Winter is here and sometimes we just can’t get the chill out of our bones. When your body is tense from a long day at work, stress, exercise or trying to keep warm, it can be really hard to fall asleep. Abhyanga is the perfect way to relax the body to prepare for a deep sleep.
At Sleepability we always talk about the three conditions for sleep: a relaxed mind, a relaxed body and an environment conducive to sleep. This is a great evening routine for people who prefer to do something active (whilst relaxing)! This little evening ritual takes about 30 minutes and creates the ideal transition from day to night.
[If the idea of self massage isn’t for you, another good option for an evening routine is yoga nidra – find out what it is and how to do it].
I discovered this ayurvedic self-massage recently via the wonderful promoter of ayurveda Jasmine Hemsely and found that it makes a huge difference to my quality of sleep. The warming of the oils makes the massage even more soothing than a normal massage. I also love that you start by applying the warm oil to the top of your head. Massage from tip to toe makes you feel completely enveloped in this soothing warmth.
I try to do it about once a week when I know I need to relax for a guaranteed really good night’s sleep.
What is Abhyanga?
Ayurvedic self massage, also called Abhyanga, refers to the anointing of your body with warm oils. The essential oils are often infused with herbs that are known to provide multiple health benefits.
An ayurvedic self-massage can improve your general health and reduce your risk of musculoskeletal disorders while allowing you to enjoy a sound sleep. After indulging yourself with the massage, you can simply slip into your cozy duvet and feel every muscle in your body loosening up.
The relaxing and soothing effect of the massage coupled with the sense of warmth created by it will soon put you into a state of restorative sleep.
How to do Abhyanga?
Here is a step-by-step method to perform an Ayurvedic self massage.
- The best oils for this type of massage are sesame oil, almond oil, coconut oil, sunflower oil or jojoba oil. You can add some essential oils such as lavender, chamomile or geranium but a simple base oil is also good. Essential Ayurveda has a good selection of oils relating to ayurveda doshas.
- Warm the oil to a temperature that is comfortable when applied on your skin. You can do this by putting a small amount of oil into a small bottle and heating it in a bowl of very warm (but not boiling) water. Leave it for about 10 minutes and it should be just right.
- Apply a small amount of oil on the crown of your head and then, spend 2 to 3 minutes massaging the entire scalp in gentle circular strokes. You might find this strange – it’s an odd sensation at first to fill your hair with oil, but it’s incredibly relaxing.
- Then, massage your forehead, cheeks, temples, and jaws moving your fingers over the face in an upward movement. Spend some time gently exploring the curves of your face.
- Massage your hands and legs with long strokes and the knees and elbows with circular strokes. The direction of the massage should be upward or toward your heart.
- Then, massage your chest and abdomen in broad, circular, clockwise motions.
- While massaging each part, use gentle strokes to rub the oil onto the skin and facilitate better absorption of the herbs.
- After full body massage, sit for 5 to 15 minutes to allow the oil to get absorbed into the deeper layers of your body.
- Enjoy a warm shower or bath using a mild soap. Do not rub the soap vigorously. You may now lie down on the bed and enjoy the feeling of relaxation as you slowly enter a phase of deep sleep.
The Benefits of Abhyanga
- Relaxes muscles and prevents stiffness or pain that can otherwise prevent you from sleeping well
- Soothes nerves and creates a sense of relaxation throughout the body. This can relieve neuralgic pains, and tingling and numbness in the hands and feet thereby allowing you to enjoy an undisturbed sleep.
- Improves moisturization of the skin and prevents excessive dryness, which is more common in winter. This benefit of Ayurvedic self massage can help to avoid the symptoms of skin diseases like psoriasis, dermatitis, and eczema. This would prevent itching and other annoying symptoms that can keep you awake.
- Relieves pain in the joints, and back and creates a sense of warmth that works like a warm fomentation. This can allow you to feel at ease and ensure your sleep is not disturbed due to joint pains.
- Strengthens the muscles and stimulates muscle growth by improving blood circulation through the muscle fibers.
- Reduces the signs of aging on the skin as the essential oils produce a rejuvenative and regenerative effects on the skin cells.
- Nourishes the body. The herbs and essential oils used for the massage possess nutrients that are absorbed through the skin and enter the blood to improve the supply of vitamins and minerals to all the tissues.
Practicing self care
From the bottom of my heart, I recommend this practice to you tonight. It’s a wonderfully restorative and nourishing practice of self-care that you can do in the evening to ensure you get a deep and restful night’s sleep. Enjoy and, if you feel moved, please come back and tell me what you thought.
Photo credit: Romnia Faria via Unsplash