When it really comes down to it, the love we need the most is the love that we give to ourselves. At the end of the day, after all, it is always ourselves we are left to contend with. And from my own limited experience, I can tell you that there is no amount of love in the world that can make up for the love you fail to give yourself.
While it’s true that people around us can be manipulative and heartless; can say terrible things; can even break our hearts or abuse our greatest trusts – their plots are always temporary in the end. The only thing that is constant is our own voice, and it is our choice what it says. It can be critical and unforgiving, negative and doubtful – or it can be encouraging, compassionate, hopeful and kind. It’s entirely up to you.
One way you might start sending yourself some loving vibes is to do a daily oil massage. In Ayurveda this is known as abhyanga, and is considered an essential part of daily self-care. In Sanskrit, the word for oil (sneha) is also the word for love – and the warm and nurturing effects of anointing oneself with oil are believed to be the same as those received when one is saturated with love. People in India have used daily abhyanga for thousands of years for its beneficial effects. As is said in the Charaka Samhita, one of the oldest Ayurvedic texts:
By using oil massage daily, a person is endowed with pleasant touch, trimmed body parts and becomes strong, charming and least affected by old age.
If that isn’t loving yourself, I’m not sure what is. All that oil and massaging helps move waste products out of the skin by encouraging lymphatic drainage and enhancing circulation. It also calms the mind and makes the skin soft, lustrous and radiant. And I can tell you, standing in front of the wood stove slathering myself in warmed sesame oil before I step into a hot bath (especially an herbal bath), I sure do feel like I am saturated with love. It is pure joie de vivre, as the French say.
To give yourself an oil massage, first choose an oil that is correct for your constitution. Follow these guidelines:
If you are thin, tend towards dryness, cold hands and feet and irregular digestion – a warm and heavy oil like sesame is a good choice.
For those of a medium frame, with fair complexion and a tendency towards inflammation (both mental and physical), cooling oils like coconut or sunflower are more suitable.
Those of a more voluptuous build, with thick hair and steady energy who tend towards congestion will benefit from a warm and stimulating oil such as mustard seed.
Before you massage, heat the oil first by placing it into a sealed bottle, and placing the bottle in a pan of hot water. When the oil is comfortably warm, position yourself over a towel you don’t mind getting a little oily. Start massaging the oil into your skin, working up from the extremities in a clockwise motion, always moving towards the heart. Massage for anywhere from 5 – 20 minutes, as long as it takes to feel saturated with the sensation of your own beautiful love. Follow with a hot bath or shower. (As the oil acts as a natural solvent for dirt and grime, it will carry away impurities as it washes off your skin. You don’t even need to touch the soap!)
Repeat daily, or at least several times per week. Your self will thank you.
Lovely, I think I’ll be doing this this very eve.
My Ayurvedic teacher always told us about the importance of sesame oil for Vata types. It’s one of those things that I always think I’ll get round to doing but then decide I’m too busy to take the time. You have inspired me to stop letting other tasks get in the way and enjoy being saturated with oily love!! Hooray.
Yay for oily love! Anne McIntyre, who you probably know of because she is English, was the first to really inspire me about it. I’ve been hooked ever since – sesame oil next to the woodstove in winter, and coconut with lavender in the summer when my pitta starts to flair!
The Teacup Chronicles is a seasonally minded blog about health and wellness, written by a clinical herbalist and self proclaimed kitchen witch. It contains herb-lore, delicious recipes, dietary suggestions and more to encourage vibrant health, balance and delight in every season. Grab a cup of tea, pull up a chair and join me in exploring just how gratifying and delicious cultivating good health can be.