GROUNDING AYURVEDIC FOOT MASSAGE
Amanda here. I can and can't believe this past week we led our 3rd annual Ayurveda, Alignment and Yoga Retreat. Jenn and I have said it before, and we'll say it again, it is ALWAYS such a joy and privilege to see everyone gather to interact, laugh, learn, cry, and return back home to themselves. Autumn is traditionally known as a season of transition and transformation. As the season's shift, it has always been our intention to create an experience of CALM that helps everyone find their feet on the ground. How does one feel grounded with change all around?
Ayurveda gives us guidance on seasonal living. When we tap into this knowledge and embody this wisdom, we are able to better understand the cycles present within our day, month, year, and life. As we are brought back to the same place we've been before (every time with a deeper understanding) we are better able to anticipate how the tides may change and we become more in tune with how the wind may blow. When we are acknowledging the cycles, we carry within us an inner knowing, a subtle awareness, that we actually DO know what is next. Many times, that is enough to give us that sense of feeling grounded. Even if all the answers are not available at once, we can still anticipate that we need to gather our resources and prepare our minds for any change that lies ahead. If you're on a path of self-growth, then without a doubt you'll be challenged to change, asked to shift, and called towards a transformation of self.
In contrast to the longer, carefree days of summer, in the fall, daylight fades faster. We're called home sooner, naturally allowing for more time to reflect, process lessons and digest experiences. The famous Nelson Mandela quote seems really fitting here, "There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged only to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.”
Many ancient cultures believed that the energy of fall lent itself to releasing, letting go, deeply mourning, grieving, and seeing the metaphor of death all around in nature. We asked all of our participants to reflect... What aspects of yourself feel outdated?, What feels too heavy a burden to carry any longer? , What habits/programming/self-limiting thoughts are you ready to release? In our time together we addressed these layers of ourselves with compassion and grace. To bring ease to the process of change, we encouraged several grounding practices. On a literal level, we spent most of our days barefoot, feet connected to earth. From an intellectual level, we got into the anatomical understanding of our feet, our foundation, in our alignment lecture series. And as encouraged in Ayurveda, we spent plenty of time massaging the feet with oil, not only for mobility and flexibility, but for mental serenity and emotional stability. It was these grounding practices (plus the group energy!) that gave way to those more subtle, yet humbling, moments in meditation and in ceremony. Those moments remind us of the power of operating from our center and allowed us to, even if for a moment, feel secure in our choices, grounded in our decisions, and present in our being.
We had the pleasure of having an in-house Ayurvedic Bodyworker, Kamala, offer traditional Ayurvedic treatments to our guests again. On our last night together, she guided everyone through an Ayurvedic foot massage with ghee. Partnering up to both give and receive a foot massage felt like the grounding medicine many needed right before we transitioned into crystal facials, a sound bath, and cacao ceremony. We invited her onto the blog, our Soulful Travel Diary, to share with our soulful travel tribe all the subtleties that you may want to pay attention to this fall season and we get into the how, what, when and why of the GROUNDING AYURVEDIC FOOT MASSAGE! Enjoy. xo.
Kamala Santos here. In sanskrit, "Kama" is related to the five senses and delighting in their pleasures. For me, this archetype's expression of compassion resonates profoundly with me. Uncovering life through a 20-year study of Yoga, Ayurveda and Tantra, has helped me hone in on a passion for sharing love and providing nurturing through Ayurvedic treatments. My training includes Ayurvedic Lifestyle Consultant, Ayurvedic Yoga Specialist, 800-hour Yoga Therapist, Licensed Massage Therapist. Accompanying others on this journey of self discovery and transformation in an Ayurvedic heart-centered method is of great honor. It is a pleasure to share with you what I've learned along the way regarding Fall, the feet and Ayurveda.
There is a reason “Getting Grounded” has become a mantra for many Yogi’s. The Vata dosha (air/space) is the most easily disrupted, regardless of your constitution (prakriti) or the season. It is also the most powerful dosha as it is related to Prana or vital energy/life force. When too much Vata accumulates in the mind/body an imbalance (vrikriti) can occur. This imbalance can appear as a physical or emotional condition, including restless or lack of sleep, racing or distracted thoughts, dry skin, constipation, high blood pressure, anxiety and depression.
Late fall, when the temperature cools and the wind is gently (or wildly) blowing the leaves from the trees you know that you have officially stepped into the Vata season. This time of year diligence is needed to observe any increased effects of Vata. The good news is since this a moveable energy force it can gently be swayed back to balance more quickly than the other doshas (Pitta + Kapha). Before the season is in full force, take time to reexamine and adapt your diet and daily morning routines to address the external forces of Vata and enjoy a beautiful transition from summer.
Vata when balanced appears as creativity, a healthy and exuberant life, calm mind, regular bowl movements. Vata especially needs gentle and simple remedies for an overactive, easily distracted mind. Focusing on the opposite qualities of Vata (cold, dry, light, clear, and moving) is the key. The first thing to do is to get and stay warm, keep yourself moist by drinking warm water, eating warm foods with more ghee or applying warm oil to the body. Most important is to slow down and rest.
Where does the body get first grounded? Our feet. Unfortunately, we tend to keep them tightly enclosed in shoes and can even ignore them. Yet these glorious extremities can help to restore balance in the whole body. With over 12 of the 107 marma (similar to acupressure) points found on the feet and lower legs, a subtle rebalancing can be achieved. A foot massage is beneficial to all constitutions (Pitta, Kapha + Vata) and can detoxify and stimulate the proper functioning of the vital body organs and more importantly the downward flow of prana. One secret to proper health is learning the proper balance of the upward (prana) flow of energy and the downward (apana prana) flow. When prana is balanced so follows the rest of the body/mind and spirit.
To continue to deepen your understanding, I highly suggest reading this article entitled, "Foot massage: Ayurvedic Benefits, How To Do, Importance." To quote it's author, Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ay)....
Another great read is an article by Shannon Sexton called, "An Ayurvedic Foot Massage You Can Treat Yourself to Right Now."
Q+A with Kamala Santos
IWR: From your perspective, what is Ayurveda?
Kamala: Ayurveda is the ancient science of life that originated in India more than 5,000 years ago. At its core, it is preventative healthcare. In its simplest form, Ayurveda recognizes the laws of nature and helps us connect body, mind, and soul together again. It teaches us how to take the ups and downs that daily life often brings, smooths out the rough edges and returns us to our natural state of balance.
IWR: What is an Ayurvedic body treatment?
K: Practitioners begin with a one-on-one assessment based on the whole person. Ayurvedic body treatments are unique in that they go beyond just a massage that focuses on relaxing tense muscles. Instead, the mind is calmed through body treatments using Sneha (the Sanskrit word for oil, which also means “love") specifically tailored to your unique constitution. Anointing the body with nourishing herbs and oil is a profound act of loving care that helps to replenish the nervous system and feed the muscles and bodily tissues. Additionally, the skin is a detox channel and the massage oil is the medium through which healing herbs are absorbed into the body and through which toxins are expelled. In effect, Ayurvedic treatments are techniques for cultivating blissful awareness, which is the basis of radiant beauty, contentment, and peace.
IWR: Tell us about doing a foot massage. From an Ayurvedic perspective, when and how would you recommend doing one?
K: A foot massage whenever you need to feel grounded is beneficial. Because your body's resources are directed to the gut for digestion after you eat, I advise you wait 1-2 hours after a meal to throughly rub your feet. Before you begin, take a moment to connect to your feet and afterwards, give yourself a few minutes in silence as a gesture of gratitude. If all you have is your hands, then that is enough, but overtime you can develop the practice by using ghee or sesame oil. Anointing the feet with oil (sneha, which remember, also means love), and massaging the soles before bed can bring harmony to the vata dosha, calm the mind and induce sound sleep.
(IWR: The practice of massaging your feet becomes intuitive overtime, to get you started we've inserted a how-to video below.)
IWR: How do you as an Ayurvedic practitioner and body worker address the feet?
K: I offer a foot massage with ghee and a copper bowl (called marma kansu). This unique foot massage with a copper bowl and ghee (clarified butter) helps to encourage the downward flow of energy (apana vayu). Healthy flowing downward energy means you're having regular bowel movements, a regular menstrual cycle and detoxifying well. As a practitioner, first, I'll prepare the feet with a stimulating marma pressure (similar to acupressure points) massage. The bowl is then used in soft and vigorous movements which result in release and relaxation. This deeply grounding massage also helps to alleviate eye soreness and insomnia as well as resolve any vata imbalances while balancing pitta.
(IWR: For those curious to see what the Ayurvedic foot massage with a copper bowl looks like, check out the second video below)