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As a massage therapist, I wish (and recommend) every mom could make the time—and set aside the funds—for receiving regular massage. As a mom, however, I know firsthand how limited kiddos quickly render expendable time and cash. Luckily, Ayruveda—India's 5,000-year-strong system of medicine and self-healing—offers us a wonderful option that, in my opinion, comes in at a close second to actually hiring a massage therapist.
It's known as Abhyanga, and it's traditionally prescribed for a whole host of conditions. This method of warm oil self-massage is definitely different from the Deep Tissue or Swedish styles you may be used to, but believe me, once you get the hang of it, it'll become a regular habit you don't want to break.
The Sanskrit word for oil, sneha, also means 'love,' and self-massage does indeed do a body good, as an impactful form of self-love and care. It's particularly useful in treating anxiety and nervousness, cracking joints, lack of focus, mental and physical stress, restlessness, dry skin and any kind of digestive issue. The skin is the body's largest organ, and one that's largely associated with digestion; using a high quality oil to massage the skin not only imparts calming effects on the nervous system, but it also helps to cleanse and nourish the skin, helping it to better do its jobs (including detoxification). Whether or not you're treating a specific condition, Abhyanga stimulates the inner organs, promotes digestion and restores our innate sense of well-being and optimism. In a nutshell, it cures what ails you.
Feel happy. Let your stress go. And go ahead and make a habit of this, from a few times a week to every day, if you can swing it.
Here's how it's done: before bathing, spread some towels (not your favorites… they're gonna get messy) onto your bathroom floor, and pour some organic food-quality oil into a plastic squeeze bottle (or other container) – I use coconut oil, but you can also use sesame or almond oil for a warming, grounding effect, or corn or flaxseed oil if your constitution is generally sluggish or heavy. Place the bottle of oil in a bowl of warm water to heat it slightly as you undress (make sure the room isn't drafty, too). Next, pour a small amount of oil into your hands and apply it to your face, including your ears and nose, but avoiding the eyes.
Massage your limbs in long strokes, applying pressure as you move toward the heart, and then follow with circular strokes over your joints. Massage your abdomen in a clockwise direction, then your hands, your shoulders, your feet—give yourself a good rub-down. About once a week, massage some oil into your scalp using circular motions, as well. Chill out for a few minutes – ideally you'd wait for fifteen to thirty minutes, but… I don't usually have that kind of time – and then carefully (your feet may be super slippery) climb into the tub or shower. Wash yourself, but go easy on the soap so as not to remove all of the oil. Pat yourself dry with a towel.
Look around. Do things look brighter somehow? Thanks, Abhyanga!
As I mentioned, this type of massage is a bit different from Swedish or Deep Tissue, so you don't need to chug water all day afterward—although that's not a bad idea, regardless—and you shouldn't focus too much on working knots out while you're doing this. Instead, try to rest your attention during Abhyanga on gratitude for your amazing body and how much it does for you, how many functions it performs. Feel happy. Let your stress go. And go ahead and make a habit of this, from a few times a week to every day, if you can swing it.
*Note that Abhyanga is not indicated (i.e. safe/recommended) for anyone in the acute stage of an illness, pregnant or menstruating women, people with insulin-dependent diabetes, blood clots, edema, hangovers, infected wounds, or who are in chemotherapy. Safety first, folks!