Guest blog by Ami Chokshi, MBA, NBC-HWC, a Board-Certified Health & Wellness Coach.
Soon after I became engaged to my now-husband, my immediate family took a vacation and shopping trip to India where my parents grew up. Our wedding was going to be a traditional Indian one, and the clothing options abroad were more plentiful and less expensive. We were combining our shopping with sightseeing with two family weddings. Growing up, my family never went to India together, instead my sister and I took turns going with just one of our parents at a time. This time was different. We were all adults traveling together, so it was pretty special.
During our two-week trip, we traveled to at least four different regions of India, and one of our stops was in the southern state of Karnataka. We stayed at a resort-like hotel, where they offered traditional Ayurvedic treatments.
What is Ayurveda? According to Johns Hopkins Medicine,
“Ayurveda, a natural system of medicine, originated in India more than 3,000 years ago. The term Ayurveda is derived from the Sanskrit words ayur (life) and veda (science or knowledge). Thus, Ayurveda translates to knowledge of life. Based on the idea that disease is due to an imbalance or stress in a person’s consciousness, Ayurveda encourages certain lifestyle interventions and natural therapies to regain a balance between the body, mind, spirit, and the environment.”
In the spirit of being on vacation and trying new things, my younger sister and I decided to check out a body treatment called abhyanga. Abhyanga is an Ayurvedic treatment that involves applying warm oil to your body, which was such a blissful and divine experience.
Once I got over the lack of modesty – they don’t have the same draping requirements there – I fell in love with the practice. Since then, I have done abhyanga at home on myself and with massage therapists in the US. I also did abhyanga on my son after baths when he was a baby.
If you are looking for a form of self-care that’s nurturing, grounding, warming, and relaxing, may I suggest that you look no further than abhyanga. Whether at home or done professionally, when the oil is applied to your skin, it nourishes your entire body, from your skin to your often frazzled nerves that come with trying to conceive for any length of time.
When you do this practice regularly (at least twice a week), abhyanga enhances circulation, helps move lymph, and helps you have a deeper, more restful sleep. In other words, it helps you feel calmer and less anxious, eliminates impurities and toxins that don’t support your health and fertility, and supports improved sleep for better hormonal balance.
In my fertility coaching practice, I advocate doing one thing a day that’s calming, enjoyable, and supports your physical and mental health, especially if you’re actively in a fertility treatment or feeling stressed. I encourage you to make a list of options that work for you, like gardening, walking, reading, journaling, reflexology, or acupuncture. Circle+Bloom’s guided meditations are also a wonderful option. These nourishing meditations are tailored to specific fertility journeys, including IVF, IUI, FET, and Embryo Donation. They also include ones specific to sleep, positive thinking, stress, and energy. Abhyanga is perfect for your list too.
Traditionally, sesame oil is used in abhyanga, but use any oil that feels good to you. Personally, I use coconut oil or apricot oil during the warmer months and almond oil for colder weather.
Here’s how to do Abhyanga:
- Warm about 1/4 cup of the oil either by using an electric coffee cup warmer or by placing the cup in a warm water bath. Be sure to test the temperature on the inside of your wrist to make sure it’s not too hot.
- While the oil is warming, use a natural bristle brush to gently brush your skin, which helps remove dead skin cells and improves circulation. Do this in a circular motion, moving towards your heart. So, if you’re dry brushing your arm, start at your fingertips and move towards your shoulder.
- Make sure your room is warm, and either sit or stand in a comfortable place.
- Begin applying the oil to your head and spend a couple of minutes there, massaging your scalp in a circular motion.
- Next, massage your face, including your jaws, cheeks, temples, forehead, and ears, in a circular motion.
- Apply oil to your arms and legs with long, circular strokes, and in the direction of your heart.
- Massage your chest and abdomen clockwise in large circles. Don’t skip this area – gently massaging your abdomen improves blood flow to your uterus and can help break up adhesions.
- Next, sit and take a few minutes to apply the warm oil to your feet, where there are several nerve endings to your major organs.
- Once you’ve finished applying the oil, let it absorb for up to 15 minutes to ensure it deeply penetrates your skin.
- Finally, take a warm shower or bath and use a mild soap to remove any excess oil. Finish by gently towel drying your skin.
I hope you will make time for yourself with abhyanga and notice the differences it makes in your life.
Ami Chokshi, MBA, NBC-HWC, is a Board-Certified Health & Wellness Coach and works with women and couples to optimize their health so they can get pregnant and stay pregnant, both with and without fertility treatments. She focuses on mind and body, has a specialty in Integrative Health and Functional Nutrition, and helps her clients get the root of their fertility challenges. Ami is also an Outreach Manager and Fertility Coach for a CT-based IVF clinic. Ami has taken her experience as an IVF Warrior and turned it into a career and mission to guide and support women on their journey to conceiving their dream of motherhood. She lives in CT with her husband, 9-year old son, and dogs, Niko & Sachi.