Abhyanga ( oil massage) for Healing your Body, Brain and Spirit

One ayurvedic daily routine, called dinacharya, that I find helps with healing my TBI, is a warm oil massage called abhyanga. A daily abhyanga nurtures your, skin, muscles and tissues, releases toxins from the body, soothes the nervous system, lowers the production of adrenaline and provides excellent nourishment for the brain.

The skin is the largest digestive organ in the body and anything you put on your skin moves through your entire system, including your brain. In ayurveda we believe anything you put on your skin should be something you would feel good about putting in your mouth.

Coconut oil is an excellent choice for your abhyanga, as it is known to have many healing benefits due to the healthy fats the brain needs and the MCT (medium chain triglycerides), which have superior therapeutic effects for those healing from a TBI.

Personally, each season I change oils. I use sesame oil during the cold winter months, as it is heavier and warmer, medium oils, like avocado and almond, can be used in the spring and fall and the lightest and coolest of the oil spectrum is coconut oil, which I use in the warmer summer months.

Doing a daily abhyanga is incredibly healing for the body, mind and spirit. It provides a continuous feed of good fats to the body and brain and helps people feel more grounded, connected, calm and present each day. It is not just for those healing from a TBI, it is equally important to help care givers who are balancing the demand of the changing environment around you.

Try it once, you will love it! Commit to taking 10 minutes or more to apply and massage the oil slowly. You can warm it by placing the glass jar in warm water in the sink. Make sure to take slow deep breathes while applying the oil, using firm long strokes on limbs, slow circular motions on all joints, and spend plenty of extra time on the hands and feet.

Start with the arms and legs and move towards the heart. Let the body absorb the oil for 15 minutes (as it takes 2-3 minutes for the oils to move though all 7 layers of the skin). During this time, perhaps sit in meditation, do breath-work or make a healthy meal and then wipe off any excess with a warm washcloth. If you do this practice regularly, be extra careful to clean up oil in shower so it is not slippery for your next shower. I squirt inexpensive shampoo in the tub and swoosh it around with my foot to clear away any extra oil.

On days when a full body abhyanga is not possible, try massaging just your feet with oil for a few minutes, taking slow deep breathes as you do so, and then put on socks and start your day. We have over 7000 nerve endings in each foot, and massaging the feet alone will sooth your nervous system and still offer healing benefits to the brain.

If you suffer from insomnia, a common TBI symptom, it is advised that you rub sesame or coconut oil into your feet before bed for a few minutes ( and then put socks on so you don’t harm your favorite sheets) as it has a calming effect and can lull you to sleep.