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Self-Care Advent, Day 17 : : Herbal Oil Massage

Well, only days to go until the Solstice. How is everybody out there? If you're feeling the heaviness that I'm hearing from so many, then this post combined with the last one for day 16 will do so much to set you right.


I only know Jenelyse a little bit, but she is yet another talented sister from the Gaia School of Healing and has always been the brightest, warmest presence whenever I've been lucky enough to share space with her. She does all the things with plants- sharing her gifts and spirit as an herbalist, educator, doula and landscape designer. This is what I've found myself after learning the philosophies of the Earth; it's not so much about what you do as it is about all the different ways that you can bring this philosophy forward. Jen lives that.


You can find her online at www.indigigoldenherbals.org and on Instagram @indigigoldenherbalacademy.


Today, Jen not only shares her beloved practice of Abhyanga- Ayurvedic oil massage- but also how to make your own herbal oils! Read on.....


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I fell in love with massage several years back. I also fell in love with the culture around bath houses and nature spas. From the village in Africa to the Korean bath house, I found healing within hot steamy waters, exfoliation, hydrotherapy, massage, and more.


For the longest time I felt as though my beauty and detoxification treatments were only "real" if a professional was working on my vessel. Some years ago after visiting a very well known Korean spa, I began to utilize tools that deepened my at home self-care. I realized that once the tools were purchased, there wasn't necessarily a need to visit the bath houses or spas as often. I started taking those tools into nature, dry brushing before rinsing and then immersing myself in hot springs, or moving my lymph using soft to medium strokes in the direction of my heart before jumping into a lake.



I do the lymph massages by starting with the temples, cheeks, neck, arms, and then moving towards my lower half continuing the upward strokes. This practice is simple and takes but a few moments, and it is also necessary during times of physical stagnation. Either way it goes, we need to move our bodies!


During periods of stillness, whether because of this pandemic or observing the sacred energy of winter, we must always remember to move the lymph and find a routine for sacred movement. I am guilty, I often want the easy way out! I learned some time ago that going into a sauna was equivalent to getting 30 minutes of cardio, you can imagine the dependency that follows if the mood to exercise just isn't there.


We can also see the same practice utilized in Ayurveda with dry brushing, it has been shared that dry brushing for 20 minutes is equivalent to doing yoga asana. Now that winter is here and we are encouraged to be in doors more, on top of spas and saunas closing due to COVID, I have to continue the culture of bathhouses and spa treatments at home.



I encourage you to prepare ahead of time. Creating your own personal and healing herbal oil is one of the first steps, as we start our at home spa treatment by opening the pores, and cleansing, to moving the lymph with self-massage and then finally to moisturizing. An herbal oil blend is necessary for the self-massage, and of course there are so many types of massages from traditional African massage techniques to those used in traditional Chinese medicine. This particular massage utilizes herbal infused oils and can aid in increasing benefits associated with healing dry skin, relaxation, or muscle stiffness. I use sweet almond oil for most of my herbal oil blends, still there are so many to choose from.


The herbal oils are very important for my self care practice- being an Afro Indigenous woman my skin thrives in humid climates. Having been displaced from the Mother Land and also moving to the West from the East has been very challenging for my skin. These herbal oils to me are like water to a fish, necessary for my existence. Not to mention the added beautifying and health benefits.

I recommend using cold pressed organic oils, you may want to research whether an oil will address your specific needs. For example in Ayurveda certain oils are better or worse for individuals, you can also find that out by researching your dosha (pitta, kapha, vata). Once you have chosen your oil, then you'll need to gather the herbs. You can do this by visiting your local apothecary, going to a co-op, purchasing herbs from a local gardener, using and drying herbs from your own garden, or respectfully wild crafting in an area that you make offerings to and/ or have permission to harvest from your local Native American tribe.



It was really easy for me to make these oils using herbs and plant materials from the organic farm I lived on. There were wild native plants that grew on the land, as well as herbs planted in the garden. I would then harvest the plants who shared their consent either in dream state or in ordinary reality. The plants that spoke to me, that gave me permission to harvest them for medicine were always in abundance, and carefully I would partake. My herbal oils are always created on an auspicious day to invoke the energy of the divine, whether new or full moon. I pray over the oils and chant while creating. Your oils need to be infused for 6-8 weeks, or you may use a double boiler. I have also used a crockpot to infuse herbs into an oil, having kept the temperature on low and turning the crock on and off to prevent overheating the herbs.


My favorite method is letting them steep for 6-8 weeks and bringing the jar outside ever so often, completely covered and giving the jar sunlight. This method is called a solar infusion! Once your herbal oil is infused, you can strain the herbs out and place the oil in a separate jar. You might also wish to add organic essential oils. If you are experiencing sore muscles, inflammation, or arthritis (provoked by the cold weather) I would recommend using herbs or oils of comfrey, yarrow, arnica, chamomile, spearmint, ginger, cinnamon, or cannabis. Another alternative is to use plants that are excellent for deepening moisturization such as jasmine, rose, calendula, lavender, violet, oat straw, marshmallow, slippery elm, or irish moss. There are so many recipes out there and your herbs of choice will depend on your expected end goal.


Once your oil is made, you can pray over your medicine to invoke the spirits of the plants to provide you with the healing you need. I start my at home spa treatment with dry brushing using a natural soft bristle brush, be sure to purchase one that is sturdy and wont fall apart. Brush in the direction towards your heart, the longer the strokes the better. You'll do this for about 15 to 20 minutes being sure to address your legs, arms, buttocks, and back. You can then begin your lymph massage by finding the lymphatic points in the body, tapping gently and using a soft to medium stroke also in the direction towards your heart.


Once done take a nice steamy shower, opening those pores. You can end on cold if you wish! I prefer to save that treatment for a different purpose. I should mention that I use a soft bristle face brush as well, and an agave waffle cloth for further exfoliation as I bathe. I cannot emphasize the need to exfoliate more than this! Once you are done, you can further opening your pores by doing a face steam using medicinal herbs of choice as well. Always pat dry if you are using a cotton towel! I love using Turkish, silk, or hemp towels. Do invest in good quality at home spa tools. Strive for ethical, home made, or local tools.



Now let the massaging begin. Pour off small amounts of your oil into your hands, rubbing your hands together begin with your feet and use long pressured strokes in the direction of your heart. You can play around with techniques. Always breathing deeply. Once done, be sure to thank your vessel for receiving the intended healing benefits of the oil, herbs, and massage. Thoroughly rub your oils in to avoid staining your clothes.

Happy Holy Days! May your at home spa treatments be full of joy and medicine.


Jenelyse

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