I can’t remember the first time I ever had a massage
I know it wasn't until my thirties, I used to think that there was something unusual about strangers touching your body in such an intimate way.
Nowadays I make regular massages a priority. I love having them; they have the power to change one's mood, lift one's spirits and generally feel grounded and cared for - ahhh.
When I was in India, I visited an Ayurvedic doctor, and he gave me a prescription. It was not the kind that you might receive in the Western world. Ayurveda, the ancient Indian science of medicine, treats the whole person: the mind, the body and the spirit.
One of the items on the prescription said: ‘Daily Abhyanga’.
"What is this?" I said to the well dressed Indian man sat opposite me in the consultation room, he told me it meant self-massage and explained how to do it.
I have to admit when I first heard those words the old Hannah reared her head: 'Ooh I'm not sure about that, it sounds a bit weird.' But there was also hope: 'What, I can massage myself in the comfort of my own home, it won't cost me anything, and I'll still get all of the benefits'?
Traditionally Indian's use sesame oil for this daily practice, mainly because of its many desirable qualities such as anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-oxidant and it contains Vitamins B, D & E, but also because it's a regular oil that they usually have in their kitchen cupboards. If you don't have sesame oil, coconut or olive oil will work just as well.
Why should I do it?
1/ It's an instant pick me up and energy booster - I challenge you not to feel great afterwards.
2/ The act of self-massage is demonstrating how much you love, care for and respect yourself, and this sends signals to the brain, which in turn increases our self-esteem.
3/ The constant repetitive touch on the body releases endorphins which have been shown to reduce depression, anxiety and stress.
4/ It increases the flow of the lymphatic system which enhances our immune system.
5/ It increases circulation in the body and improves flexibility.
6/ If you decide to use essential oil, you will also get the added benefits of whichever oil you choose - I tend to use Ylang Ylang as I love the smell and I find it uplifting.
7/ The end result is a beautifully soft, moisturised and sweet smelling body.
* Essential oils of your choosing (optional) *An old dressing gown or large towel
Pour 1/4 of a cup of sesame oil into a heatproof bowl and heat in the microwave for 50 seconds on full power, or in a pan of hot water on the cooker.
The oil needs to be warm enough so that the consistency is thinner, but not so hot that it's uncomfortable to touch.
Stir the oil with a spoon and add three drops of your favourite essential oil.
Put the bath on and add some bath salts if you fancy, I like Himalayan rock salts.
Undress, and sit on a large towel (or your dressing gown) on the bathroom floor and massage your whole body with the oil. Start with your scalp, then face, then neck and keep moving downwards. Always massage the skin in the direction towards the heart. Spend more time on areas that we sometimes ignore or try to forget about such as the stomach, the chest, or the hips - give them plenty of love.
Put your dressing gown on and wait for about 10-15 mins. Relax, read a book, have a cup of tea, put some music on...
After the oil has soaked into your body, slowly get into the bath and relax. Don’t wash any of your body with soap - the heat from the water will facilitate the oil penetrating even further into your skin.
- Create a relaxing environment in the bathroom - turn the lights out and use candles.
- Spend as long as you can in the bath appreciating the warmth, the smell and the silence, meditate if you feel so inclined.
- There's no need to moisturise after your bath as usual - another bonus!
- Be careful when getting out of the bath as it might be slippy.
So what do you think? Are you up for trying it? Go and get that bath on!
**I’m not suggesting that you do this every day unless you have loads of time on your hands, but once a week serves me incredibly well.
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Hannah Anstee is a former British Wellness Journalist turned Women’s Midlife & Wellbeing Coach.
You may know her from her work as Beauty Editor at YOGA Magazine or her contributions to The Independent or Psychologies Magazine.
Hannah uses a kind and candid approach to help women rewrite their stories.