In Ayurvedic medicine, abhyanga is the practice of massage with warm oil. Full-body self massage is incredibly nurturing, but with our hectic schedules, can be hard to fit in. When starting a self-care routine sometimes it’s best to start with a practice that is accessible. Starting with a foot massage before bed can help you unwind and get the much-needed rest you need.
Pada is the Sanskrit word for foot. Thus Padabhyanga is oiled food massage. Our feet are our foundation and our connection to the ground below us. We often forget how hard our feet work and don’t give them the love they need. The feet also contain many pressure points that in yoga and Ayurveda are called marma points (Follow this link for more information on Marma Points and their connections to the immune and nervous system). Ayurvedic medicine postulates that stimulating these points can aid in relaxation to calm the nervous system before you go to bed. You can use any oil to massage your feet, but Ayurveda practitioners have some tips on which oils can help your constitution the best. Sesame oil is traditionally used for calming, but coconut oil and mustard oil can also be used for balancing specific issues based on your dominant dosha pattern. Follow this link for an interview with Dr. Vasant Lad, an Indian ayurvedic physician, written by Yoga International author Shannon Sexton, that provides an in-depth description of the history, benefits, and techniques for self-foot massage.
For a simple practice, warm your oil so it is comfortable to the touch and you can handle it without burning yourself. Coat your hands in the oil. Apply gentle but firm circular pressure from the ankles to the tops of the toes, cross your ankle over your opposite knee to access the arch and bottom of the foot. Finish by pulling on the toes. Repeat on the other side. Be sure to put socks on before you go to bed, so you don’t slip on the floor or get oil on your sheets. Commit to doing this practice for a week and observe the effects. Stay tuned throughout the month for more self-massage tips.
Written by Janet Carscadden PT, DPT, E-RYT

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