Are you tired from the frenetic energy that often surrounds us during the holidays? I know I am. In fact, at times, it has made me feel sick. Literally. Stress of any kind—including that caused by change in diet, sleep, and activities—can take a toll on our bodies. The constant holiday hype and pressure can move into the tissues and weaken the energetic flow, creating a physical waste substance known as ama, which can agitate the doshas (energetic systems).
When there is too much nervous tension and not enough opportunity for the cells to regenerate, the doshas become disturbed. An example of this is how you feel when there is too much physical or emotional stimulation. In Ayurveda, we understand that this type of physical disturbance manifests deep within the cells. It is directly related to what we hear, speak, eat, and see. The job of our cells is to grow, rejuvenate, and replenish. When sensory overload interrupts cellular function, agni (digestive fire) is reduced, and the srotas (body channels) become weak.
If I eat rich foods that stress out my digestion or exhaust my body, my sleep can be interrupted, my muscles contract, the blood flow to my brain is reduced, and panic and anxiety set in. The remedy—for there is a remedy, I am happy to report—is to take time to nourish the body and balance all that negative energy with positive actions.
Introducing a daily self-oil massage (abhyanga) is an immediate way to restore calm and balance to the holiday ravaged body and mind. Stress, poor diet, and frantic energy can wear the immune system down to a mere nub. Doing a daily abhyanga helps to move the lymph, stimulate digestion, and enliven the muscles and joints to help keep us healthy and flexible. Rubbing oil on the skin also calms the nerves and relaxes muscle twitches. The result is an easing of nervous tension as well as stimulation of oxytocin, the I-feel-great-hormone we all need to help restore much-needed calm. Additionally, the oil we use on our bodies feeds the important microbe population on our skin, which helps keep the immune system strong. As you know, a healthy immune system equals a healthy body and mind. As an added bonus, abhyanga creates a surge of positive energy and self-love to carry with you throughout the day.
Shirodhara, a traditional Ayurvedic oil therapy given by a professional, can also be beneficial during this stressful time. Shira means head and dhara means unbroken flow. Here’s how it works: While relaxing on a warm massage table, a copper bowl or urn is filled with warm oil. Out of a small opening at the bottom of the urn, a steady stream of warm herbal oil flows onto the forehead. This unbroken stream of warm oil stimulates the pineal gland, which transforms the crazy monkey-mind into a calm and peaceful mind. Shirodhara resets the circadian rhythm in the body and supports melatonin production. It also encourages sound sleep and alleviates the stress and anxiety that can take up residence in the body!
Let the holidays be a joyful time by incorporating daily oleation, touch therapy, meditation, yoga, and deep breathing. All of these powerful tools will help restore balance. Be your own alchemist and use oil massage and Ayurvedic rejuvenation practices to transform stress and anxiety into calm and balance.