#36alive 290: Pack A Tennis Ball On Long Journeys

Good news: You don’t have to suffer tight muscles and sore spots every time you face a long car journey or light. Just pack a tennis ball, and you’ll be able to boost your circulation and release muscle tension in no time.

London-based MD and surgeon Ali Ghoz recommends bringing the ball with you to roll out painful knots and adhesions; “If you have a tennis ball, you can increase circulation in your body by rolling it everywhere from your shoulders and lower back to legs and the bottoms of your feet, as well as any other trigger points”.

Use the ball a few times throughout your journey, and you’ll be able to prevent tightness from forming in your muscles, whilst giving yourself an all-over circulation boost too!

 

#36alive 208: Release Shoulder Tension With The Apalapa Marma Point

Marma points are used throughout the ancient Indian health system of Ayurveda, literally meaning ‘life knowledge’. This system is all about getting to know yourself, and then getting to know how to keep yourself well and healthy.

Marma points have a similar concept to the chinese medicine system of acupuncture and acupressure points. By pressing and massaging there points, physical and subtle layers of the body can release, relax, or energise and strengthen. Today’s marma point is all about releasing pain and discomfort in the shoulders, a common place many of us carry tension.

Apalapa: This marma point is located on the chest, and is a great way to ‘un lock’ stiff shoulders in the Autumn and Winter. Measure two finger widths down and two finger widths laterally from your collarbones, and massage this place with a firm, circular movement for approximately five minutes.

The key is to do this regularly, especially if your shoulders are your trouble spot, practice each day for a couple of weeks, and let us know how you feel!

#36alive 207: Try Oil Pulling

This ancient way of keeping the mouth fresh and clean has just come back into ‘fashion’, so much so that you can even buy coconut oil pulling kits to whiten and clean your teeth.

Oil Pulling technique cleans toxins from the mouth, and it’s also thought to clean toxins from the gut and body too (especially useful if you’re feeling a little worse-for-wear the morning after a big celebration!). It helps to freshen breath and does indeed seem to whiten teeth naturally if done regularly. Traditionally, sesame oil was used, but with more ‘cooling’ qualities and a somewhat nicer taste, coconut oil is easily accessible and most often used in modern oil pulling. 

To do this, simply take a fairly large spoonful of coconut oil and swish it around your mouth for approximately 10 – 20 minutes. When you’re finished, I would recommend disposing of the oil into a bin, as coconut oil does have a tendency to block drains if this is done a lot. Complete by brushing your teeth, and for bonus points, use the traditional Ayurvedic tool of a tongue scraper to remove Ama (toxins) from the tongue – your dentist won’t believe how you’ve been able to improve your dental hygiene in such a natural way!

Let us know what you think 

#36alive 201: Make A Summertime Sun Tea

When it comes to saving energy and making an effort to live a more sustainable life, solar power is where it’s at. The sun’s energy is the most important energy source for all living things on the planet, and has been for billions of years. It’s completely renewable, totally free, and doesn’t produce any pollution.

As a nation, we’re just beginning to make the most of it, but there’s still a long way to go until we can meet the planet’s demands by using the sun’s power.

One little thing you can do however, which doubles as a self care practice as well as a handy way to save a whole lot of money on boiling the kettle (one of the most expensive uses of electricity!) is to make a ‘Sun Tea’. It might sound a little ‘woo-woo’, but preparing tea this way will allow the leaves to retain their original quality, rather than potentially ‘burning’ them with boiling water. You’re likely to notice the flavour is slightly sweeter, and it’s a great way to cool down in the Summer too.

Method

  • Add tea leaves or a tea bag to a large jar: Hibiscus, red clover flowers, peppermint, chamomile and lemongrass are all cooling herbs, and work well in the Summer.
  • Fill with fresh, cool water
  • Leave for 2 hours, or up to a whole day
  • Drink and enjoy!

 

#36alive 7: Abhyanga (Self Massage)

Health and wellbeing advice changes all the time, making it difficult to know who to listen to and what to trust. When we look back throughout history though, there are a few things that have stood the test of time, and self-massage with the use of natural oils has been an important tool in healing and maintaining health.

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The 1800s was all about face bleaching, tapeworm dieting, and eyedrops containing deadly nightshade. In the 1900s, men’s fashion even saw them wearing high, stiff shirt collars, which were so high and so stiff, they actually cut off circulation to the brain! Yes, we’ve done some silly things throughout history, but the fact is, even though we assume we’re more evolved and intelligent, we’re still making mistakes when it comes to wellbeing. The dangers these days may not be so visibly obvious as they were in the Victorian era, but that’s exactly what makes them so harmful. Read the small print on your favourite shampoo or moisturiser and you’re likely to find a whole host of ingredients that definitely don’t belong on your skin.

It’s modern-day 2016, and instead of chalk and charcoal, we’re slathering processed creams and subtly-labelled chemical-laden ointments onto our bodies. Despite the fact that they’re titled ‘natural’ and beneficial for skin, they’re actually more likely to be harmful than helpful. Moisturisers, shampoos, soaps and many skincare products often contain ‘endocrine-disruptingjournal.pone_.0116057.g001.pngcompounds’, which create hormonal changes, and can even contribute towards breast cancer. These ECDs can also be found in plastics, pesticides, herbicides, and household cleaning products.

Lots of modern-day products can be linked to early-onset adolescence, and the reason behind why many girls now begin menstruating much earlier than they have ever done historically. Microwaves, artificial bright lighting and additives in food are things we have around us all the time, and also things which are severely disrupting our circadian rhythms, hormones and health.

This is where Ayurveda and its natural healing techniques come into play; we can learn a lot from ancient traditions and nature.

ayurveda-1SELF MASSAGE

Abhyanga is a practice derived from Ayurveda, the ancient ‘science of life’ and India’s oldest traditional health system. This system works to bring the body and mind back into balance and harmony, and uses a multitude of ways to promote wellness, including a unique diet dependent upon each person’s dosha or ‘type’, exercise, mediation, mantra, visualisation, herbal supplementation, self massage with oils, otherwise known as abhyanga, and much more. One of the most important aspects of Ayurveda to understand, is that the health advice given thousands of years ago is just as relevant today, and it stillworks.* There’s no need for chemicals or anything artificial and unpronouncable, just nature and knowledge.

The word abhyanga implies a massage of the whole body, or all  ‘limbs’. The word ‘anga’ means limb, and ‘abhy’ can be understood in a few different ways. In this context the Sanskrit prefix means ‘to make smooth and glowing’. The Sanskrit word for oil is ‘sneha’ which also means ‘love’, which indicates that rubbing oil into the skin is a very real way to care for and show a little love and thanks to the physical body.

Abhyanga is often used to prepare the body for panchakarma, meaning ‘five actions’. This is the traditional and relatively hardcore Ayurvedic detox…. The five actions are intended to detoxify, balance, and strengthen the body, mind and immune system. It is a healing practice to restore and rejuvenate, and also includes Vamana (medical vomiting), Virechana (purgation – said to be effective for skin disorders), Niruha Basti (clearing the lower part of the gastrointestinal tract), Nasya (administering medicines via the nose), and Anuvasana (an oil enema).

Traditionally, abhyanga uses warm oil, pre-medicated with natural herbs. After massaging the oil into the body, svedana therapy is practiced, which means ‘to perspire’. This ‘perspiration’ includes lying out in the sun. Taking a warm bath is also an effective and traditional way to follow oiling. The types of oils used differ from person to person (depending upon their dosha or prakriti (nature)) and season to season. Coconut, sesame, almond, mustard, sunflower

massage3Self-massage is a simple and incredibly effective way to maintain health of skin, cell membranes, muscles and joints. It promotes healthy cell regeneration, healing and can even enhance mobility and flexibility.

Massage throughout the whole year is advised, but is especially important during the Winter months. The air in Winter is particularly dry, which in turn can cause dry skin and aching joints. Using oil on particularly vulnerable areas of the body, upon the joints, or choosing to slather the whole body in oil, can keep it supple and hydrated.

From personal experience, I began the practice of Abhyanga a few months ago, and genuinely noticed a huge difference in how supple and more comfortable I felt in my own skin. Previous aches and pains had disappeared or at least become far less uncomfortable, and my whole body literally felt more hydrated and alive.

Your own personal body type will determine the type of oil that is best to use; those who ‘run hot’ or have sensitive skin would do well to use pure coconut oil. For those who have particularly dry skin and aching joints, sesame oil can do wonders. Almond oil is generally useful and appropriate for all body types. In Ayurveda, the oils are usually infused with herbs or essential oils for specific purposes. Nutmeg essential oil is good for boosting circulation and easing aches and pains, lavender can soothe inflammation, and frankincense oil is useful for both relieving dry skin and reducing anxiety (FYI – skin issues can often be asymptom of anxiety or stress).

self-massageDO IT YOURSELF

There are a few different ways to practice Abhyanga or ‘self massage’. Start by choosing a pure, organic oil that feels good on your skin. If you’re able to, then purchase one that is natural and without any artificial ingredients. Remember; what goes on the skin, goes in the skin. Next, choose when to practice the massage. Self massage is best practiced at either of these times of day:

  • Upon waking: Massage a small amount of oil over the whole body, starting at the feet and ending with the head. Massage in long strokes towards the heart, and in circular motions over joints. Orange or Ylang Ylang essential oil can be a useful way to warm and uplift the senses in the morning, bringing a positive start to the day.
  • After a shower or bath: Massage the oil onto warm, lightly towel-dried skin. Massage in long strokes towards the heart, and in circular movements over joints. Sandalwood or bergamot oils are comforting and can be a good way to maintain good mood levels throughout the day.
  • Before Bed: As long as you don’t mind your sheets becoming a little oily, practicing abhyanga before bed can be a fantastic way to promote a calm mind and good quality sleep. Massage in long strokes towards the heart, and in circular motions over joints. If you’re using an essential oil, frankincense or lavender may be helpful for relaxing the nervous system.

TRY IT FOR YOURSELF, JUST A FEW MINUTES EACH DAY TO NOURISH AND CARE FOR YOURSELF. AFTER ALL, IN ORDER TO FULLY SHOW UP AND CARE FOR OTHERS, WE HAVE TO HAVE SHOWN UP FOR OURSELVES FIRST. EXPERIMENT WITH DIFFERENT OILS, AND NOTICE  HOW YOU FEEL IN YOUR BODY AND MIND. 

 

 

*Please note: I’m not a doctor! In no way do I intend to give sound medical advice. Please consult a professional medical practitioner before using any oils or massage techniques upon yourself.