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  • Chitra Eder

Winter Self Care: Mastering Abhyanga Ayurvedic Massage for Menopause Wellness

Updated: Dec 25, 2023

Four handed massage: Benefits of Warm oil Rituals; Winter Self Care: mastering abhyanga Ayurvedic Massage of menopause wellness

Here we are, immersed in the festive season, surrounded by the joyous chaos that comes with the holidays, it is crucial to pause and prioritize our well-being, especially during the dry and chilly hemanta season. 


This season is punctuated by crisp air, the scent of winter, warm drinks, dry snows, gusts of wind, traveling to visit friends and families, and lighting candles or fires. In the yearly dance of the earth's cycle around the sun corresponding to winter in the northern hemisphere, we find ourselves under the influence of vāta doṣha - ushering in cold, dryness, and increased movement. 


Cold Woman Mand and Girl in Hats pouring hot tea into cups surrounded by snow covered trees.

Hemanta corresponds to winter and spans from mid-November to mid-January in the Northern Hemisphere. To better understand hemanta we must look to specific qualities of the season. This dry cold redirects our body heat into the gut, heightening appetite and digestion while leaving our extremities and skin vulnerable to external cold and dryness. 


Unfortunately, this season also leaves the body's extremities and skin very dry, externally cold, and subject to increased vata. For peri through post-menopausal women and people living in Albuquerque's arid desert climate, the season may feel even more extreme. 


Let me share the transformative power of Ayurveda, specifically abhyanga, a balancing and nourishing practice for hemanta, winter, and vata


The Essence of hemanta and the Need for Abhyanga, Ayurvedic Oil Massage

Hemanta, or winter, is characterized by a dominance of vāta, the dosha associated with dryness, coldness, and movement. During this season, the cold winds of winter and the desert leave our skin feeling parched and our joints aching. 


For women in their 40s and beyond, this season exacerbates vāta related imbalances, making it essential for us to embrace practices that bring warmth and moisture. 


We are all too familiar with excessive vāta symptoms which are also common for menopausal symptoms: 


  • Dark discolorations on the skin

  • Trembling

  • Bloating

  • Gas

  • Inability to sleep

  • Brain fog

  • Constipation

  • Increased pain and stiffness

  • Joint pain

  • Skin roughness

  • Hair fall

  • Anxiety

  • Indecision


Does this sound like a familiar tune? While not everyone will experience these symptoms, the likelihood of existing ones being aggravated is very much present.


Ayurveda provides a timeless ally in this dance of seasonal energies. Sesame oil, the golden elixir for vata, offers not just relief, but a sanctuary of warmth and moisture. Keep reading for practical tips and insights to embrace the season with grace.


Why Abhyanga, Ayurvedic Oil Massage?

Abhyanga, the ancient practice of massage with medicated or herbal oils, is a cornerstone of Ayurveda practices and therapies.

Its significance is amplified during the winter months. Here's three reasons why:


1. Nourishes the Skin:

    As we age, our skin tends to lose moisture and elasticity. Abhyanga, when performed with warm oils suitable for your dosha, provides deep nourishment, replenishing the skin's natural oils and promoting a radiant complexion.


2. Circulation and Joint Health:   

The rhythmic strokes of abhyanga stimulate blood and lymph circulation, helping combat the cold-induced stiffness in joints. This is particularly beneficial for women experiencing peri through post-menopause.


3. Calms the Mind:

The gentle, repetitive motions of abhyanga have a soothing effect on the nervous system. For peri through post-menopausal women navigating the stresses of the holiday season, abhyanga becomes a powerful tool to calm the mind and promote emotional well-being, anxiety reduction, and an opportunity for better sleep.


Three Variations of Abhyanga, Ayurvedic Oil Massage

You've got Choices!


Explore the variations of Abhyanga and discover their unique benefits:

1. Self-Abhyanga:


The cornerstone of Ayurvedic self-care, self-abhyanga involves massaging warm oil onto your body before showering. This practice not only nourishes the skin but also fosters a deep connection between you and your body.


Guide to Self-Abhyanga:


Self-massage at least once a week; take your time applying the oil or speed it up if you've got a hectic morning.


Steps:

  1. Prepare Your Skin and Pores: Begin by brushing your skin with a dry brush, removing dead skin, dirt, and debris, and priming your skin's pores for the nourishing oil.

  2. Warm the Elixir (Oil) 😀: Warm your chosen oil, immersing the bottle in hot water until comfortably warm to the touch.

  3. The Massage Ritual (give yourself sacred time) 🧘‍♀️ : Start the massage at the neck, employing long strokes for limbs and short strokes for joints. Pay special attention to your lower back, the seat of vata. **Watch out for oil on your feet... slipping is not an option. 

  4. Allow the Elixir to Infuse: Let the oil sit for 5-10 minutes to absorb its benefits. Use this time for enhanced relaxation, deep breathing, light cardio, or preparing breakfast for the family.

  5. Rinse: Take a warm shower to rinse off excess oil, leaving your skin refreshed, revitalized, and most importantly moisturized.


Self Care: Woman applying abhyanga oil to legs for self abhyanga, ayurvedic massage

By following these steps, you engage in an awesome self-care ritual, ensuring your skin absorbs the nourishing benefits of the oil to defend against winter vata. Ready to tackle your many daily responsibilities.


Tips for Your Winter Self-Abhyanga Ritual:


  • Oil Selection: Opt for oils like sesame, almond, or a blend of oils and herbal infusions. Adjust the oil type based on your dosha to maximize the benefits. Coconut oil is not the best choice for cold winter climates. Feel free to use food-grade oils, cold-pressed, and organic are best. 

  • Timing: Abhyanga in the morning for a warm and vital start to your day. Abhyanga is best done during the day, while the sun is out so your body can digest the oils. Anything that goes on your skin or in your body needs to be digested.


2. Two-handed Abhyanga:

In a two-handed Abhyanga, a skilled practitioner massages your body using specific techniques and medicated oils tailored to your dosha, providing a more comprehensive and personalized experience.

Warm oil being applied for two handed abhyanga ayurvedic massage by a practitioner

Advantages of the two-handed abhyanga:


  • Expertise and Technique: A trained practitioner applies specific strokes, pressure, and movements to move the blood, lymph, and 5 types of vata appropriately.

  • Full Relaxation: Allows for full relaxation without the effort of self-massage, leading to a more profound state of relaxation.

  • Comprehensive Coverage: Reaches areas challenging to access during self-massage, like the mid and lower back, addressing specific joints, channels, and marma points.

  • Energetic Flow: Balances the flow of energy (prana) within the body, enhancing overall energetic balance.

  • Deeper Healing: Extends beyond physical benefits, promoting emotional and mental healing through intentional touch.


While self-massage has its merits, a two-handed abhyanga provides a more therapeutic, specialized, and immersive experience, as well as an opportunity to fully surrender and reap the benefits of this ancient healing practice.


3. Four-handed abhyanga:

The epitome of therapeutic indulgence, the four-handed abhyanga involves two ayurvedic practitioners working in synchronized harmony, doubling the impact and creating a profound sense of relaxation and balance.


Advantages of the four-handed abhyanga:


  • Enhanced Therapeutic Impact: With two therapists working in unison on either side of the body, the massage becomes more comprehensive, providing heightened relaxation.

  • Deeper Relaxation: The synchronized movements induce a deeper state of relaxation, harmonizing the right and left sides of the body and brain.

  • Balancing Energies: Promotes a balanced flow of energy (prana), beneficial for harmonizing doshas and overall well-being.

  • Greater Coverage and Attention: Two therapists ensure no part of the body is neglected, resulting in a more comprehensive and attentive massage experience.

  • Luxurious Experience: Elevating the overall massage to new heights, need I say more?

  • Elevated Mind-Body Connection: The dual touch enhances awareness and deepens the therapeutic benefits, providing an emotionally and energetically enriching experience.

  • Efficient: A four-handed abhyanga offers deeper healing in less amount of time than two- handed abhyanga.


While both two-handed and four-handed abhyanga have their merits, the four-handed version offers a heightened and indulgent experience, making it the only choice for those seeking a luxurious, deeply relaxing, and therapeutic Ayurvedic massage.


At Ayurveda with Chitra, we exclusively offer four-handed abhyanga followed by swedhana (herbalized steam) as part of the treatment. Swedhana removes excess oils and toxins from the body. Abhyanga is often paired with shirodhara and other treatments for the full bliss therapy experience.


Closing Thoughts:


Whether practicing self-abhyanga or indulging in a four-handed abhyanga, approach the ritual with mindfulness. Let the sensations and aromas guide you into a state of deep relaxation which is the basis of all healing.


This winter, gift yourself the timeless practice of abhyanga. As the desert winter winds whisper, let the healing touch of Ayurveda reduce rising seasonal and baseline stress levels and other symptoms by reducing vāta There are 3 thing I'd like you to take away or do based on this article:

  1. Start your personal self care abhyanga practice this week.

  2. Book or gift an abhyanga: 👈🏼 Link Albuquerque's Signature Four-Handed Abhyanga Today!

  3. Curious about Ayurveda, Abhyanga, or Menopause? Drop a Comment with Your Questions!



Wishing you warmth and wellness this festive winter season!

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