The skin is the largest organ of the body and it needs to be touched. Touch triggers the feel-good hormone oxytocin, decreases anxiety, and lowers blood pressure, among so many other benefits.* Because our skin is porous, it absorbs many of the ingredients we put on it, so it is important that we use products that contain natural and organic ingredients whenever possible. Self-massage is excellent for overall health and well-being, reduces anxiety, calms the nerves, lubricates the joints,
tones skin and makes it soft and smooth, improves and deepens sleep, increases circulation, improves mental alertness, nourishes the skin and tissues, and allows toxins to be released from the body.
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Work morning exfoliation into your regular shower routine two or three times per week. In the shower, wet your entire body and then place an ample amount of sugar scrub in your hand. Beginning at the bottom of your feet and working your way up, massage a seasonal scrub (see here) all over your body, using a circular motion with gentle, even pressure on all areas except for the rougher areas (such as the knees and elbows), which require a firmer pressure. Exfoliate from left to right over your belly so that you are in sync with the natural flow of your digestion. Once you reach the midsection of your body around your heart, continue upward around your chest, paying special attention to your thorax with a bit of extra pressure and then move on to your neck, still using that circular motion. (Please note these instructions are for wet sugar-scrubbing. There are recipes for two dry sugar scrubs and the instructions are in the Recipes section, on here.)
Once you’ve opened your pores with exfoliation, massage oil (see here) over your body to nourish the skin. Remember to drink extra amounts of water on the days you exfoliate because you are encouraging new skin cells and you want them to be nourished from the inside out.
HOW TO DO IT
For the morning self-massage, I’ve included a variation on the traditional Ayurvedic self-massage known as ahbyanga. This variation should be practiced postshower daily, using a light amount of oil, which will remain on the skin after you’ve massaged.
If you’d like to try a more extended version of this massage in the evening, you can also include your scalp, keeping the oil in your hair overnight, and apply a heavier amount of oil on your skin. The evening version of this massage is recommended a few times per week in the cooler seasons and one time per week in warmer seasons. Most important, this massage should be done intentionally. As you perform the massage, massage not only the oil blends into your skin but also think loving, supportive, and nourishing thoughts. This massage is a wonderful opportunity to become more accepting of your body. Use one of your DIY mantras (see here) during this time.
Warm the oil, either by running hot water over the bottle or in your hands. Use about 1 tablespoon of oil, or just enough that it will seep into your skin. This is intended to be a light oil massage so you can put on your clothes after without staining the clothing.
Gently massage your face and ears, paying special attention to your temples and behind and under your ears. Use the tip of your finger to apply a couple of drops of oil to the opening of your ear canal.
Massage the front and back of your neck, using an open palm to create friction.
Massage your arms, using a circular motion at your shoulders and elbows, and back-and-forth motions on your upper arms and forearms.
Massage your chest and stomach, using a straight up-and-down motion over your breastbone, and a gentle clockwise circular motion over your abdomen. Come back up to your thorax region (your heart and lungs) and apply an extra clockwise circular motion with a bit of extra pressure.
Apply a bit of oil to both of your hands, then gently reach around to your back and spine, massaging up and down as well as you can without straining.
Massage your legs vigorously, using circular motions at your ankles and knees, and back-and-forth motions on your shins, calves, hamstrings, and thighs.
Spend extra time on your feet. Massage back-and-forth over the soles of your feet and toes, using the open part of your hand.
Keep a thin film of oil on your body as it is beneficial for toning your skin and warming your muscles throughout the day.
The steps above are guidelines on how to approach self-massage. As you become more proficient, listen to your body’s needs,
applying more pressure or paying more attention to parts of your body that require more love. This self-massage should gradually become a personalized, intuitive technique addressing your specific needs. When you slow down, you are better able to tune into
what those needs are.