Our life today is taut with anxiety: Even after the day fades and work ends, there is no time to recoup or recover. There is email piling up, the endless cycle of news to worry about, the pull of the sleepless social media. How do we reclaim our right to care for our body and soul in this age when anxiety is our constant companion?
This blog on self-care has been a long time coming. Both Murali and Alisa grew up in the midst of nature. Murali’s childhood was spent in in a Kerala village where the only sounds to distract the mind were the cawing of quarrelsome crows and the whisper of coconut fronds swaying in the wind. While Alisa was lucky to spend all her summers in the countryside, enjoying each and every fruit, vegetable and a berry, straight from the garden. It is not possible to bring back that idyll, but we can bring into our lives a ritual that was a daily practice for every man, woman and child in Murali’s village – the abhyanga.
Abhyanga is an Ayurvedic self-massage done routinely before a bath, where oil is gently rubbed into the skin and hair, allowed to be absorbed and then washed off, leaving a thin glowing veneer. Care was taken by grandmothers and elders in the families to concoct the coconut and sesame oils for massage with love in busy kitchens. The oils were mixed, heated and bottled with therapeutic ingredients plucked from farms and gardens surrounding homes. When you emerged from the bath, you were cocooned in warmth, the mild fragrance of herbs and a general sense of wellbeing. It could be the perfect end to a day or the energizing start to one.
There is no time like present, beset with the stress of the pandemic, to restart a practice lost to time and the pressures of work. The 15 minutes you spend on massaging your tired skin and the overworked limbs and muscles will not only give you a sense of rest and relief but also some moments to introspect and marvel at the gift of life.
It is a tradition that Murali grew up with and one he continues to practice and pass on to his little daughter, an expression of care and concern.
Ashtanga Hridayam is one of the three major literary works of Ayurveda composed by Vagbhatta in the second half of the 7th century and it talks about abhyanga. According to him:
abhyaṅgaṃ ācaret nityaṃ, sa jarā śramavātahā |
dṛṣṭi prasāda puṣṭi āyu: susvapna sutvak dārḍhyakṛt ||
śira: śravaṇapādeṣu taṃ viśeṣeṇa śīlayet |
Abhyanga means massage. It should be done daily, morning. It delays ageing, relieves tiredness and excess of Vata (aches and pains). It improves vision, nourishes body tissues, prolongs age, induces good sleep and improves skin tone and complexion. Massage should be specially done on ears, head and legs.
At Asmi Ayurveda, we believe that when you use our oils for abhyanga, you not only do your body a favour but also press ‘pause’ on the stress and the chaos of the outside world for a few minutes. Practising abhyanga can help you build up your emotional and mental reserves.
Our oil collection is infused with organic herbal extracts that are not only good for your skin, but with extracts that stimulate your mind. Do wait for our next post, where we explain to you exactly how we mix our oils with selected ingredients and immense care and how best to use them.