Yes. That's what I said. And mmmmmmm is it deliciously nourishing.
I'm talking about this ancient Ayurvedic practice, known as ABHYANGA (self-massage) or SNEHA, a Sanskrit word which means to love. Touch is powerful beyond words. As nourishing, healing, elevating, and activating as any other wellness practice there is.
ABHYANGA :: Ayurvedic Self-Massage
Many believe that the effects of Abhyanga are similar to the feeling when one is soaked in love, the simultaneous experience of loving and being loved.
Regular practice not only helps restore and balance all Dosha's, it is especially powerful to balance Vata. The list of benefits are vast, but here's a wee list to wet your Abhyanga appetite ::
- Nourishes the entire body—decreases the effects of aging
- Reduces pain, depression and stress by reducing cortisol levels, a hormone that rises when we are under stress.
- Increases dopamine and serotonin, two brain chemicals that improve mental outlook
- Improves the immune system and increases T-cells that fight cancer and viruses
- Increases muscle tone and vigor to the tissues of the body
- Lubricates the joints
- Increases circulation
- Stimulates the internal organs of the body
- Assists in elimination of impurities from the body
- Moves the lymph, aiding in detoxification
- Increases stamina
- Calms the nerves
- Benefits sleep — better, deeper sleep
- Enhances vision
- Promotes hair growth - luxuriantly, thick, soft and glossy
- Softens and smoothens skin
- Pacifies Vata and Pitta and stimulates Kapha
the PRACTICE ... the RITUAL
1. Get very NAKED.
Naked is key. But you may choose to build up to this. I strip fully down so that I can truly connect to my physical body. To see me. To feel be. To connect with every curve, every part, every inch. Divine self-love. Divine self-care. AND, this can be hella challenging depending on your present headspace.
Since this practice is infused with loving intention, it's important to have a mantra that aligns with your loving intention for the practice. Plant this seed in your head and heart space before you begin. Why? Well, this practice (and simply the practice of getting naked) can really crack open and expose self-talk patterns (I'm talking about the inner haters, the "itty-bitty-shitty-committee" that lives in our head). This is part of your Mindfulness practice. Awareness. Give yourself permission to greet whatever comes up - ALL of it - with compassion, with loving-kindness, as best you can.
Awareness building is not an easy road...so if its the first time you're consciously greeting these thoughts, it can be painful. If you're choosing to journey deep into self-healing and self-knowing, it can be divinely loving to consider connecting with a therapist or coach to help you process what is unearthed.
Feeling the feels is a powerfully creative, healing, and wicked learning opportunity.
As Brene Brown teaches, we can't selectively numb feelings. When we numb the so-called "darker" emotions, we also numb or stun our capacity to access and feel the so-called "light" emotions. When we learn to befriend the more challenging ones, we crack open the door to the positive ones - our core desires in particular.
2. Gather your SUPPLIES (modify + personalize as desired).
- Towel/bath mat
- Oil (Sesame, Sweet Almond, Coconut oil, etc... you can choose an oil based on your Dosha, or simply one that feels right to you)
- Alter (I like to pull a few items from my main alter that symbolize, support, and attract whatever energy I want to infuse into the massage aka how I want to FEEL aka one of my Core Desired Feelings (CDFs); whatever it is that I'm choosing to generate that day)
- Notebook or Desire Map Planner - this is a great way to capture thoughts, themes, repetitive thoughts, feelings, ideas, etc. that come up during your practice. The Planner is an amazing way to make that clear link between how you want to feel, and what you are going to do to feel that way!!!
Note :: If you'd like a Planner (or any Desire Map / Danielle Laporte) stuff, let me know. When I place orders of 12 or more I receive a discount as a licensed facilitator OR I provide you with my special affiliate link to make an individual purpose. Muchos gracias!
3. Choose SILENCE or a PLAYLIST to guide the process + time.
Aim to give yourself 15-20 minutes - to get from head to toes. I mix things up, depending on the day. Sometimes I turn this into my meditation practice for the day and go for silence + breath + mantra. Sometimes I go for a Playlist.
Today, I chose my Heart-Healing Soundtrack. Music is so powerful ... and I make a point of choosing theme songs to help process various life experiences that I'm going through. Sad ones. Happy ones. In between ones. Inspires me beyond belief. Massive mood shifters. And hey, belting out tunes is crazy cathartic!
If you choose silence, set a timer. My fave is Insight Timer (iPhone app), but any smartphone has the capacity to set a timer, complete with your own choice of tone or song. Pick something soft, loving, and nourishing (aka not jarring or alarm-y).
4. Begin the PRACTICE, the RITUAL.
- Warm the oil - either by immersing the bottle in hot water, heating it on a low temp, or simply by vigorously massaging it in your hands
- Lay down your towel or mat - consider having a dedicated Abhyanga towel or bath mat, since it can get oily
- Sit or stand comfortably - I start sitting, then kneel, then stand, and end sitting
- Make sure the room temp is comfortable - you are naked after all, so a little space heater can be a nice choice if you don't want to crank the heat house-wide
- Start at the crown of your head and/or extremeties, and slowly work your way through the body in circular movements towards the heart - if you're having a shower after, include the whole crown and head (hair too), but if you're not planning to wash your hair, feel free to skip the scalp that day)
- Face:: Massage in circular motion on your forehead, temples, cheeks, and jaws (always moving in a upward movement). Be sure to massage your ears and inside your ear, especially your ear-lobes
- Limbs:: Use long circular strokes on the limbs (arms and legs) and smaller circular strokes on the joints. Always massage toward the direction of your heart
- Torso:: Massage the abdomen and chest in broad, clockwise, circular motions. On the abdomen, follow the path of the large intestine; moving up on the right side of the abdomen, then across, then down on the left side
- Feet:: Finish the massage by spending extra time massaging your feet, a very important part of the body and are covered in nerve endings/pressure points, etc.
Give yourself 5-15 minutes to soak and absorb the oil and the love deep into your tissues, all of body's layers. The timer or playlist is key so that you don't feel rushed or compelled to look at your phone.
- If you can, plan for a warm bath or shower afterwards. Aim to use a mild soap and only mild pressure, focusing more on key parts that need to be cleaned, while allowing the oil to keep doing its magic elsewhere.
- Towel dry gently. Lightly pat your body, mindfully, instead of rubbing vigorously.
- Re-Nourish. Either using a light oil or delicious body lotion. Hempz is my go to!
5. Do YOU.
Make this practice your own. Invite all feelings, all movement, all thoughts to be present, to be experienced. Sing. Cry. Dance. Lay down and get your Savasana on.
Allow each day to be different. The practice, the ritual of it is the consistent part. The content doesn't have to be. When you're fully present in the experience, you're able to explore with curiosity, listening and allowing your body, heart, mind and spirit to guide the movement, the mantra, the breath, everything.
As best you can, drop out of your head and into your heart. As you lovingly massage that beautiful body of yours, imagine that you're massaging the love of your life. Because, ultimately, that IS YOU. For me, this is the most dreamy non-sexual sensuality in the world.
Open up that heart dear soul, open wide.
Feel it all.
And may you feel as wholeheartedly loved, nourished, and seen as I feel when I give myself the gift of this practice.