“The body of one who uses oil massage regularly does not become affected much even if subjected to accidental injuries, or strenuous work. By using oil massage daily, a person is endowed with pleasant touch, trimmed body parts and becomes strong, charming, and least affected by old age.” Charaka Samhita Vol. 1, V: 88-89
Ayurvedic Self-Massage is an important part of any daily routine, yet most of us have never even attempted it. According to the American Massage Therapy Association, research shows that massage therapy provides several important health benefits, including:
Improved blood circulation. Massage helps increase the ease with which blood flows through the body, which aids in recovery of muscle soreness from physical activity.
Muscle relaxation and improved range of motion, resulting in relief from all sorts of both bodily and mental tension.
Increased endorphin levels, one of the greatest benefits of massage therapy. Endorphins are the chemicals the body produces that make you feel good, which is very effective in managing chronic pain.
Massage is one of the easiest and best ways of attaining and maintaining good health and well-being. It is a healing instinct, innate in all of us, to rub an aching knee, or stroke a furrowed brow. Headaches, aches and pains, insomnia, tension and stress can all be alleviated with one simple instrument — our hands.
The Ancient Ayurvedic texts allude to several key health benefits from daily oil massage (or Abhyanga, as is it referred to in Sanskrit) including:
- Supple, younger looking skin through cell stimulation and revitalization
- Toned, well functioning muscles and internal organs due to the flushing of fluids and toxins in the body
- A relaxed Central Nervous System ~ oil helps to pacify Vata dosha (the bus driver of the nervous system)
- Detoxification ~ when combined with heat, oil surrounds bodily toxins, and draws them into the GI tract where we our body does its best to eliminate them (through healthy diet and digestive habits)
The basis of massage is touch. There is increasing medical evidence to show the great value of touch. Touch is such an intrinsic need that without it people become depressed and irritable. Observations show that in families where parents and children touch each other regularly, the children are healthier and more able to withstand pain and infection than those children deprived of touch. They tend to sleep better, are more social and generally happier.
Self Massage Tips for Easy Daily Care
Ideally, one should massage themselves with oil on a daily basis. Self Massage may be used to energize before school or work in the morning, or to unwind in the evening. You can even massage your feet while watching TV, or massage your hands while talking on the phone.
This daily ritual can be as simple as a quick application of oil to your entire body before your shower, or if you have more time to spend, as involved as thoroughly affecting each body part, paying close attention to the joints and muscles as you go. Each day can be different, so start out with whatever works and feels best for you. No matter what, adding oil massage to your routine before a shower should take no longer than 3 to 5 minutes, but doing so has an immediately remarkable benefit that can last a lifetime if continued.
To make incorporating this into your routine easy:
- Keep your oil in the shower, with a tight fitting, closed lid.
- Apply your oil while standing in the shower or sitting on the edge of the bathtub, depending on which body part you are working on.
- Use a paper towel to wipe your feet after your massage. Oily feet can be slippery, especially when combined with a wet shower floor. You can use a regular hand towel, but be aware that oil is very difficult to remove from fabric, and this towel should be washed frequently with other rags so as not to ruin clothing or bed linens.
How to give yourself a Massage
FACE, NECK, and SCALP
Face massage can relieve headaches, anxiety and banish fatigue. It can benefit your appearance by improving complexion and leaving your face looking fresher. Use a good face oil so you don’t drag your skin. You can fit a massage in at any time, even while sitting in front of your computer! Try to vary the movements: brisk and fast for an energizing effect or slow and smooth if you want a calming effect.
1. Massage your scalp by pressing firmly with your fingers. Start with your fingers spread out, then bring them in toward each other. Most scalp massage feels best with deep pressure.
2. Slide your fingers through the roots of your hair. Gripping large amounts of hair, gently make a fist close to the scalp and pull outward. Do this all over your entire scalp.
3. Stroke up your forehead from the bridge of your nose to your hairline with one hand following the other. Mold your hands to the shape of your forehead, and close your eyes to enjoy this soothing movement.
4. Make circular pressures all over your forehead, working in lines from the bridge of your nose to your temples, to cover the whole forehead up to your hairline. Press firmly, but do not drag your skin. Then stroke your forehead gently with your fingertips to soothe it after the last stimulating movement.
5. Massage the muscles between your eyebrows to counteract lines. Place both index fingers on the bridge of your nose and make short, firm strokes upward first, then across.
6. Stroke from the center of your forehead to your temples and finish by pressing gently on the temples. Then, circle slowly and steadily to stimulate the muscle.
7. Stroke in a circle around your eyes with your ring fingers. Stroke firmly and evenly from the bridge of your nose out over your eyebrows, press on your temples, then glide lightly under your eyes, barely touching the skin.
8. Pinch along around your eyebrows from the center to the temples with your thumbs and index fingers. Then press into the tiny indentation in the bone under the eyebrows at the bridge of the nose.
9. Put the heel of your hands into your eye sockets and hold your hands there for a few seconds. Enjoy the darkness for a second. Press gently, then slowly glide your hands away.
10. Press the tips of all four fingers onto the top of your cheekbone and slowly glide to the temple to stimulate sinuses.
11. Stroke from the corners of your mouth to your ears. Stroke from your mouth to your ear using the tips of your fingers.
12. Pinch all along your jaw line using your thumbs and the knuckles of your index fingers. Start under your chin and work out toward your ears. Keep the pinching close to the bone, so you do not stretch the skin.
NECK, SHOULDERS & ARMS
Though you may feel tempted to ignore your arms, you will find that a thorough massage can help to release tension elsewhere in the body, especially in the shoulders. Most people suffer from occasional stiff necks, aching shoulders and headaches, and often find themselves rubbing their neck to alleviate pain.
1. On the back of your neck, make circular pressures with your fingertips on either side of the spine. Work up the neck and around the base of the skull. Then knead each shoulder; squeeze and release the flesh on your shoulders and at the top of your arms.
2. Stroke your right shoulder with your left hand. Mold your hand to the curves of your body. Start at the base of your skull, stroke down the side of your neck, over your shoulder and down your arm to the elbow. Glide back to your neck and repeat at least three times. Then do the other side.
3. Loosely clench your hand into a fist and gently pound your shoulders. Keep your wrist flexible. This springy movement improves the circulation and can be very invigorating if you are tired.
4. Glide from the base of the skull to the wrist on your left arm, and commence arm massage on the left side.
5. Smooth your whole arm by stroking from the wrist to the shoulder. Stroke firmly as you move up the arm, then glide gently back and repeat.
6. Knead all the way up your arm, squeezing and releasing the flesh. Pay particular attention to the fleshy part at the back of the upper arm from elbow to shoulder, as well as the bicep.
7. Glide down your forearm with your thumb from elbow to wrist, back to elbow circle around the elbow and glide back to wrist. Now work on the hand on that side:
It may seem surprising that people carry a lot of tension around in their hands. However, it is quite obvious when you think about how much you use your hands. Most of our movements are holding, clutching actions, so it is very relaxing to counteract these movements by opening the palm and your fingers.
1. Extend you arm, letting your hand rest pointing downward. With your other hand, press the palm of the relaxed hand in toward your wrist, stretching the top of the arm.
2. Squeeze the hand all over, pressing it between your palm and your fingers. Squeeze each finger all over and make circular movements over the joints with your thumb. Then hold the finger at its base and tug it gently, sliding your grip up the finger and off the tip.
3. Stroke in between each bone in the hand from knuckle to wrist using your thumb.
4. Turn your hand over and support the back with your fingers. Give firm circular and static pressure with your thumb, working all over the palm and around the wrist.
5. Squeeze your palm with the heel of your other hand, then shake that hand out, and move on to finish the other arm and hand.
People often hold tension in the front of their neck and pectoral muscles. Regular chest massage can help keep the breast tissue firm and elastic.
1. Glide the left hand across the upper chest from shoulder to underarm. Do the same with the right hand on the left shoulder.
2. With fists loosely clenched, massage the pectorals in a circular motion using your knuckles.
3. With fingers pointing toward the head, glide in an upward motion from the underarm up around on each side of the pectoral muscle/breast.
4. Finish by reaching the left hand into the underarm and pulling across the décolleté and doing the same with the right hand on the left side a few times.
ABDOMEN & BACK
What do you do when you have a stomach ache or menstrual cramps, or how about a backache? It is natural to rub your stomach and back when it aches. Here’s how to do it right.
1. Stroke clockwise around your abdomen, from lower belly to just under the rib cage with one hand following the other in a circle, using the whole surface of your hands.
2. Knead all over your abdomen with your fingers and thumbs.
3. Reach around your body and firmly glide hands upward from the hip to the bottom of your shoulder blades. Glide back down with a gentler pressure.
4. Grip the flesh on your hips between your thumb and fingertips. Squeeze and pull the area, then move up one inch and repeat until you cannot go any higher.
5. Make a fist. With the thumb and forefinger side of your fist, glide from hip to up as high as you can go comfortably.
6. Reach your left hand over your right shoulder as far as you can. Pull with your fingers from in between the shoulder blades, up over the shoulder, ending on the front of your chest, then glide down your chest to your hips.
HIPS & LEGS
Knowing how to massage your own legs is very useful whether you are athletic or not. Leg massage can relieve aching after standing too long and help tired muscles recover after exercise. It stimulates the lymph system and regular thigh massage is believed by many to improve the appearance of thighs by smoothing them out, preventing cellulite.
1. Pummel your hips and bottom vigorously. Keeping your wrists very flexible, lightly strike the skin then flick your hands away, using a light bouncy movement.
2. Now work each leg individually: pummel the entire thigh and calf with loosely clenched fists.
3. Knead the whole thigh, making sure to affect the front, outside, inside and back of the leg. With alternate hands, rhythmically squeeze and release the flesh. This regular kneading can really improve the shape & texture of the thighs.
4. Massage all around your knee, gliding around the kneecap in a circular motion.
5. Mold your hands to the shape of your leg, rest your foot flat, and bend your knee. Start by stroking your whole leg from ankle to thigh with one hand on each side of the leg. Begin at the foot and stroke smoothly up the calf, over the knee and up to the top of the thigh.
6. Knead your calf muscle, alternately squeezing and releasing the muscle. Gently stroke one hand following the other up the back of the leg.
7. Finish by stroking from foot to hip and back, so you may begin your foot massage.
It is easy to massage your own feet. If you are sitting up, rest one foot on the opposite leg. Bad posture, backache, and fatigue can all stem from unnoticed foot problem. By massaging your feet daily, you can refresh your whole body.
1. Put one hand on top of the foot and the other under the sole, then stroke smoothly from your toes to your ankles. Glide your hands back to your toes and repeat.
2. Work on each toe individually, squeeze it firmly, and stretch each toe with a little tug.
3. With one thumb on top of the other, glide down the center of the sole and again on both sides. With your thumb, do circular movements on the arch and the ball of the foot.
4. Support your foot with one hand and make the other into a loose fist. Apply your knuckles to the bottom of the foot and make circular movements with medium pressure.
5. Gently knock the sole with your loosely closed fist. Flick your hand away the moment you touch the foot, so that the effect is light and springy.
6. Stroke around the ankle with your fingertips. Glide up the backside of the ankle, then over the top and down the front side. Finish by stroking the foot as you did at the beginning.
Most of us will naturally feel a little unusual the first few times we apply oil to our skin in this manner. It may feel like you want to run for the nearest bar of soap and get all that oil cleaned up and off of your skin. However, if you don’t overdo it with the amount of oil you use, you will find that the moist heat of the shower will drive the oil into the skin, noticeably reducing the need for moisturizer after you get out of the shower. Soap should be limited to the areas that are truly dirty, allowing the benefits of the oil to deeply penetrate into your system so it can work as intended. In short, save the soap for cleaning up the shower after you are out of it.
Feel the Difference
As we can see, massage has life changing effects on the body. It improves circulation, relaxes muscles, aids digestion, and by stimulating the lymph system, speeds up the elimination of waste products. These direct benefits, combined with the psychological benefits of feeling cared for quickly produce a wonderful feeling of well-being that cannot be matched by modern drugs.
With daily practice, you will begin to notice your skin feeling softer and smoother. Your range of motion will increase perceptibly, and the look of your skin and muscles will appear tighter and more youthful. While these seem like lofty claims, simply imagine how much better you would feel if you were receiving a daily massage! As your own massage therapist, you will know your perfect tempo and pressure preferences; you will have control over which oils are used, and even the environment in which you are receiving the massage. The feeling you will have as a result of a self massage, when done as explained above, cannot be matched, and the results will leave you wondering why you waited so long. Now get out there and give yourself a massage!