With Valentines day being this week it only seemed fitting to share this beautiful practice of loving kindness. Abhyanga, or self massage is an ancient Ayurvedic practice that is often paired with dry brushing to promote youthfulness, healthy lymphatic system, move stagnant energy, and promote better self care and love through caring for the self.
Dry brushing stimulates blood flow, lymph movement, removes dead skin, and invigorates the body. Use a natural bristle brush, I love this brush because it has a long handle to help get to those hard to reach places.
Begin at your feet with bold strokes begin brushing up the legs, one at a time. Brushing firmly but not to irritate the skin. Work your way up to the hips and then brush in a clockwise direction on the stomach. Brush up the lower back before moving onto the arms, beginning at the hands and brushing up towards the shoulders. Brush the chest and mid and upper back- always stroking towards the heart. Then brush down the neck and throat. Places to focus on are behind the knees, the groin, the underarms, and the heart center.
You can wash your brush in the shower or with warm water and gentle soap. The practice of dry brushing before oil massage helps to prepare the skin to better absorb the oil and remove dirt and dead skin. I think of it as doing the yoga asanas before meditation.
The oil massage itself is deeply relaxing, purifying, and detoxifying for the skin and spirit. Prepare your space by gently warming your oil. You can purchase special oils for your dosha or use sesame oil/coconut oil. You can warm your oil by running the bottle under hot water or placing it in a bowl of warm water. Lay out a towel or mat you don't mind getting oily, maybe grab some old pajamas, depending how long you want to sit with your oil on. After massaging it is recommended to sit for 10-20 minutes to allow the oil to pull toxins out of the skin.
Sitting on your towel, pour some of the warmed oil in your hands and gently rub the hands together- take in the smell and the sensation. As you moved up with the brushing we now move radial towards the heart for the massage. You may choose to pour oil on the crown of your head and begin to massage the scalp and all the way to the ends of the hair. If you choose to skip the hair begin by rubbing the ears, the temples and the forehead. Gently rub the face in small circles- working your way down to the neck. Rub the oil on the neck and throat in an upward motion, spending time on the back of the neck and upper back. Massage the arms, going clockwise on the joints of the elbows and shoulders. Kneading all the fleshy places as you go through this process. Begin massaging the legs, moving clockwise on the joints of the ankles, knees and hips. Massaging between the toes and all the little joints. Massage the hips and buttocks- bring loving attention to these places where many of us hold judgement and discontent. Massage the abdomen by going clockwise and move to the lower back, spending time rubbing the sacrum and lower back. Work your way up to the chest and breasts and heart center in a clockwise motion. Spend time rubbing out anywhere that is holding tension- spending time on the back, feet, and shoulders.
Massage with the intention of loving kindness, getting to know every dimple, every mark. Once you have completely oiled sit quietly for awhile and allow the oil to sink in and the spirit to rest.
Once you are done use your towel or a designated wash cloth to wipe away excess oil before stepping into a warm shower or bath.
This practice can be done partially or in its entirety every day- adapting your oils to your needs. If you only have time to do a portion you may focus by rubbing the joints, the back of the neck along with the hands and feet. This practice has become an important part of my own self love journey as you make nice with your body through the process.