In fencing, the word touché means that we’ve been touched by our opponent’s foil. We also say touché when someone has delivered a point well made, or touched the core of someone’s being. Touch affects everything we do. Life itself could never have evolved without touch. The chemicals that make up our world touch one another and form liaisons. Without touch, there would be no species, parenthood, or survival. Touch is not only basic to our species, it is the key to it.
Mothers and their babies do an enormous amount of touching, and this first emotional comfort remains with us all our lives. Oddly enough, touch doesn’t have to be given by another person or even by something living: Premature babies placed in a lamb’s-wool blanket for a day will gain weight.
Skin is the key organ of our sense of touch, and since skin stretches over our entire body, touching affects our whole organism. Touching increases tactile stimulation and decreases stress. It makes you feel more alive. So, don’t lose touch. Make touch a daily emotional-balancing discipline.
A Natural Self-Healing Massage
This Ayurvedic self-massage technique will prepare you for the coming day. Do it before you bathe in the morning, and prior to practicing asanas, pranayama, and meditation. Abhyanga is part of the Ayurvedic daily routine, preventing the accumulation of toxins in the body as it lubricates the muscles, tissues, and joints. In Ayurveda, skin breathing is as necessary as breathing with our lungs. According to the classical Ayurvedic texts, a daily sesame-oil massage rejuvenates the skin, lets it breathe, and promotes youthful luster. This practice is both emotionally energizing and settling.
Use cured sesame, olive, or coconut oil. To cure oil, heat it to about 100 degrees. Do not allow it to come to a boil. To test the temperature, put in a drop of water; when it pops and crackles, the oil is ready. Never, ever leave oil unattended while heating. Let it cool down and keep it stored at room temperature. You may rewarm your oil by putting the bottle under hot running water.
Sit in a comfortable position, and use a towel to cover the floor, carpet, or chair. Then, begin your massage.
- Head: Apply only a little oil to your head and massage vigorously with both hands. Make sure that your scalp is well lubricated. Use the flats of your fingers and your palms to massage your head with circular motions. You may skip the head massage if you don’t want to wash your hair afterward.
- Face: Apply a little oil to your face, neck, and ears. With both hands, massage your face using gentle pressure, making a circular motion over your entire face. Massage the folds of your outer ears but not inside your ears.
- Neck: With both hands, massage both the front and back of your neck, up and down in long strokes. You may use more vigorous pressure on your shoulders and the upper part of your spine.
- Apply oil to the rest of your body: arms, back, chest, abdomen, legs, hips, and feet, so that your entire skin surface is covered with oil.
- Arms: Using the flat of one hand, make circular strokes at your shoulder joints, repeating the circle anywhere from 2 to 20 times. Then make straight strokes down over the long bones of your arms, back and forth. Do this on the outsides of your arms first, followed by the insides of your arms, beginning with your left arm, then your right. Create a rhythm of circular strokes and then long back-and-forth strokes. Finish by massaging the small bones in your hands and fingers.
- Chest and abdomen: With both hands, make a very gentle circular motion over your chest and over each pectoral area; straight up and down over your heart and breast bone. In the same way, make a gentle circular motion over your abdomen, following the colon from the right lower part of your abdomen, moving clockwise toward the left lower part.
- Hips and legs: With both hands, massage your hips using a circular motion, then straight strokes down and up your thighs. Massage your knees, calves, lower legs, and ankles with a circular motion around your joints. Spend more time massaging your feet, ending the massage with a vigorous motion back and forth on your soles.
This oil massage can take anywhere from a few minutes to twenty minutes. When you’re finished, simply take a shower and wash off the oil. Do this every morning as part of your daily routine, and it won’t be long before you decide to continue it permanently.
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