Abhyanga (Ah-Bee-On-Gah) is Ayurveda’s gift of restoration, calm and expressing personal compassion.
Essentially, it is warm oil massage. There are many different options for when to practice Abhyanga. I do a simple version, spending about 5 minutes, everyday after I shower. This is more for moisturizing, simply using a natural oil rather than a lotion or cream, than it is a true Abhyanga.
A nice option prior to what you know will be a busy day, is to spend 20-30 minutes before your shower, and a bit more oil and following the recommended method as expressed in the video linked below, taking your time to really nurture tender areas and bathe in the scent of the oil, and the calming it brings you. Following your massage, let the oil sink in for about 30 minutes, and then shower it off, not using soap to scrub it off as this will defeat its effect. (Of course you can wash those essential areas!)
Be mindful: Watch your step in the shower as your oily feet may cause you to slip! Consider placing an old fowl in the bottom of the tub/shower to prevent slipping.
Bundle up in the same room where you massaged to keep the heat in, and stay warm and cozy, especially in this cold time of the year. I did this when I arrived home from Kripalu Sunday night and was truly thankful for the calming it brought me.
It may seem counter-intuitive to oil before you shower, but in the Ayurvedic tradition, “sneha before sveda,” oil before sweat. When you simple rinse the oil, rather than scrub it you maintain its moisturizing effects. The heat opens your pores allowing the body to rid of what is not wanted, and maintain what is.
Another great option for the evening when you are feeling overwhelmed or concerned you may not sleep well, is practicing Abhyanga before bed. You may even consider massaging a little oil onto the crown of your head. You can cozy up, sleep, and shower in the morning. The heaviness of the oil will be grounding and help you to sleep more readily and soundly.
Below is a link to a video on You Tube by one of my favorite teachers, Hilary Garivaltis (former Dean of the Kripalu School of Ayurveda and former NAMA president). You do not have to get fancy, though. For winter, for most of us, Organic Sesame Oil will be absolutely perfect! (Be sure NOT to by the toasted variety!!) If your body temperature tends to run quite warm and your digestive fire is strong, coconut oil may be preferable.
Let me know if you have any questions about Abhyanga by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org or leaving a comment below.
Happy Healing Holidays!
P.S. Even if it’s not abhyanga, taking time to breathe slowing, participate in a restorative yoga class, or eat a meal in silence, being sure to chew thoroughly, will take the edge off of the late December chaos and remind you the greatest gift you can give to others if nurturing yourself:)