04/02/2020 Mind-Body Health
In times of stress and unknown, don’t underestimate the transformative power of a soak and self-massage. Try this self-care practice to connect back to nature and create inner calm.
As a natural beauty and wellness expert working mostly with clients in New York City, I knew before the coronavirus (COVID-19) hit that my clients were already living with a high level of stress. Now, in the midst of this new experience, with confusion and uncertainty all around us, we are collectively experiencing a new and unprecedented level of stress.
While all of this is true, it is also a time for you to take care of yourself in profound ways. And just as importantly, the reality is that this is not the time to run out and order everything to make it the “perfect” experience, with the perfect products or tools; it is a time to use what you have, get creative, and, above all else, find ways to nurture yourself.
Connect to Nature
When caring for ourselves, both the natural world and our own senses, offer ways to feel supported. Despite being inside every day, in many ways, there are signs of how connected you are with nature. In my own life, my mother reports how clean the air is now in Philadelphia.
Connecting to nature may feel like a stretch since you are technically inside, but you can reach toward the elements (and engage with your senses) as a first step. For this ritual, you are going to focus on the element of water and the sense of touch. Water therapy has been used for a long time due to its transformative power to heal the body and mind, help move blood and lymph, support digestion, calm muscles, improve sleep, and relax the nervous system. You can add massage and working with warm oil and marma points to help your body naturally heal, relieve body and mind tension, improve circulation, and help restore a deeper quality of sleep.
This self-care practice is broken down into five steps: identifying your vessel, collecting goodies for your vessel, soaking, preparing your oil, and finally doing the massage. Yes, you can just do the soak or massage only, but it is recommended you do both to enjoy the full power and relaxation of the process in its entirety. Be sure to get all of the steps ready before you begin to soak. You can boil the water after your soak, but have it ready to go before you get in the water.
1. Identify Your Vessel
Identify where you will be soaking. It can be a bathtub, a big bowl that fits your feet, a big pot, or two small bowls/Tupperware—one for each foot.
Any choice of soaking vessel is right (don’t judge it!), and some of you might need to do this while you are working from home or homeschooling, so just know that putting a pasta pot under the kitchen table and soaking your feet is perfect.
2. Collect Your Goodies
Next up, collect the goodies you will add to the water. Supplies might be limited now, so here are some ideas to inspire a more nourishing and special soak experience. And please know that even if all you have is just one tea bag to add to your bath, that is just right.
- Essential oils
- Flowers or foraged pine needles from a walk outside
- Epsom salt and baking soda (2 cups of Epsom salt and 1 cup baking soda in a bath, or 1 cup Epsom sale and 1/2 cup baking soda in a pot)
- 1-2 cups of milk, fresh or powdered
- 10-12 drops of calming essential oils (be sure not to add them directly into your tub; add the oils to some milk or to your Epsom salts or a bit of olive oil, before you add to your bath—this is so you don’t irritate or burn your skin)
- Orange or lemon peels
- 2-5 tea bags (e.g., lavender, chamomile, kava; just have sleepytime tea? Throw it in!)
There is no wrong way to soak. You can get in the tub or the pot and do a breathing meditation, listen to music, watch tv, eat your dinner—just get in the water, add your goodies, and try to stay submerged for at least 20 minutes. When you are done, pat yourself dry, and then go and boil some water.
4. Prepare the Oil
Depending on what you have in the pantry, take a half cup of one of the following:
- Coconut oil
- Olive oil
- Jojoba oil
- Sesame oil
- An already medicated massage oil
Once you select your oil, do the following:
- Put the oil in a metal bowl or cup.
- Take your boiled water and add it to another bowl.
- Add the metal bowl to rest in the boiled water bowl. You are trying to warm the oil slowly instead of burning it by directly heating it on the stovetop.
- Grab an old towel or rag (in case you spill or need to wipe your hands) and a pair of cozy socks.
For the massage that will follow the soak, you are going to focus on a warm oil massage for the feet (self-abhyanga), an easy-to-reach part of the body that is full of marma points—the vital points where the force of life (Prana) lives. Maybe you are familiar with reflexology or marma points, or you just have feet and know that it feels good to massage them.
Two points that you are going to focus on are Talahridaya Marma and Kshipra Marma. Talahridaya Marma is located in the middle of the sole of the foot and in a straight line drawn from the root (or the crease) of the middle toe. Kshipra Marma is located between the second and the big toe.
To start the foot massage, do the following:
- Start by coating your hands in the warm oil and massaging the right foot, followed by the left foot.
- Massage the Talahridaya Marma and the Kshipra Marma points with gentle massage strokes, then hold each point for 20 to 60 seconds.
- Follow by massaging each of your toes including the joints, starting with the big toe and ending with the baby toe.
- Now go over the whole foot, and don't forget the heel.
- Once you are done with both feet, put on your cozy socks. Take a deep breath and remind your body that it can relax. Now you are done, feeling more grounded and nourished than before.
Whether you have an amazing bathtub or just a pasta pot, this is a practice that you can start today. Remember, the power of soaking and touch cannot be underestimated.
*Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only; it does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Chopra Center's Mind-Body Medical Group; and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health programs.
Want to learn how to stay energetic and balanced all year long? Learn Deepak Chopra’s simple practices to tune into the healing wisdom of nature and thrive, with our self-paced online course, Secrets to Vibrant Health. Learn More.