Self love – I know your mind is probably sinking below the waist, but that’s not what this is about! This practice is about the act of nourishing your body, with your hands & your mind with oils that smell & feel good.
Abhyanga has been defined as the “anointing of the body with oil” which is often infused with herbs or essential oils. It is helpful in keeping the skin totally nourished, especially when combined with dry brushing using a bath brush or mitten before using the oils. It also keeps you grounded as you move through your day. These were the reasons I started doing Abhyanga. But I found an unexpected and wonderful side effect: I learned to really love and appreciate my body in a profoundly different way.
This is how I perform this act of self love:
Warm your bathroom. Find an old towel and fold it up to sit on. Take your oil and warm it in a larger jug of warm water. Start with your lower body: putting some of the warm oil in your hands and rub into your calves and shins. Draw the skin up and down, rubbing the oil deeply into your skin. Pay attention to all the skin, all the muscles on the back of the calves. Do the other lower leg. Rub the oil into the knees, making circles. More oil and rub it into your thighs, front and back, up and down. Use your thumbs, your fingers, your whole hands.
Keep your attention on your body – like meditation don’t let the mind wonder off to the to-do lists of the day, keep your mind on your body. Think about what your physical body does for you – those thighs, those lovely cellulite-y, stretch-marked thighs have helped me climb Mt Iron in New Zealand, land in the Nevada desert after jumping out of a plane, chase my kids, swim near the sharks, rays & eels in the ocean & aim a kick at my opponent in Tae Kwon Do.
Slather the oil into your buttocks and up around your abdomen. Circle the movements from your right hipbone to the base of the right rib cage, across to the base of the left rib cage and down to the left hip bone (follows the path of the large intestine). Acknowledge the scars, the stretchmarks, the extra flesh. I am grateful for those delicious meals that I have digested & that my reproductive organs allowed me to grow & nurture 3 amazing children.
Rub the oil into your lower back and then up over your chest. Spend time with both hands giving your whole body the attention it deserves. Again – look for the positive, look for the gratitude: I am grateful for my back which supports me in my yoga poses & gave me the strength to carry my children. Then over the upper back and down each arm. Be grateful for your arms that allow you to hug those you love, to type, to swing a catch a ball or swing a bat.
Don’t forget the hands and fingers, rubbing the oil deep into the nail beds. Sometimes I bring the oil up over my face and neck and my earlobes and throughout my hair. Caveat – the skin on your face is probably different from the skin on your body, so don’t use thick heavy oils on your face unless you have very fine, dry skin (fine in the hair, ears etc).
Then take a seat on that old towel, right in front of the shower. Rub the oil into your feet (here I am doing this). The arches, between the toes, into the nail beds, around the ankles, contemplating how your feet help you through your day.
Sit and meditate for as long as you can with your schedule. Get into the shower and let the warm water open up the skin so the oil sinks deeper into the epidermis, rather than just sitting on the top of the skin. Squirt a little dish detergent down the shower, so that the oil doesn’t block the drain.
Love your body. Love your mind. Bring them together in this empowering act of self-love!
What You Need:
Untoasted Sesame Oil in a pump container (to which you can add essential oils, e.g. neroli, patchouli, orange)
Jug of warm water that is bigger than pump container
©Tamsin Astor-Jack, Yoga Brained LLC