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How To Practice Self-Massage, " The Ayurvedic Way "

A science of self-healing, ayurveda encompasses diet, meditation, breathing techniques, medicinal herbs, beauty practices, and rituals to heal the body, mind, and spirit. In ayurveda, inner and outer beauty are intimately related.

Ayurvedic medicine has a rich history, which was originally passed on through the oral tradition, then later recorded in Sanskrit in the four sacred texts called the Vedas. This ancient practice is all about connecting to ourselves and staying in harmony and balance with the natural world. Ayurvedic practices aren’t just about preventing diseases rather than simply curing them; they’re also about how to live in a state of vigor and energy. In India, more than 90 percent of the population uses some form of ayurvedic medicine. While it’s becoming much more popular here in the West, it’s still considered an alternative medical treatment.

The aim of ayurveda is to return the body to its original healthy state.

At the heart of ayurveda are ojas, or life force, the very essence of our health and well-being. They are our honey, the sap in the tree that is our body. Ojas give us the ability to thrive. When our ojas are strong, our bodies are firm and flexible, our skin is clear and glowing, and our hair is shiny and healthy. Ojas also allow us to overflow with love and compassion.

Certain ayurvedic practices are designed to strengthen and nourish your ojas. You can begin with something as small as integrating fresh produce into your diet, massaging your feet before bed, or dry brushing your skin in the morning. These additions to your routine will help you to continuously keep your body in a rhythm and in balance. Once you know your body, you can adjust certain practices.

In the West, we consider a massage to be a special treat, but for many in India, massages are a regular part of life.

One such ojas-boosting practice is self-massage. Babies and toddlers are massaged daily, and when they are a little bit older, they are taught to massage their family members. Women get daily massages for 40 days after giving birth. Once you become accustomed to the health and beauty benefits of massages, you won’t be able to do without them. Fortunately for our wallets, ayurveda considers self-massage, or abhyanga, to be just as beneficial as a massage given by another.

Set aside some time once a week, or daily if you can, to practice abhyanga, and you will soon see the benefits, including toned, glowing skin, improved circulation, the relief of stiffness in the joints, and the flushing out of toxins in the body. It’s also a wonderful way to get to know your own body better. Use sesame, sunflower, or almond oil for massage; it feels extra luxurious if you warm it beforehand in a pan of hot water.

How to practice self-massage:

  • Apply warm oil generously to your body, beginning with your limbs. Use long strokes on your arms and legs and circular motions on your joints. Massage clockwise to release tension, and include areas like your neck and under your arms to target lymph nodes.
  • Massage your abdomen and chest in broad clockwise, circular motions. Follow the path of the intestine on your stomach, moving up on the right side, then down on the left.
  • Apply oil to your crown chakra, working outward in circular motions.
  • Dip your fingertips in the oil and massage your ears.
  • Massage your feet (but make sure to wipe off the oil before you walk).
  • Throughout the massage, send loving intentions to your organs and show gratitude to your body for everything it does for you.
  • Allow yourself enough time so that the oil soaks into your skin before you dress.

If you don’t have time for a full massage, you can always take a small scoop of shea butter and give yourself a foot massage or foot soak before bed. This serves as a form of acupressure, and the shea butter helps moisturize dry skin. At the same time, you’re honoring your feet—which are your foundation—and how much they do for you throughout the day.

 

Excerpted from Whole Beauty by Shiva Rose (Artisan Books)

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