and see results.
BODY HEALING POWERS OF SELF-MASSAGE: REAP THE REWARDS
There is no shortage of research regarding the benefits of massage—the highlights of which include reducing pain and muscle soreness; improving digestion and circulation; aiding the body in detoxification; reducing stress and increasing “feel good” chemicals in the body.
Time Magazine quoted Tiffany Field, director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami in the US, as saying, “pressure receptors under the skin, when stimulated, increase vagal activity.”
This refers to the vagus nerve, a huge part of our nervous system that plays a role in heart rate, breathing and digestion. According to the same article, “increased activity in the vagus nerve could have—among other benefits—a meditation-like calming effect, which would explain the drop in cortisol and other stress-related symptoms.”
Discover 8 incredible Ayurvedic routines to start practicing today.
The team at Rituals have tried self-massage and, with regular practice, experienced improved digestion, less tension in muscles and a lighter, more relaxed feeling throughout the day.
SELF-MASSAGE: HOW TO DO IT
According to The Chopra Center the technique is as follows:
- Be sure to use warm oil. Start by sitting or standing comfortably and apply the oil first to the crown of your head.
- Then, work slowly out in circular strokes spending a couple of minutes massaging your entire scalp.
- Next move to the face—moving in a circular motion on your forehead, temples, cheeks and jaw. Be sure to include your ears and earlobes which contain essential acupuncture points and nerve endings.
- Use long strokes on the arms and legs, with circular strokes on the joints of the body. Be sure to always massage toward the direction of your heart.
- Massage the abdomen and chest in broad, circular strokes, following the natural lines of the intestines when on the stomach.
- Finish the massage by spending at least a couple of minutes on the feet, which contain very important nerve endings and reflexology points that correlate to the major organs of the body.
- If possible, sit with the oil for 5-15 minutes, and then enjoy a warm bath or shower and avoid vigorously soaping and rubbing the body.
SELF-MASSAGE: A TRUE ACT OF SELF-LOVE, GRATITUDE AND NOURISHMENT
If you try abhyanga and stick to it, you’ll notice that you will soon establish a closer connection between your mind and body. The practice is an act of self-care and self-love. It’s so easy to take our bodies for granted, or worse criticise and abuse them. Take the time during the slow and intentional self-massage to think about all the reasons why you are grateful for the body you have. Be grateful for the miracle of your body and how it works, automatically and tirelessly, for you all the time.
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With daily dedication to self-massage you may start to feel more in tune with your body, understanding what it needs to feel good and healthy. You may also notice knock on effects like the desire to eat more healthy and exercise more intuitively. The power of this one simple routine can have a beautiful ripple effect on how you take care of yourself. Embrace that journey.
Give abhyanga a try with an open mind and deep curiosity. What can this simple self-massage routine offer or teach you? You have nothing to lose and so very much to gain. The body is a temple and deserves our loving attentiveness.