Life is busy, and there are times when adding some self-care becomes one more item on your to-do list.
Especially when you are feeling low on energy from taking care of others, not only in your personal life, but also in your professional life as a massage therapist.
Whether you desperately need to add more self-care to your life or are interested in trying something new, incorporating rituals from the ancient practice of Ayurveda may be just what you need to re-energize and stay healthy.
Ayurveda translates to “life knowledge,” as ayur means life and veda means knowledge. It is a traditional Indian practice that has been around for over 5,000 years and is focused on drawing awareness of the effects of your daily environment into your life.
By paying attention to your diet, relationship with physical practices, and reaction to stress, you can add such soothing and nourishing habits into your life as a cup of warm lemon or lime water in the morning, scraping your tongue, or giving yourself massage at the end of the day.
One of the main pillars of Ayurveda is the doshas, which are the three basic energies that shape our bodies and minds and provide a foundation for each individual’s health and well-being. These doshas are vata, pitta and kapha, which are drawn from the five elements: air, ether, fire, water and earth.
While everyone has a blend of all three, most people are dominant in one or two doshas. If you’re interested in doing so, the best way to determine your dosha is by seeing an Ayurvedic doctor or taking an online dosha quiz.
So, let’s take a moment to discuss the characteristics of each.
Vata harnesses the air and ether elements. A person who is dominant in vata typically has dry, light and cooling characteristics, and is usually thin and energetic. On a physical level, Vata controls circulation, breathing, talking and muscular motion. On a mental level, Vata oversees communication and creativity.
Pitta harnesses the fire and water elements. A person who is dominant in pitta has characteristics of heat and fluidity and is known for being intelligent, intense and extremely goal-oriented. On a physical level, pitta controls heat and energy throughout the body. On a mental level, pitta oversees the emotions of joy and anger.
Kapha harnesses the water and earth elements. A person who is dominant in kapha usually has relatively stable characteristics and is easygoing and nurturing. On a physical level, kapha controls energy storage and bodily fluids such as water and mucus. On a mental level, kapha oversees love and patience.
The ultimate goal of Ayurveda is to determine each individual’s dosha and target any areas of imbalance in order to restore them to a balanced state of being through diet, aromatherapy, herbs, yoga, self-massage and meditation.
If you suffer from an illness, it is best to consult with a trained Ayurvedic specialist. This article is not a replacement for medical care. However, there are many practices that can be incorporated into a daily routine to maintain your overall health and well-being.
As providers of care to others, it is important for massage therapists to have a good self-care ritual. As well as yoga and meditation, the following Ayurvedic practices can be a part of that ritual to minimize stress and physical exhaustion. You can add as many of these practices as suits your lifestyle.
Diet. There are many ways to eat properly to maintain a state of balance once you know what dosha you are.
Vata should reduce their intake of carbonated beverages, raw vegetables and crunchy foods and add warm beverages, soups and grains to their diet.
Pitta should reduce their intake of alcohol, coffee, citrus, vinegar and hot spices and add sweeter, juicy fruits and cooling vegetables like cucumbers to their diet.
Kapha should reduce their intake of fats, sweets and salts, and add lots of vegetables, spices and high-fiber foods to their diet.
Tongue scraping. This practice helps increase your sense of taste and improve digestion while removing bacteria from the entire mouth.
To start, it is best to stick your tongue out, observing the areas of build-up that are at the back of the tongue and which are usually white, gray or brown. Using a scraper or spoon (face down), place it as far back as you can and gently pull forward, going down the length of your tongue. This process only needs to be done once a day and is best done first thing in the morning.
Nasal irrigation. Using a Neti pot on a regular basis helps reduce sinus congestion and other irritants that cause congestion and allergies.
Start by using a clean Neti pot. Make a solution of saline and sterile, sanitized water by combining one-quarter teaspoon finely ground non-iodized salt or one-half teaspoon of kosher salt with 8 ounces of warm distilled, boiled or filtered water until the salt is completely dissolved. Do not use water straight from the tap.
Bend over the sink and tilt your head to the side, inserting the spout into the upper nostril. Take some time to find the right angle so you are not swallowing the water, as this can be a frustrating downside of the Neti pot.
Once you have a good angle, allow the solution to flow into the upper nostril and flow out of the lower nostril. Use half of the solution and switch sides to repeat the process in the other nostril. Once the pot is empty, gently blow your nose and clean the Neti pot.
Nasya oil. This practice is known to boost immunity and reduce fatigue by cleansing the nasal passage. It is best done in the morning upon awakening, as well as at bedtime, and is also a good treatment to help alleviate headaches and anxiety.
To use Nasya oil, start by stimulating the sinuses with a gentle massage of your cheeks and forehead. Apply steam to the face for two or three minutes by bending over a pot of steaming water.
Tilt your head back and squeeze one drop of oil into one nostril. Plug the other nostril and breathe deeply, allowing the oil to penetrate your sinuses. Repeat in the other nostril and do up to two times in each nostril for regular maintenance.
If you suffer from severe headaches or sinus congestion, seek advice from an Ayurvedic doctor before beginning this practice.
Warm water with lemon or lime. Starting your day by drinking a cup of lukewarm water with lemon or lime juice aids in digestion, increases energy levels, promotes healing and keeps the lymph system hydrated.
Combine 6 ounces of water with the juice of one slice of lemon or lime and heat to a lukewarm temperature. Drink in the morning before eating or drinking anything else.
Abhyanga. This is a soothing Ayurvedic self-massage technique that includes the use of warm oils that vary depending on your dosha. Sesame seed and almond oil are best for vata. Coconut or olive oil is best for pitta. Sesame seed oil is best for kapha; however, kapha’s skin already has oil-like qualities, so a dry massage is a good option too. This practice strengthens the body’s tissues and increases the vitality of the skin.
It is best to start with extra virgin, organic or cold-pressed oils. Apply oil before a bath or shower in the morning or at bedtime.
Gently massage the oil into your body from feet to neck, using long strokes on the legs and arms and circular motions on the stomach, chest and back. For most people, this will take some time at first; however, as a massage therapist you have an edge on massage techniques, so the duration of time to complete this self-massage practice will not be as intense while the benefits will be profound.
Hopefully, some or all of these techniques have inspired you to add them to your self-care routine. As with any new practice, be gentle with yourself and allow the time to learn each technique and embrace the rituals that bring joy and nourishment to your life, while letting go of the ones that add stress and frustration.
Also, keep in mind that new practices take at least 10 days to become habits. By taking care of yourself you’ll feel more inspired, energized and able to take care of others.
About the Author:
Michelle Finerty took her first step onto a yoga mat in 1999 and has never looked back. She became a yoga teacher in Vinyasa (flow) Power Yoga with CorePower in 2007.