Abhyanga Self-Massage: Our Favorite Ayurvedic Gift of Self-Care
You likely already know that your stress is sneaking up in places other than your mind: tight lower back, kinked neck, achy muscles, even fatigue. Most of us are not doing much beyond the occasional stretch to rid the body of these ever-developing manifestations of a stressful life.
We’ve talked before about how self-massage needs to be part of anyone’s health and beauty routine. Whether it’s helping to reduce pain and inflammation, ease anxiety, headaches, and digestive disorders, or help insomnia, a self-massage pretty much covers all the bases. But not only that, in the Ayurvedic tradition, Abhyanga massages are also a way to maintain both physical and mental wellness, prevent aging and keep skin looking youthful, and increase vitality.
The benefits of Abhyanga self massage extend well beyond just the physical. Here’s why you should be doing it regularly:
Abhyanga increases your flexibility and range of motion (ROM).
If you ever struggle with tight muscles that don’t allow you full range of motion, you’ll want to try self-massage. Whether it’s not being able to reach that top shelf, or you’ve got a kink in your neck that you just can’t seem to get rid of, practicing various self-massage techniques help for three reasons:
- It can reduce edema and promote muscle relaxation by facilitating lymph node activation
- It increases movement of the muscle by rotating the area between the skin and muscles
- Using trigger points helps to reduce scar tissue, loosen deep adhesions within muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joint capsules that prevent use of a full ROM
Abhyanga decreases aches and pains.
People present with a myriad of symptoms that detract from feeling one's best every day, but most often aches and pains are at the forefront. Sometimes they’re a natural part of life or maybe you went a little too hard at the gym, but self-massage is a sure-fire way to get you back to normal. It has been proven time and time again to be an effective treatment for reducing the muscle aches and pains that we experience from activity, daily life, and aging by facilitating activation of the body’s relaxation response (RR). This response also elicits physiological changes in the body, including decreasing blood pressure and heart rate, decreasing oxygen consumption, reducing muscle tension, and decreasing levels of stress hormones, namely cortisol and noradrenaline; all of these contribute to decreasing inflammation and improving blood flow, which are necessary to decrease the pain sensation.
Abhyanga improves mood and decreases stress. We all know that getting a massage feels absolutely amazing and calms your body right down, but why? Massages are so effective because they impact the physiological measures of stress, including hormones (cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine), as well as physical measures (heart rate and blood pressure). Hormones are released as part of the stress response cascade, but massage helps to relax the central nervous system and inhibit release. Not only that, but massage also causes release serotonin and dopamine, which have a positive effect on mood, hence why you feel ripe and ready to take on the world after one!
And most of all, regular self-massage is a great way to check in with your body. We all know we’re guilty of focusing a little too much on external things (job, family, working out, etc.) and not enough on being present and how we’re feeling at a specific moment. Where self massage comes into play here is that it gives you the ability to take time away from everything that’s going on, check in with your body, see how you’re feeling at that moment, keep an eye on changes, and understand your body’s natural rhythms. You’ll get comfortable with knowing your body and knowing when something is misaligned.
An Abhyanga self-massage is an easy, effective, and affordable method of self-care that needs to be on your regular agenda—and by regular we mean at least 2-3 times per week. Whatever the condition you’re dealing with, warm up a bit of oil, lather it on your skin, and get to work. In just 15 minutes, you’ll be able to massage your way to a more calm, balanced state.