Ayurvedic Self-Care Practice with Maria Garre

Self-care rituals are an important part of our practice and an essential part of becoming your best self. Ayurveda, the ancient sister science of Yoga, teaches us that nourishing our unique constitution through diet, herbal treatments, asana sequencing and pranayama, and ultimately balancing bodily systems is the key to living a more sattvic life.
A maintained routine, whether daily, weekly or seasonally, is essential for self-care practices to be effective as it brings about radical changes to the body, mind and consciousness by helping balance one's unique prakriti. There are powerful psychological effects on the mind and biological body clock when routine is well kept, and furthermore assists in digestive processes, and boosts positive emotions such as self-esteem and a sense of accomplishment. 

As part of the Eight Limbs, Saucha (or cleanliness) has a whole branch dedicated within the Niyamas, asking us to incorporate healthy habits for better living and spiritual existence. 
We asked Maria Garre, Ayurvedic Specialist and Yoga Therapist and Prana Vinyasa Trainer from New Mexico, USA, to guide us through the steps of an Ayurvedic cleansing ritual, Abhyanga or self body massage.

Oiling the body is one of the most nourishing practices. Ayurveda touts it as one that offers strength, longevity and pacification to the body and mind. Be sure to do Abhyangain a warm place and avoid any cold drafts or being chilled afterward.


1. Use ¾ to 1 cup of Ayurvedic oil and transfer to a glass bottle or oil warmer to warm the oil. Use a large towel or sheet over the area you will be doing Abhyanga.

2. Without being in a hurry, lovingly and patiently massage the oil into your entire body for about 20 to 30 minutes, beginning at the extremities and working toward the middle of the body.

3. The general flow of massage goes from the head to the feet. Then move up the legs to the hips. Rub the abdomen and breast/chest area. Progress down the arms and finish from sacrum to the whole back. Apply a base of oil to the entire body and add more as you re-visit each body part and massage with long strokes.

4. Optional is to start by applying oil on the scalp. Finger tips rubbing vigorously (can do a friction rub without oil as well). Oil applied to the head should be warm but not hot. From the center of the head where the hair meets your forehead use your fingertips to massage oil on the head. Pour oil on top of the head and massage in circular motion from front to back moving from the center out to the ears.

5. Next begin at the soles of your feet massaging and oiling feet. The bottom of the foot, top of the foot, inside the toes and circular at ankles. Do right foot then left foot.

6. Legs: work up the legs. Move from the ankle to the knee with long strokes 7 times with greater force of the upward stroke. Circular strokes at the knee. Make sure you do front, side and back of lower leg and front, side and back of the knee. Rule is ALWAYS circular at the joints (go counter and clock-wise)

7. Progress up the thigh with long strokes all along the thigh (front, side and back) and roll onto either side and do circular strokes in both directions at the hip joint. Meaning massage the entire surface are of the buttocks. Complete the leg area with long strokes from the top of the hip down to the toes. Do big circle and reverse.

8. Once the legs are done. Rub oil on the lower back circular at the sacrum. Massage from base of pelvis into the sacrum. Do windshield wiper movements with both hands from the center of the sacrum out to the sides of the posterior hip.

9. To massage the chest, you can lay down and pour oil down the chest from the throat the pubic bone. Rub in a horizontal direction below the navel up to the diaphragm. Rub in circular fashion at the belly, breasts and shoulder area (this is the time to check in with your breasts and notice any irregularities). Rub horizontal across the chest, collar bones. Include the sides of the torso in long strokes upward toward the armpits. This is a major lymph drainage site that will benefit from verbalized oils and massage.

10. Pour oil on one arm and start by rubbing back of hand, top of hand, all 5 fingers. Massage up the arm (front, side and back), circular at the elbows. Finish with long strokes by lifting the arm and start at the hand and travel all the way down to the feet
and move back up.

11. Lean forwards and massage up and down the back. Do your best to massage oil to the entire back which will feel like you are doing deep shoulder opening just to cover the whole area with long strokes.

12. Overall: use long strokes on the limbs and circular strokes on the joints. Massage the abdomen and chest in broad, clockwise, circular motions. Long strokes are done up toward the heart.

13. Massage face and neck. Press down the neck to move fluids down to the heart. Head massage involves long strokes across the forehead, windshield wiper action along eyebrows to the temples. Circle around the cheeks. Horizontal along the mount and circular at the chin. If you are familiar with Marma points then add pressure to those points - press, breathe, relax!

14. After you've massaged your entire body, enjoy a warm bath or shower. Some of you may opt for Salt Scrub. Be sure to wash your feet off before entering the shower. You may allow the oil to stay on the body for up to 2 hours. However not much longer than that. For added benefits, follow the salt scrub below to use post massage. To REMOVE OIL FROM HAIR. Apply shampoo to oiled hair with minimal water. Meaning begin to shampoo your hair without much water. Once you’ve worked shampoo into your scalp you can add more water and wash away! You may even skip conditioner depending on your hair type enjoy lustrous, thicker hair! Avoid blow drying hair.

15. When you get out of the shower, towel dry by patting yourself dry instead of rubbing.

Watch this Banyan Botanicals video demonstrating Abhyanga

Want to learn more?

Maria is joining Yogacampus to run a 5-day Ayurvedic Yoga immersion to help evolve your understanding of how each dosha and sub-dosha can inform sequencing, class design and self-healing. Throughout this immersion, the western, physical view of the body will be weaved alongside yoga and Ayurveda’s energetic and elemental view.

This course also counts towards credit hours for Shiva Rea’s Samudra School of Living Yoga Prana Vinyasa Flow Certification program.

Applying Doshic Anatomy to Yoga Practices will run from Saturday 15th to Wednesday 19th September 2018.