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Using self-abhyanga to relax

We have all been socially distancing ourselves for some time now, many of us in lockdown in our homes. As humans, we need hugs 8 times a day! 8 times! So the lack of IRL human contact after several weeks in lockdown can be challenging.

On top of this, we're all dealing with the stresses and challenges that lockdown, self-isolation and social distancing bring. Issues such as control over our lives, planning ahead, worries about jobs and finances, health, children, and the home. These are all big, fundamental issues. The kinds which originate in our lower chakras, the ones related to us being earthly beings. And if you are a key worker, you have a whole other level of pressure and stress in your job - working harder than you ever have in a very stressful and fearful environment, in a system which isn't designed to handle pandemics, and potentially dealing with the worst in people.

It's no wonder we're all in need of more hugs than we're getting right now. Hugs activate something human, something primal, something visceral in us. They create wellbeing, a feeling of safety, security and relaxation. They help the body to relax and adjust. This is very much related to the lower chakras, and to the issues we're all facing. And yet, we're unable to hug as much as we need right now. We can't go to a spa or get massages either, which is another way of getting that primal skin on skin, human contact.

This is why I'm focusing classes all this week on self care, rebalancing, relaxing, restoration. Because we need to take care of ourselves in many ways at the moment.

We need to massage ourselves. In ayurveda it's called self-abhyanga, or self-massage. And it's recommended you do it daily, before your morning shower. Just having that physical touch, that kindness of massage, sends relaxing signals to your body. And when we relax, our glands secrete hormones which improve our happiness. When we are happy, our adrenals aren't secreting cortisol at the same levels, which reduces our fight-flight mode, and enables us to see the bigger picture more easily, and make better decisions.

So, how do you self-abhyanga?

Pick an oil. Can be a massage one, or one with your favourite essential oils. Or it can be coconut oil, almond oil, sesame oil. In ayurveda, sesame is the king of oils, followed shortly by coconut - for literally everything, including slathering on yourself. However, just see what you've got - anything is fine, although you might prefer not to smell like cooking fat!

And starting from the feet, massage the oil all the way up your body. When you do so, use firm, long strokes, massaging in the direction of the glands. The main glands correspond to the main chakras - root (anus), sacral (sex organs), solar plexus (above the belly button), heart (behind the heart cavity), throat (bottom of the throat area), third eye (between the eyebrows) and crown (top of the head). So massage up your legs towards your root chakra. Massage up your arms towards your heart and throat. Think about where you're massaging and where your main glands are. For your belly region, massage it in clockwise motions. For your face, only use your third and pinkie fingers very gently. Dont forget your scalp and hair. And then jump in the shower. The added benefit of the oil means that you don't need moisturiser after your shower.

If you don't have time for a full body massage, the main areas are your feet (only put oil on the tops, you don't want to slip in the shower!), the ear lobes and the top of the head. You can just massage these before showering.

In Thursday's class we will be doing a deeply relaxing practice which includes some self abhyanga (without oil), followed by a meditation to bring clarity, and balance to emotions.

Have a good week, and practice some good self-care.

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