The Ayurvedic term for self-love is Snehana. Love is nothing but unconditional acceptance of the other person. We love our parents. We love our children. We love our friends. Parents’ love for their children is exalted as unconditional.
Now, ask yourself, do you unconditionally accept yourself?
How do you express your love to your loved ones? Buy gifts for them, make them dinner, take road trips? You might be able to list several ways in which you can express your love to your family and friends.
Do you express love towards yourself? Spending quality time with yourself, engaged in an activity or hobby of your choosing, being present when you eat your meals, and taking care of your own health are all acts of self-love.
Taking Care of Your Health is an Act of Self-Love
Snehana in Sanskrit means “oleation” but it is synonymous with “love”! A major part of self-love in Ayurveda is the healing massage that is to be performed daily called abhyanga.
Abhyanga is a specific type of Ayurvedic treatment that can be self-administered at home! Make sure that you use a natural oil that is conducive for your dosha type, warm it up a little, and massage your body.
Massaging in the direction of the follicles improves blood circulation, enables removal of toxins from the dhatus (tissues), alleviates physical and mental fatigue, improves the functioning of musculoskeletal system, soothes out the areas that hold a lot of tension and exhaustion and leads to a feeling of lightness.
Your body needs to feel loved, nourished and protected every day. Human beings are structured in a way that their bodies adjust to patterns and routines. When you wake up in the morning, instead of reaching out for the phone, stretch your limbs. When your feet first touch the ground, say a silent prayer of gratitude.
Then, drink warm water so that your body knows it is daytime--it is time to wake up. Warm water awakens your internal organs and helps in slowly starting up the Agni. Then, before entering the shower take about five minutes to practice Abhyanga.
A Daily Routine for Abhyanga, or Self-Massage with Warm Oil
Abhyanga is an integral part of the daily routine, or dinacharya in Ayurvedic terms, and is also a prescribed treatment that is a part of the Panchakarma Treatment.
Abhyanga helps in grounding you and helping you connect with the earth. The to-and-fro movements while applying the oil to yourself boosts your blood circulation through different organs which not only helps in detoxifying you, physically, but also builds a stronger connection between your mind, body, and spirit. A daily abhyanga practice can go a long way in making sure that all the chakras in your body are in harmony with each other.
The oils aren't just spread over the skin but are massaged into the tissues that hit the right marma points or pressure points. This type of massage is not only soothing and relaxing for the body but is crucial for releasing the toxins, or ama, that is trapped in the body. Nourishing your body with herbal oils is a way of ensuring that your body and soul feels loved.
The biggest joke in the Western world is the phrase “For Topical Use Only.” There is nothing that is applied to the skin that isn’t absorbed into the bloodstream and must be digested and assimilated. The sunscreen, lotion, or makeup you are applying can be dangerous! Oil on the other hand is something we eat and is 100% safe to apply to the skin.
When your skin is saturated with oil, it permeates the skin and offers the nourishment that the skin needs. Massaging the oil into your skin helps loosen the toxins. Thus, the essential oils, herbs, or medications that you infuse in the oil will sink into the skin and the body. Abhyanga helps loosen the blockages that are filled with toxins in your body, thus allowing the toxins to flow into the digestive tract and ready for elimination.
The Benefits of Abhyanga
Your Sharira, or body, gets stronger after the daily practice of Abhyanga. You are less susceptible to physical and mental exhaustion. Busy schedules will cease to scare you and you will be able to keep stress at bay. Abhyanga is a practice in mindfulness.
When you take five to ten minutes out of your day to concentrate on different parts of your body and mindfully massage them, you can actually feel where you carry your worries!
Abhyanga equips you to dispel those worries, one tissue at a time. This type of massage soothes the nervous system--a part of the bodily function that is governed by Vata dosha. Therefore, it is crucial for people who tend to be nervous or who are always under the influence of stress or who travel a lot to practice abhyanga daily. Abhyanga should be performed daily because it helps to not only pacify Vata but also helps in prolonging the process of aging of the tissues, and alleviates the impact of shrama, or exertion.
Apart from these benefits, Abhyanga on a regular basis has the following gunas, or properties. It is good for vision, nourishes the body, increases longevity, induces good sleep, is good for skin, and provides a good physique.
Look at Abhyanga as a ritual. A preventative self-love ritual that will keep insomnia, neurological issues, and joint pain at bay. Let’s not wait for the doctor to diagnose you with disease and prescribe medicated oils! Especially not when a simple act of self-massage can help prevent major illnesses down the road.
Marma points are where life force energy, also known as prana or qi, is concentrated. Many times, this energy stagnates in certain places that need healing. The word marma when directly translated means “a point that can kill.” It is precisely why it is extremely important to take great care of these marma points and dissipate the stagnant energy throughout the body. They are also known as neurolymphatic points. Stimulating these points can help in removing lymph and improving the efficiency of internal organs.
Recommended Oils for Abhyanga
Ayurveda heralds Tila Taila, or sesame oil, as one of the best natural oils and thus is considered to be the best for all body constitutions. It has the properties of subsiding all three doshas as it is said to be tridoshic and successfully nourishes the body.
Chemically, sesame oil has a unique value because it falls under polyunsaturated fats and contains unusually large amounts of linoleic acid. Linoleic acid is a powerful anti-inflammatory agent and is known to inhibit pathogenic bacteria.
However, for pitta body types, or during the summer season, Nariyela Taila, or coconut oil, is best. Generally, many medicated oils are used for Abhyanga to treat various disorders. However, it is best to consult an Ayurvedic Practitioner for specific recommendations.
Abhyanga is an invaluable tool to both pacify and nourish the mind and body. Practicing on a regular basis will allow you to incorporate self-love and self-care practices into your daily life. To fall in love with yourself is the first step to genuine happiness.
*Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only 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.