The word medicine comes from the Latin ars medicina, meaning the art of healing. Massage is one of the most delicious medicines I know. It is truly an art that engenders the body’s own ability to heal. It facilitates deep relaxation and encourages the body’s holotropic tendencies while setting off a cascade of internal processes that make us feel calmer, healthier, happier, and more loving. Massage releases a pharmacy of healing chemicals and hormones, including the ‘love’ hormone, oxytocin, which is released at birth and creates the original bond between the family, as well as being released during breast feeding by mother and child, and whenever we share meals with others (which is probably part of why studies show that families that share meals together are healthier and happier!)
According to Ayurveda, the ancient and modern healing science of India, massage moves the prana or vayu, also known as chi, or life force. In Ayurvedic texts vayu is regarded as identical to eternal life, or God, also known as Shakti. In the biblical tradition, this force is known as the holy spirit (originally understood to be feminine in nature), the breath, inspiration, or spirit of God that moves within us, the feminine force of the divine, Shekinah.
Through massage energetic blocks can be released and the natural life force of creation can fill us with wholeness and health. According to John Douillard, one of my favorite teachers from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, “When we move our life force, it flows first into the body and then into the mind, bringing balance and calm to both and enhancing self awareness. Only when self awareness is cultivated can the system fully recognize underlying problems or imbalances and elicit the appropriate therapeutic response to heal them…light touch in particular as a means of moving prana is considered an effective tool of self awareness and a trigger for a potent healing response.”
So, basically, through massage we can increase our self awareness and tendency towards health and wellness as well as deepen our connection with spirit as it manifests for us in our individual life path.
Daily self massage, or Abhyanga in Sanskrit, is a foundational practice in Ayurvedic self care. Oleation, oiling, both externally and internally provides detoxification, calms the nervous system, promotes the release of healthy, joy inducing hormones and neurotransmitters, feeds the good bugs in our microbiome, removes fat soluble toxins, carries medicinal herbs into our systems, and gosh darn it, it feels great!
Our skin absorbs 60-100% of what is applied topically, closer to 100% on the face, armpits, and genitals, and closer to 60% on other areas of the body. This is a great reason to apply herbalized oils to the skin daily, infused with herbs that decrease inflammation, relieve pain, reduce symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis, are antimicrobial and anti-fungal, increase the antioxidant capacity of the body, and much more, with additional essential oils that have medicinal properties as well as aromatherapy benefits.
Self massage is an effective and enjoyable daily health maintenance practice that is a wonderful addition to a whole foods diet, regular exercise, and a meditation and mindful movement practice.
To learn more about how to incorporate daily self massage into your health and wellness routine and how to make herb infused abhyanga oils, check out my upcoming workshop, just in time to make the oils for yourself and even to create some for family and friends to gift during the holiday season. Click here for more information on the workshop and for registration details.