Self-care is in. The idea of taking time out to yourself doing the things that rejuvenate you and make you feel whole is in. It's totally a personal preference, and there's no shame in that. I just love that the awareness is out, and people are carving small moments into their life to fill their cup.
Ayurveda talks a lot about being steadfast in a personal routine. Having a routine allows the body to be prepared for what is going to come next. It allows regulation of our internal (and thus external) systems. A little structure and regularity goes a long way!
One of my favorite things in Ayurveda is the concept of abhyanga or an oil massage. I personally find it to be the ultimate self-care routine you can do. An oil massage has a ton of benefits, but before I dive into those, here's my take.
I believe in the power of self-healing. I believe that our bodies are inherently incredibly intelligent, and that it generally knows exactly what you are needing. The unfortunate part of all of this, is that our minds tend to take over. We start filling our bodies with junk which turns into toxins. Those toxins then create false ideas of what is needed and right. I believe we've lost the deeper connection we have with our bodies--the ability to listen and learn from natural cues it's telling us.
The beauty of Ayurveda is that we can rekindle that relationship with our physical body, which in turn creates a deeper understanding of what our mental, emotional, and spiritual bodies are telling us.
Abhyanga allows us to start fresh and truly create that connection. In Sanskrit, another name for abhyanga is snehana. This translates to "love" or "care". This is amazing. What Ayurveda is telling us that when you are giving yourself an oil massage, you are literally loving and caring for yourself. This is the ultimate form of self-care! Touching our skin, learning about our bodies, in all aspects of the self oil massage you are allowing yourself to heal. There is beauty in self-healing. There is beauty in self-care.
Abhyanga has a ton of benefits. Not only does it make our skin soft and supple, but it calms down the qualities of vata. When using the right oils, it can penetrate all 7 layers of our bodies and heal even the inner-most and deepest parts of our bodies. Touch alone has immense healing properties.
The best time to do abhyanga is before you shower. Get creative. I usually will turn on my space heater that lives in the bathroom, place down a few towels, light a candle, and get real cozy. Warm up your oil* (I also have a coffee warmer I keep in the bathroom. Take a small ceramic or steel bowl. Pour the oil in. Warm on the coffee warmer). I generally start with the feet and move my way up. Your strokes should go towards the heart. Other than that, keep in mind these last few things: long strokes on the long bones, circular motions on joints, on the abdomen--go in the direction of your colon (this promotes proper bowel movement and proper flow of waste), and around your lymph areas maybe dig a little deeper to get your lymph moving. After, sit for a few minutes to really let the oil seep in. Take a hot shower so that the pores open up and the oil really gets into the deepest layers. There's no need for washing with soap everywhere (I opt for just the underarms, feet, and privates). This allows the oil to settle in all the way.
Voila. That's it.
Take time for self-healing. Your body is smart. Listen. Find the connection back to the soul.