Updated: Sep 13, 2022
Is your September schedule already out of control? Are you barely holding on?
This month's mini home practice invites us to find power in pause.
If too much scurrying around has you missing moments of joy, try this simple technique. Experience a direct route from frenzy to freedom.
What is pada abhyanga?
Pada abhyanga translates to mean "foot therapy". Pada abhyanga is performed by self-massaging oil into the feet before bedtime.
But it's so much more than a foot massage.
Pada abhyanga is a therapeutic Ayurvedic practice that soothes and balances disturbances of the autonomic nervous system. It is commonly adopted during the seasonal transition to autumn in the Northern hemisphere. This practice can restore the body's energetic equilibrium, which is especially vulnerable to disruptions due to shifts in environmental conditions and changes to social routines during this time.
"Wait. You want me to touch my feet?"
In Western cultures, feet are too often dismissed as a utilitarian appendage, gross but necessary. Foot care is an outsourced cosmetic luxury.
Historically, foot massage is a culturally important and even sacred part of Indian heritage. Respect is offered through touching the feet of elders.
Self-oiling of the feet is seen in this context as a ritual that offers benefits for mental and spiritual health.
Why you should practice pada abhyanga this fall
Did you know that you have over 7,000 nerve endings in each foot? That's a lot of relaxing sensation waiting for you to enjoy!
Pada abhyanga invites us to take a moment to pause and to feel.
Massaging the feet brings attention into the bodily experience. Somatic awareness relaxes the nervous system and calms the mind, bringing benefits that extend well beyond simply moisturizing cracked dry skin.
When we are busy, we often lose our connection to our physical sensations. If we are chronically disconnected from our bodily signals, we risk missing important cues for self-care, such as hunger, thirst and exhaustion.
Over time, we may find ourselves depleted of vitality and vulnerable to sickness. We may reach for comfort in unhealthy ways, such as overindulging in sweets or in alcohol.
Take a moment to pause and to feel.
The practice of pada abhyanga relieves the overstimulation of a busy schedule by allowing the system to slow down. We find relief from chronic overstimulation.
The ritualistic aspect of this nightly practice builds a grounding rhythm into our daily transitions from wakefulness to sleep. Simple practices such as pada abhyanga can anchor our circadian rhythms, supporting better sleep habits.
How to perform pada abhyanga
Ready to try it? I suggest selecting an oil you already have at home.
For many, olive oil or coconut oil are options already in the pantry. Perhaps you have some sesame oil, which is a traditional Ayurvedic choice. Tea tree oil is another option with the added benefit of antifungal properties. Avoid oils with synthetic fragrance.
Once you have selected an oil, place a dime-sized amount in your palm and rub your hands together. Massage the oil into your feet one at a time.
Notice what pressure and location feels good. Allow yourself to be observant and responsive. Take as little or as much time as you like.
But remember to pause.
When you are done, wash your hands and complete your nightly routine. As you settle in for rest, notice how you feel.
I hope you enjoy this grounding traditional autumn Ayurvedic practice.