Posted on July 24th, 2016
The skin is the largest organ and often neglected. In order to achieve a balanced, healthy and happy life, we must take care of all areas of our body and mind. Medicated massage is an important Ayurvedic treatment that has many benefits. Massage promotes relaxation and peace of mind, removes toxins, improves circulation to the organs and the skin, aids flexibility of joints, aids sleep, decreases the effects of aging and increases longevity. Depending on your bandaging it may be a while before you can massage the knee (or any other body part that is recovering), but it is still worthwhile to get into the habit of regular Abhyanga for your entire body to remove other accumulating toxins.
An area of importance in both Chinese medicine and Ayurveda is our feet. Our feet are also often neglected even though they support the weight of our entire body when we are standing and with every step! As everything in the body is connected, a foot problem can create issues in knees, legs, hips and back. There is a large amount of nerve endings in the feet that when massaged stimulate other areas of the body, releasing toxins. Take time to love your feet! Vata types tend to have dry, cracked soles so spending time massaging the feet would be beneficial.
Everything in Ayurveda is adapted to fit your constitution or type. The same mentality should be applied when doing yoga. If you are an anxious person, postures that are grounding combined with breath would serve best to calm the mind. This is not be the same for a sedentary person who would need more speed and determination in their asana.
In Abhyanga the same principle of adaptation is applied with choosing oils that are best for your constitution. In order to know which oil to use one must understand the three types of pranic or life-force that are the basis for health and disease. These three forms are known as Vata, Pitta and Kapha.
The Three Doshas:
Vata means wind. It is the life force, derived from breath that energizes the body. This dosha relates to the nervous system. Fear, anxiety, erratic behaviour, starting and stopping projects and activities, and sensitivity to dryness are a few general characteristics for a vata imbalance. Some physical side effects include: low weight, prominent veins and bones, dry and rough feet, and thin and cracking joints.
Pitta means fire. It represents our digestive system as well as our mental digestion of impressions and experiences that we take in. It governs our will power and concentration. People with high pitta are medium to intolerant of heat. They tend to be passionate, goal seeking, dominant and motivated. Their physique is usually medium to moderately developed. When Pitta is out of balance they are argumentative, have extreme temper, irritability and feel the need to control.
Kapha means water. It provides nourishment and and is responsible for tissue formation, substance and support. Body structure is more well developed and stocky. They are slow, calm, content and sentimental. They have strong attachments and can find it hard to let go of things. Kapha types tend to have difficulty waking up and are sedentary. When Kapha is out of balance, one can face depression, unresponsiveness and sorrow.
All three doshas are present within us but there is one dosha that is dominant. If you are unsure about your dosha type, take this yoga journal quiz.
What oil to use for your type:
Now that you have a better understanding of your dosha, you can adjust your abhyagna to your constitution.
Vata: Warm sesame oil or meditated oils prepared with herbs such as shatavari, ashwagandha or bala (Narayana oil).
Pitta: Coconut oil (good for Pitta’s heat as it’s cooling) or medicated oils such as sandalwood.
Kapha: Mustard oil or any other light oil.
Injuries suddenly make us so aware of how much our bodies do for us. This period of stillness and healing is a wonderful time to get rid of all areas of toxins and to really connect to the body. Make your abhyanga a time of self-love to appreciate every part of you. You are coming back from this recovery stronger, healthier and happier! Happy healing! xoxo