#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 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.


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.




*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.

#36alive 4: Rolling a Tennis Ball Underfoot


img_0153It’s so simple that it seems almost too easy, but spending just a few seconds each morning rolling a tennis ball under your feet could to be the solution to chronic aches and pains, and a valuable method to prevent discomfort from occurring in the first place. So, how does it work?

Rolling a ball under our feet can help release fascia in different parts of the body, helping release tension and encouraging more mobility. The primary way it does this is that the gentle pressure and motion of the ball helps to release and re-integrate the body’s fascia.

fasciasuitFascia is a dense connective tissue that runs throughout the body, holding everything in place, and it seems to be the buzzword of the moment amongst health and movement professionals. This tissue was historically often neglected in human anatomy studies and dissections, where it was cut away to reveal the muscles and organs underneath. Recently however, the importance of this spider web – like substance has become – and is still becoming – apparent.


There are three types of fascia:

1)      Superficial which is just below the skin, and holds little pockets of fat. Amongst other functions, it facilitates the movement of the skin and conserves body heat.

2)      Deep fascia which surrounds the muscles, nerves and bones. This is what defines our shape and posture. It is used as a back-up strength system to the muscles, proving extra surface for the muscle attachment and assists muscles in their actions.

3)      Visceral fascia which holds organs in place and protects them.

fasciafuzzWithout fascia we’d be nothing more than a puddle on the floor. It is a adaptable living structure, and we can’t change our posture without improving its quality. So if your posture resembles shoulders hunching forward, that’s because our fascia has adapted and changed to enable that, which is good and bad news. The bad news is that we’re now held in that position with bad posture, the good news is that if it changed to hold us in a bad position, it can be changed back.

There will be more resources to follow throughout the year on how we can improve the quality of our fascia but we will begin with this simple technique of rolling a small ball under the soles of the feet. This technique can really loosen the hamstrings – an area where people often feel tight – amongst other areas (I often feel a difference in my hips). This may seem strange if we think of our body as a separate group of muscles and you may ask the obvious question “how will working on my feet loosen my hamstrings?”, but when we take in to account what we have learnt about the fascia and how it connects everything together in our body, then it makes sense. For more information follow the link to read the blog post from ‘myfiveminuteyoga’….

tennis-ball-foot-massageKeep a tennis ball in your bedroom and use it when you get up in the morning, keep one at work under your desk to roll under your feet throughout the day, or have one handy next to the TV so you remember to use it if you’re sitting down to watch something in the evening. Place your foot on top of the ball, and roll it back and forth along the sole of the foot, almost creating a massage-like sensation. Do this every day for a week and let us know how you feel!