A massage is one of the most nourishing, healing and caring things we can do for the body, and the good news is that if you’re not able to fork out the money for a massage therapist every week, you can maintain your own health and wellbeing by adding self massage into your every-day routine!
The Ayurvedic system includes daily practices that are intended to bring the body and mind into balance. One of these practices is Abyhanga, known as ‘self massage’. The word abhyanga implies a massage of the whole body, or all ‘limbs’. The word ‘anga’ means limb, and ‘abhy’ can be understood in a few different ways; in this context the Sanskrit prefix means ‘to make smooth and glowing’.
The Sanskrit word Sneha is the word used for ‘oil’. It often translates as ‘motherly’, ‘affection’, ‘love’ and ‘kindness’, but also as ‘oily’, ‘lubricity’, ‘smoothness’, and ‘fluidity’. We can understand then, that when we massage the body with oils each day, we’re providing ourselves with affection, love and kindness, as well as making the skin smooth, and the joints lubricated.
In order to start a practice of Abhyanga, you’ll need a small amount of warm oil. Coconut oil, sesame oil or almond oil generally works best. Gently massage the body from the feet upwards in long stroking motions, and small circular movements at the joints. The oil can be left on for about half an hour to soak in, and then washed off, or you may prefer to massage the oil into warm, damp skin after a bath.
As well as showing yourself some love and care, the oils can prove to be an effective way of easing any aches and pains, relieving stiff joints, and even promoting flexibility.
Whole-body massage is a perfect way to nourish the body, mind and senses, but there are a few specific points that can be massaged by themselves as an individual treatment, and to work with your own personal needs. Marmas are key energy centres on and in the body, which work with both physical and subtle aspects. The word ‘Marma’ actually translates as ‘secret’, or ‘hidden’, so you could think of these as secret places on the body that, when massaged, have the potential to release amazing benefits.
Key Marma Points For Everyday Massage
Talahridaya (hand): Located at the center of the palm of the hand, said to be an important place to massage in order to open the Chakras of the hands, and enable better communication with others. Anyone who works as a healer, teacher or any kind of communication can benefit from massaging this place before they begin to work.
Apalapa: Located on the chest, just below where the collarbone meets the sternum. This is a wonderful place to massage in order to relive stiff, tense or painful shoulders, neck and back.
Talahidraya (foot): Just like the hand marma, this is located in the center of the sole of the foot. Massaging this area in firm, circular movements can help calm the nervous system and strengthen the feet. It is also said to strengthen the immune system, and bring about a sense of being more ‘grounded’.
Phana: Located at the base of the nose, just above the nostril openings on each side. This is the place you may sometimes feel sinus congestion or blockage, and incidentally this is a wonderful marma point to massage in order to relive blockages and stuffiness in the sinuses and head. Massaging this place is also said to be brilliant for relieving headaches.
Emma is a 500hr qualified Yoga teacher, musician, massage therapist, cook, and writer. Having grown up surrounded by Yoga and meditation, Emma began her practice at a young age and has continued to study and develop her understanding of Yoga on a daily basis. Training internationally with inspirational teachers, Emma’s passions now lie primarily in philosophy and Yoga off the mat. Emma currently teaches regularly in Sussex, co-leading teacher trainings, retreats, workshops and kirtans, and also manages the Brighton Yoga Festival. When she’s not teaching, writing or cooking, Emma loves spending time in nature, and travelling to new places.