Self massage is a truly wonderful Ayurvedic ritual that, once incorporated into your daily routine, will offer you huge holistic health benefits, as well as a few crucial moments of stillness in the frenetic, fast paced world we live in.
Oil massage, known as abhyanga, is a key component of Ayurvedic medicine. It’s mentioned in the ancient texts as one of the most important practices we can do, because it offers deep grounding to the whole body, and is hugely healing. As a pre-shower practice at the start of the day, it pacifies all three Doshas, calms the mind, and releases toxins and tension accumulated during the night, when the body was recharging. Rather like oiling the engine of a car, it enhances the health and performance of the skin, our largest organ, by lubricating it. The oil and the action then penetrates the layers of the skin, and into the deeper organs; abhyanga helps to dislodge any disturbed or displaced Doshas, and maintains Kapha’s building, unctuous and protective qualities, thereby enhancing OJAS, our crucial community. Furthermore, it instils calm, self acceptance, and harmony to the mind, body and spirit, and gently supports the natural aging process.
Sesame oil is the oil of Ayurveda, obtained from the seeds of sesamum indicum, one of the oldest cultivated plants in India. It is hugely significant in Ayurvedic Medicine. It balances all three Doshas and is particularly beneficial for reducing excess Vata. It is a sacred oil, used in many religious rituals, and it benefits the heart chakra, which is responsible for self- love, acceptance, love and compassion.
Sesame oil is warming; it reduces stress, helps with insomnia, and pacifies nervous tension. It is antioxidant, improves the blood circulation, and penetrates deep into the tissues. It also improves the elasticity of the skin, and is therefore anti-ageing. It eliminates toxins, it is antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory. Cured sesame oil is usually used for abhyanga; curing is done by gently heating the oil to a certain temperature, which allows the beneficial constituents to be released more readily, ensuring maximum potency. If, however, one has too much heat in the system, sesame oil might be too heating, and coconut oil would be preferred. A qualified Ayurvedic medicine practitioner will advise the best oil for an individual, based on an assessment of their constitution.
Sesame oil contains vitamin E, omega 6, iron, magnesium,. zinc, and copper.
How to perform abhyanga:
Stand comfortably in a warm bathroom and pour a couple of teaspoons of cured sesame oil from your bottle into your hand, massaging it between both your palms. If you have time, it’s better for the oil to be much warmer, particularly when the weather is very dry and cold. To do this, you can stand your bottle in a bowl of just- boiled water for a couple of minutes beforehand. Now, using both hands in unison when possible, or alternate hands when easier, start massaging the oil into the neck, using smooth upward strokes from the base of the neck to the chin, then the shoulders and chest area, in circular, or sweeping strokes.
Work downwards onto your arms, hands and fingers, and spend longer on particularly dry areas such as elbows. Massage your abdomen, mid and lower back, buttocks, and then your hips and front thighs. Take more oil as needed, and begin to massage the back of your thighs and around the back of your knees, then the front of them, before rubbing the front and back areas of your lower legs. Try to keep the strokes to a smooth rhythm, with your hands in contact with your skin as much as possible. Finally massage the tops of your feet including the toes, but don’t massage the soles, as you might slip when you shower. You can massage the soles of your feet in the evening after bathing, or after soaking them for a few minutes in warm water, before you go to bed. This is a wonderful aid to restful sleep too.
Now sit comfortably on an old towel on a chair, and take a good 5 minutes to allow the oil to penetrate your skin, whilst you breathe in deeply through your nose for 5 counts, and out through your mouth for another 5 counts, and repeat. Let your mind be still; think about your intentions, offer gratitude for the day ahead, and for your holistic health. Now shower as normal, using a small amount of chemical-free shower gel to wash your skin. We often use too much ‘product’, and we don’t want to wash all the wonderful healing oil away.
And now your day can begin with a sense of calm purpose; you will feel grounded, stable and much more able to cope with any eventualities.