I love articles that give five steps to achieve one benefit. But what if we turned that on its head? Wouldn't it be fun to have ONE step to receive five benefits?
Here's your one juicy way to relate to your body with more love: self-massage.
Self-massage is amazing. It allows you to 1) moisturize your largest organ, 2) remind your brain that your body belongs to you, 3) connect physically with your body as a whole being instead of as separate parts, 4) reassure your skin and every part of you down to the cellular level that you are worthy and lovable, and 5) feel less critical and more affectionate towards your body.
If you love the feeling of enjoyment and relaxation you get from receiving a massage from someone else, the exciting news is that you can get many of the same benefits by giving yourself a gentle daily massage.
I've used self-massage for many years to help undo my old habits of feeling disconnected from and dissatisfied with my body. Self-massage lets me feel like my body and I are on the same team, working together to enjoy life fully.
If you're an animal lover like me, maybe you've watched cats, sparrows, or otters grooming themselves, touching themselves all over, massaging their skin and carefully cleaning and fluffing their fur or feathers.
Caring for ourselves this way is natural, and helps map the whole body onto the brain, enhancing our proprioception -- the ability to feel where our body is in relation to the world around us. It's what helps you know whether your back leg is straight in a yoga pose, and what tells you that the space between two closely parked cars is wide enough for you to pass through.
When our bodies don't get touched, they aren't firmly mapped onto our brains, and we may feel more disconnected from ourselves and the world.
Self-massage takes things down to basics. You know how babies can suffer from "failure to thrive" if they don't get enough touch and attention? Here's a little secret: we still need touch and cuddling as adults. Think of your skin as a baby... it needs your warmth, affection, and caring to thrive and be happy.
Self-massage is a way to get your heart, mind, and body together on the same page.
Here's how you do it:
Before, during, or after your shower, take a bottle of natural oil or lotion (sweet almond, sesame, or olive oil are wonderful), warm it by putting the bottle in a bowl of hot water. Then pour a small amount into your hand and massage it into your skin all over your body for several minutes, adding more oil as needed. It can be wonderful to treat it as a meditation, maybe even saying a friendly hello to every part of your body in turn. It's so simple, right?
Try doing it every day for two weeks and see if you notice a difference in how you feel about your body, and how your body feels to you.
If you worry about getting the oil residue on your clothing and towels, using a high-quality lotion is a wonderful alternative. Generally it's a good guideline to avoid putting things on your skin that you wouldn't be willing to put in your mouth, so choose the product you use for self-massage mindfully. You want your skin to eagerly soak up the goodness of the moisturizer as well as the caring and kind attention you're generously offering it.
Self-massage is an amazing form of self-care. Let it support your relationship with your body and your ability to step into life with more energy and self-connection.
Kimber Simpkins is the author of the new memoir Full: How I Learned to Satisfy My Insatiable Hunger and Feed My Soul as well as the upcoming book 52 Ways to Love Your Body (Jan 2016, New Harbinger Publications). She is a yoga instructor and former lawyer in Northern California. Follow her on Twitter @kimbersyoga and Instagram: loveyouryoga.
Photo credit: In Her Image Photography