The Library

Abhyanga - self massage


Abhyanga / Self  massage can teach us a lot.  By using self massage we can learn the basic techniques of massage.  We can find out what feels good for us, and thereby what should feel good for a partner.  And we can learn how to begin to become aware of ourself as someone rather special.


All massage is best done naked.  In yoga we believe that clothes are an unnecessary barrier between our self and god.  There are many other practical health reasons for nudity, including simply because it means you don`t get oil on your clothes.


So begin by making sure the room or outdoor space is warm, clean and undisturbed.  You may want to work on a towel, or other clean surface.  Have your oil in an easy to dispense bottle, but remember oil is not the only option.  You can also use talc (not advised for health reasons), lotion, or even urine, although they do rub in quickly and lose their slide.  You can also just use bare hands on dry skin. 


Whatever you use remember that massage is more than just a physical rub-a-dub-dub.  At its best massage will certainly give you physical benefits, encouraging blood flow in the skin and surface vessels, stimulating the flow of lymphatic fluid to the glands behind the knees, in the groin, armpits, neck and chest. Vigorous massage will also be warming and enlivening.


The following sequence is just a suggestion.  Adapt it to your own preferences and needs.  Gentle stroking is seldom harmful but do avoid open wounds, skin rashes or recent bruises.  If you should find unexpected lumps or things you cannot explain it is always wise to consult your doctor.


1.         LEG.  Begin with a general stroking action from the foot towards the groin.  Circle your hands around your leg, and if possible raise the foot higher than the knee.  Take each toe in turn and squeeze and wriggle it.  Rub a finger between each toe.  Bend the toes backwards and forwards.

            Press your fingers into the sole of the foot by pushing away with your leg.  Placing the foot on the opposite thigh allows you to give the sole of your foot a simple refelexology treatment, pressing and stimulating each point. 

            Rotate the foot to loosen the ankle.  Run your thumb around each side of the ankle bones.

            Squeeze and shake the calf muscle (Take care if you have varicose veins). 

            Briskly rub the knee between the two palms - on the sides, front and back.

            Squeeze and rub the hamstring from the knee to the buttock.  Pummel the front of the thigh with loose fists.  Grip and squeeze the muscles.

            With flat hands rub the groin area to stimulate lymphatic movement.  Include the genitals - there is no need to linger, all we are doing is awakening the body and getting the blood, lymph and energy moving.


2          ARM.  In a similar way begin at the ends!  Rub and squeeze your fingers, stretching and curling them.  Rub the palms together briskly, and work over the backs of the hands.  With your thumbs press firmly into the Mound of Venus, the fleshy pad at the base of the thumb, and the tissue connecting the thumb with the side of the hand.  This is often a tender spot holding much tension.  As with the soles of the feet, use your thumb to work over the palm of the hand.  Like the feet, the hands provide reflex points connecting to organs throughout the body via the nadis or meridians.


The wrists are very complex joints and should be treated with care.  Encourage the wrists to release tension by gently but firmly bending them backwards and forwards.  Wrist exercises are vital for anyone who spends long periods working on keyboards.


Drain the forearm by raising it in the air higher than shoulder height and circle the arm with fingers and thumb.  Draw the hand down the arm towards the elbow.  Rub the elbow.  Repeat the draining by stroking from the elbow to the shoulder and the armpit.  Because the upper arm is usually thicker than the lower arm this usually needs to be done in two parts, working on the biceps muscle and then the back of the arm; the triceps muscle.  Work the fingers into the shoulder cap muscles, and then rotate your fist under the armpit.  Body hair can impede smooth flowing movement and should either be removed, trimmed or compensated for by using more oil.


3       TORSO. 
to be cotinued