Why Navel Therapy Is a Powerful Self-Care Practice: A Q&A with Heather Baines
Navel therapy or navel oiling—filling the belly button with warm oil or ghee—is a centuries-old practice for detoxifying, nurturing, and treating ailments in the body.
In Ayurvedic tradition, the navel (nabhi) represents the origin of life. It links mother and child before birth and provides a hub for nutrients to flow between their bodies. "This is the place of our first nourishment as we developed in our mother’s womb," says Heather Baines AD C-AP. The philosophy of navel therapy (also referred to as nabhi chikitsa, nabhi purana, or nabhi basti) informs us that the navel continues to serve as a center of balance in adulthood. It is where the nabhi marma—a central and very powerful energy center—resides says Baines, an Ayurvedic Doctor certified by the National Ayurvedic Medical Association, and founder and managing director of Roots of Wellness, a cooperative of Ayurvedic practitioners located in Boulder, Colorado. And because the belly button presents an abundance of blood vessels and pathways to the body’s extremities, the absorption of oils through the navel pathways is strong.
Having recently launched our new Navel Therapy Oils (one for reinvigorating skin, one for balancing the digestive system and renewing energy reserves) we asked Baines for her insight on navel therapy, why it's beneficial for our health, and how the practice is a simple, renewing, blissful act of self-care. "Give yourself the time and space to luxuriate in warm oils applied to the navel," says Baines. "Your mind, your body, and your health will benefit and your skin will glow with daily practice."
Talking Navel Therapy with Heather Baines, AD C-AP
Q: How does navel therapy work?
A: The daily practice of applying warm oil to the navel gently stabilizes Vayu, the air element seated in Manipura, the third chakra and energy center located within the navel and abdomen.
Warm oil is recommended for the practice of navel oiling for it honors, soothes, and calms Vata dosha—the dosha that is the balance and functional integrity of Vayu, the air element, and Akasha, the element of space and the container that holds manifest reality and the universe's creative living impulse. An excess of Vata is the root of all imbalance, according to Ayurvedic principles, as Vata is known by its subtle, mobile, and cold qualities (among others) and as the prime mover in the body.
When Vata is upset, Vata will push around the life energies of Pitta dosha and Kapha dosha, creating chaos in our body systems and mind. This can make us feel ungrounded, spacey, dry, weak, and fatigued. The daily self-care practice of abhyanga—using warm oils on the body—and modified nabhi basti—using warm oil on the navel—is a luxurious and life giving practice, dedicated to honoring and pacifying Vata and supporting our wellbeing with stable, steady, and unctuous life giving goodness.
Q: What are the benefits?
A: The primary benefit of navel oiling is the pacification of Vata, which helps us feel grounded, warm, and well nourished. Pooling oils in the navel cavity is primarily used to pacify and calm Vata and Pitta, where the seat of Vata is the colon and the seat of Pitta is the duodenum, small intestine, or lower stomach. Ingredients considered to be cooling by Ayurvedic practitioners and doctors, also referred to as shita virya, are helpful for pacifying Pitta.
Using warm oils in the navel can help to ease improper digestion and discomfort associated with gas and bloating, regulate agni or our digestive fire, and improve regular daily elimination of wastes from the bowels.
Q: What is its history?
While navel oiling is not mentioned specifically in the three great classic Ayurvedic texts known as the Brihad Trayi, the function, location, and primary importance of the navel and umbilicus in the developing life of the fetus is clearly depicted in Ayurvedic anatomy. The marmas, or vital energy points are also thoroughly documented, with nabhi as one of the mahamarmani or “great marmas.” These vital energy centers are the center of agni or the digestive center, the center of consciousness located in the third eye or center of the forehead, and the heart center, which is the center of love, devotion, and life-giving circulation.
The closest reference to nabhi basti in the Ayurvedic texts comes from the Bhavaprakasha, written around 1400, in which a dam of Amalaki paste is constructed around the navel and filled with ginger juice.
Q: What is your advice for getting beneficial results?
For best benefit a warm oil navel massage should be performed daily.
The only exception to this rule is if you require detoxification procedures to remove and expel impurities resulting from poor or incomplete digestion and environmental toxins. Panchakarma—the five actions of deep detoxification—may be recommended prior to daily application of warm oils for best benefit.
It is recommended to combine the daily practice of applying oils externally with other Ayurvedic wellness approaches including internal plant-based herbal formulas, balanced diet, and healthy lifestyle.
To learn more about Heather Baines AD C-AP and her offerings at Roots of Wellness, visit www.rootsofwellnessayurveda.com.
The advice in this column is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease, or affect the structure or function of the body. The information herein does not constitute medical advice. Anyone suffering from a medical condition should consult with a physician. User reviews do not constitute a guarantee that you will achieve the same results—what works for one may not work for another.
- Ayurveda, belly button oiling, digestive health, Glowing Skin, nabhi basti, nabhi chikitsa, navel therapy, Wise Women
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