Massage has been used for centuries as a therapeutic tool for various ailments, injuries, and athletic recovery. Abhyanga, the Ayurvedic practice of self-massage is a self-care ritual that supports the healing of inner and outer ailments the body might express. When pain or inflammation arises, it is often a call from our body that we need relaxation and self-healing. Self-Massage moves energy through the body which helps to clear the lymph system, relax muscles, and alleviate trapped emotion initiating a deeper connection to self.
Some of the many health benefits of abhyanga massage include: an increase in muscle tone and circulation, an increase in bowel regularity, calming of the nervous system and improvement in quality of sleep. Below you will find a sequence to start your Abhyanga practice.
Start with the head: Pour a tablespoon of warm oil on your scalp. Using the flat of your hand, not the fingertips, massage the oil in vigorously all over. Cover your entire scalp with small circular strokes, as if you were shampooing, and adding a little oil as desired. It is not necessary to soak your hair with oil.
Move to your face and ears, massaging more gently: Gentle circles on the temples and backs of the ears is especially good for settling vata dosha. Circle temples, cheeks. Stroke across upper lip and chin. Stroke across forehead.
Apply a small amount of warm oil to your entire body and then proceed with the abhyanga to each area. This will allow the oil to have maximum amount of time in contact with your body.
Neck: Massage back and forth and up and down the front and back of your neck, including the upper part of the spine (be gentle over the windpipe).
Arms – Hands: Massage somewhat vigorously, using a circular motion at the shoulders and elbows and long, back and forth (or up/down) motions on the long muscles. Massage back and forth on the palm and back of your hand and gently pull each finger.
Chest – Abdomen: Make circles on the chest with both hands over pectoral muscles and gently sweep larger circles around the sides of breasts, and paddling towards nipples around them. A gentle oval or up/down motion over your breastbone feels soothing. Also use circles on your abdomen, following the bowel direction clockwise.
Back – Sides: Reach around without straining to massage your back and spine with up and down strokes or whatever you can do. Pull forward on sides. If your spouse or mother is there have them do several long sweeps on your back and circles over the shoulder blade area.
Legs: Start with full circles on your hip, then long strokes on the thigh. Circles on knee with both hands, alternating, and long strokes on calf.
Feet: Alternate (both hands) circles on ankle bone, one hand (fingers) up and down on achilles tendon down to heel. Do some thumb work on soles if you have time. Work toes pulling gently. Back and forth with palms on top and soles of feet, in an alternating pattern.
Do a couple full sweeps over the face, the arms when you finish there, legs and feet when you are done there.
Allow time for rest and oil to be absorbed after massage. Then follow with a warm bath, helps oil to penetrate deeper into the tissues.
September approaches quicker than often expected and can be felt in the changes around and inside us. The still summer nights are slowly transforming as the sun dips lower into the sky earlier in the afternoon and the winds begin to pick up. The weather is less consistent, jumping from cool mornings and hot afternoons. The atmosphere is beginning to dry out while becoming mobile and light from the winds.
From the still steady heat of the summer to the inconsistent cold winds.We’re stepping into our first few days of Autumn.
This time of year can be tough on the physical and mental body. The changing climate and increased winds can create anxiety in the mind while the cooler temperatures and lack of humidity began to dry things out.
Dehydration moves into the body allowing insomnia to set in for some, while others experience an increase in gas and bloating. Vata is rising and pitta has played its role in drying our epithelial tissues!
Now is the time to focus on staying hydrated to support digestion as the temperatures drop. We can slowly transition away from lighter foods by mixing in the heavier sweet and sour flavours. Butternut squash, yogurt, salmon, root veggies and sweet potatoes are being harvested and sold in markets this time of year.
While the winds pick up and that scatterbrained feeling sets we need to create time to settle down and settle in. As summer begins to leave us, it can be tempting to get in those last hikes or that last weekend trip. But the excess of mobility will increase vata in the body and mind only unsettling the qualities present. Spend time at home cuddled up on the couch enjoying a nice warm chia. Spend time in the kitchen, listening to sweet music while cooking roasted chicken and beets for dinner.
During the summer months Tejas is high, motivating us to stay active and move, but all of that heat driven activity slowly burns up our Ojas, leaving us with lower levels of immunity this time of year. The changing climate further affects our immune system by drying out lymphatics and leaves us susceptible to feeling run down. Changing our focus away from the go go go of Tejas to the juicy sweetness of building Ojas will get our bodies ready for the winter months while protecting our immune systems during fall.
We build Ojas through resting our body and mind while enjoying delicious Ojas building treats. Chocolate date bliss balls, almond milk with dates and honey, acorn squash with a dash of brown sugar and cinnamon, or, my favorite, mini date pecan bites, are all wonderful seasonally delicious treats to build and support your ojas right now
If you want to try your hand at making Mini Date Pecan Bites we included the recipe for you!
Ingredients make about 12 cups
2 cups whole wheat flour (freshly ground red and white wheat mixed is ideal)
1 cup rice flour
1 cup coconut flour (optional, could substitute rice flour)
2 Tbsp flax meal
1 tsp mineral salt
3/4 tsp cinnamon powder
1/2 tsp cardamom powder
pinch of clove powder
4 Tbsp ghee
8-12 large dates soaked in ghee for at least 2 weeks (if you can’t wait to try the recipe, you can use dry dates lightly cooked in ghee and water also)
12 whole pecans
Mix all dry ingredients in a large bowl with your hand. Add ghee and enough water to make a soft moist dough (not sticky).
Make balls of dough about the size of golf balls and lay them out on a stainless cookie sheet or glass baking dish. Press your thumb into the middle of each ball and shape them into cups with equal thickness of bottom and sides.
Bake in an oven at 375F or 190C for 7-8 minutes and remove.
Place the dates and just a splash of water into the blender and blend to a thick consistency, adding water as needed. Place the date paste into the cup and bake in the oven for 5-7 minutes then remove and cool.
Enjoy each ojas-building bite!
The days have grown long and the temperature is creeping into the high 80s and low 90s. Its summer! Ayurveda sees summer as the season of pitta, characterized by the elements of fire and water.
As pitta rises in the atmosphere we may notice pitta emotions or symptoms. We may grow irritable in the heat of the day or find ourselves becoming inpatient in traffic. Some of us experience skin irritation, rashes, or blemishes from the heat affecting our body systems. Others thrive in the warm humid climate.
For those of us noticing the influence of pitta on our mental, physical, or emotional condition, we can be proactive by pacifying excess pitta to reducing its effects.
One of the most important things for every constitutional type in the summer season is keep cool. This means staying out of the midday sun. Working out in the cool of the morning or evening. Wearing light linen or cotton clothing in cool tones like blues and grays. Enjoying cool (not cold) showers to keep our bodies cooled off and energized in the high heat of the day.
Keeping cool also applies to our emotional and mental health. It’s easy to become hot headed or short tempered on long hot days.
Try adding checkpoints to your day. During this time you can take a moment to evaluate your emotional temperature and take a break with 5 deep breaths.
We can also listen to sweet and calming music, enjoying light hearted books or podcasts, and spending time with our favorite people.
As external heat rises our bodies counteract that heat by dimming down our own internal fire. This means that our digestive fire isn’t as strong as it is in the winter.
Protect your digestive fire by steering clear of ice cold drinks and too many frozen treats. Enjoy light meals that are well spiced (cumin, coriander, ginger, turmeric) but not overly spicy (sriracha, hot peppers, etc.) This is the time for cooling foods like cilantro, lime, coconut, fresh fish, cucumber, and quinoa. Get creative and create bright dishes that compliment the summer season.
One of my favorite summer recipes is a cilantro pineapple smoothie. It’s bright, refreshing, and due to spirulina and other cooling ingredients, it can cool your internal body temperature to help you get through those long hot summer days.