Weekend Self Care: Abhyanga

You know those times where you’re stressed to the max and your shoulders get all hunched up and your neck gets tight and the only thing you can think of is how great it’d be to get a massage?

If you didn’t raise your hand, you’re lying.

Seriously, though! Massages work wonders to ease both the tension we hold in our muscles and in our minds. If you’ve ever had a massage before, you know exactly what I’m talking about. The problem is, massages can be expensive as hell and they also involve carving out a hefty chunk of time in our schedule to either take off work or find someone else to watch the kids. Since scheduling a session for yourself at the spa is not always possible (for me it’s hardly ever a thing), Ayurveda offers a self-care ritual that can serve as a pretty amazing substitute: Abhyanga.

Ayurveda is the sister science of yoga, and although I’m not going to go into its background now, suffice it to say that Ayurveda deserves some exploration of its own. Abhyanga is, in its Ayurvedic context, meant to nourish the dhatus and pacify doshic imbalances. Essentially, it’s an oil massage that you can give to yourself – every day if you like! Ayurveda recommends different oils depending on your dosha type or a specific doshic imbalance (this is a great quiz if you’d like to know your own dosha), but the one I use most frequently is sesame oil. I love the smell, and it’s very warming and grounding for me when I feel anxious. Coconut oil, on the other hand, is more cooling (and also smells divine!), but I’ve also tried olive oil in the past and enjoyed it as well. It really depends on what you’re feeling at the moment!

There are different techniques on how exactly to perform the oil massage (and you’ll find different instructions just about everywhere you look), but it’s best to first warm the oil either by placing the bottle in the sink with some hot water or by rubbing the oil between your palms before applying it to the skin. Start gently massaging the oil into your skin, using linear strokes on the arms and legs and circular ones on the joints and stomach region. It can feel weird at first to rub oil into your skin, but I have found that it moisturizes my skin more effectively than lotion and maintains the hydration. That being said, I usually do this before bed when I can slip into sweatpants and a t-shirt that I don’t mind getting a little oily residue on.

Abhyanga is an amazing way to show yourself some love! Not only are the physical benefits delicious, but pampering yourself with a mini home spa session every night is incredibly stress relieving. Try taking some time for this one before bed some evening this weekend and see what you think. You can let me know in the comments!

Happy weekend, Shabbat Shalom, and cheers to self-care!

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