A good massage can do wonders for the soul—it can simultaneously energize and relax you while returning your focus to the present moment. As Eastern wellness practices become more mainstream in the U.S., we’re learning that massage—including self-massage—also bestows numerous physical health benefits to both our skin and internal organs. (As if we needed another excuse to pamper ourselves!)
I used to associate massage with high-end spas and fancy elixirs—it was an occasional treat and perhaps a bit frivolous. But now I see massage in a whole new light: not only can massage be performed at home—daily—with oils from your local grocery or health food store, it’s also a simple way to boost your health. With a little extra effort, you can put together a luscious, custom DIY massage oil with an organic carrier oil (like coconut, sesame, almond, or olive).
Abhyanga is the Sanskrit word for warm oil massage. Abhyanga can be given by a massage technician—or by you! Lasting anywhere between 10 minutes and an hour, it’s a full-body massage intended to balance your dosha, stimulate circulation, and calm the nervous system. (There are also a few beauty benefits involved—think along the lines of supple, well-conditioned toned skin).
While Ayurveda maintains that you use the right oil for your dosha, a multi-purpose coconut massage oil is a good place to start if you’re new to the practice since organic coconut oil is widely available and fairly affordable. Coconut oil is also a lovely choice because it’s so easily absorbed by the skin, making it an ideal skin conditioner. I encourage you to add essential oils depending on your skin type and fragrance preferences.
Essential Oil Suggestions:
Lavender – calming, good for sensitive and inflamed skin.
Jasmine – energizing, aphrodisiac.
Eucalyptus – stimulating, good for blemished skin.
Chamomile – relaxing, good for dry skin.
Rose – soothing, good skin conditioner.
Neroli – balancing, suitable for all skin types.
How to Self-Massage
Before you hop in the bath or shower, spread an old towel on the floor. Warm oil between your hands. Beginning at your feet and working your way up, massage your entire body with upward strokes. Use gentle circular motions to massage your joints. Massage your stomach and lower back in clockwise circles. Take deep breaths. Enjoy. Rinse off extra oil in the shower.
DIY Massage Coconut Massage Oil
1 glass jar of unrefined, organic virgin coconut oil
essential oil(s) of your choice
1 clean glass jar into which you will transfer your blended oils
Warm a pot of water on the stove top. Place your jar of coconut oil in the warm water until the oils is completely melted. Add essentials oils and stir with a wooden spoon. How much essential oil you add is up to you. I usually add about 1 tsp., which makes for a strong but not over-powering fragrance.
Once you’ve mixed your oils, pour into glass jar(s), seal, and place in the freezer. While coconut oil will return to a solid if left at room temperature (unless it’s really hot in your house!), it can be a little grainy if it takes a too long to re-solidify. Freezing the oil results in a heavenly creamy texture.
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Photos: Mary Hood