Welcome to day four of my 30 Days of Ayurveda series! Throughout these blogs and videos, I will be sharing some upbeat thoughts and wellness tips, as well as some Ayurvedic tricks and food recommendations to help you lead a balanced life.
How to Self Massage
Today, I wanted to share some thoughts about how to self massage. Human touch is so important, often when we meet people that we know and connect with, some kind of physical contact will occur. Be it a handshake, embrace or kiss on the cheek. This kind of human contact is incredibly important, especially when it comes to our mental health. During quarantine and Covid-19 physical contact has been absent for many people. If you prefer watching instead of reading check out the video below, otherwise please continue on.
When we have physical contact with other people, particularly those with whom we share a special connection, we release a hormone called oxytocin. Often dubbed the “love hormone”, this neuropeptide hormone is released during social bonding and sexual reproduction.
Due to lockdown, we are missing out on the importance of physical touch.
Therefore, should you live with someone (be it family, friends or flatmates), see if they would be interested in swapping some massage. If however you live on your own, or if the people in your household feel uncomfortable doing this, self-massage can be done equally well.
When there is physical touch in the body, particularly from an Ayurvedic perspective, it is incredibly grounding. It really helps to calm any anxieties, as well as root and soothe us. IN fact, we can do this as a daily practice.
Sneha – Love
In Ayurveda, we call the act of applying oil to the body as Sneha. This is a gorgeous word, and is translated from Sanskrit to mean love or compassion. Through the medium of oil, we can massage and touch the body, ultimately convey feelings of love and compassion. If you are doing this with a friend or close family relative, it can be totally non-sexual, instead with a focus on human love and human compassion. At the moment, we need this more than ever to help us get through these uncertain times.
Using oil can really help to ease friction during massage.
Which oil should I use?
You can use whatever you have in the house: plain olive oil works really well, as well as sunflower oil, coconut oil (coconut is best suited to the summer months), and cured sesame oil. At home, I have made oil out of ghee and olive oil mixed together.
Whichever oil you are using, I would recommend that you heat a bowl of water to then immerse the bottle of oil inside. This is particularly pleasant if you are using ghee; the hot water warms and liquefies the ghee, which feels so much nicer when it touches the skin.
How do I massage?
If you are working with another person feet are a really good body part to massage. However, if that feels funny, work with another person’s hand or arm, or your own. You don’t need to be an expert at massage, especially if you are working with another person. What we’re really interested in is this notion of touch, and being loving and compassionate.
The level of touch to aim for is very soft and gentle.
For this purpose, we’re not interested in the idea of a pushing and pulling massage. Your touch should be very gentle and loving, almost as though you are tickling. Treat it as though you would a baby or young child: the way you would soothe their brow, shush them to quieten them, or gently stroke them. This is the kind of idea we’re aiming for.
I use a pipette to apply my oil for massage. It’s really useful as you can easily distribute the oil with no fuss or spills. Next, let the hand soothe the foot and leg with gentle, caressing strokes. Spend five minutes gently stroking and soothing your feet, really working the oil into the skin. It works wonders, particularly on dry, hard heels and callouses. Remember to take a few moments each day to do this, provoking these feelings of love and compassion.
Full body massage
Once you have got the hang of it you can graduate to self massaging your whole body or someone else’s. Begin with your feet or hands and work your way with long soft stroke to the middle of you, i.e. your tummy. If you find areas that feel particular tight then you can linger there a little longer and perhaps apply a little more pressure if that feels nice.
How often and when should I massage?
In terms of a massage, you can do as little or as much as you want to, as little or as often as you want. In Ayurevda, we recommend you do it once a day, particularly in the evening before bed. This will really calm and soothe the nervous system, helping to bring you down ready for sleep. Alternatively, you can also do it first thing in the morning before a hot shower. I really hope this is something that you will enjoy doing.
Over the next 30 days, I will be sharing even more tips and tricks to help you build some great Ayurvedic routines. Hopefully, they will soon be imbedded in your life and you can progress with them. Be sure to let me know how you’re getting on, and why not share how self-massage makes you feel? Find me on Instagram @anneheigham and on YouTube.