In the recent period, there is a growing interest in traditional medicine like Ancient Chinese medicine or Ayurvedic medicine. This type of medicine has many interesting practices including oil massage. It turns out that many people in India practice oil massage on a daily basis.
Of course, many people will think that there is not surprising about oil massage, but what is interesting and unusual is that many of them are massaging their thighs, knees and legs while they are talking to each other and on top of that, they are doing this so gently and carefully without losing their focus and thoughts.
In other words, the conversations continue without any interruptions despite the constant massaging. If you observe many of these practitioners of traditional massage you will notice that they are doing this with pure love to their body and every touch they make represent a full self-awareness and body-mind balance.
This article will be dedicated to oil massage that takes place every day, how it works and what it does to our body. According to the Ayurvedic scripts, being involved in such activity every day is much more beneficial for you compared to the one who is just receiving massage from another person.
The concept is quite simple and logical – if we are performing something that has our complete attention the results will be much better than if we are doing something that we have our focus on as an object.
The Science of a Loving Touch
Studies and research about massage has confirmed that this activity has the ability to boost oxytocin production in the body. This hormone which is naturally produced inside our body is primarily focused on maintenance of highest levels of physical health, but also of kindheartedness, love, bonding and compassion. Research has shown that without having loving relationships, even if all of their other basic needs are being met, humans do not flourish.
Oxytocin is the bonding hormone secreted by the mother, baby and even dad during childbirth, and connects the family for life. Oxytocin is produced when you give, love, bond, touch and care for others. The catch is that you must do it unconditionally, without need or expectation. It is a naturally rejuvenative, rebuilding hormone – which means the more oxytocin you produce, the more of it you make.
It is good to know that this hormone is released right after we or someone else touches our body and this is especially true when it comes to massage. In addition, oxytocin is released when the temperature is warm and we experience low-level skin stimulation. On the other hand, massage aids the body’s efforts to deal with stress and the way it does is still being investigated. In addition, scientists have discovered in addition to boosting oxytocin levels; massage also lowers stress hormones like nitric oxide, adrenocorticotropin hormone and beta-endorphin.
Another scientific study conducted not while ago and revealed in the popular Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine journal, about 100 people have taken blood tests to determine the levels of certain chemicals in their body prior and after a massage that lasted for about 15 minutes. Oxytocin levels increased by 17% for the group that received massage. The control group who just rested showed a 9% decrease in oxytocin. ACTH (adrenocorticotropin), which increases with stress, increased by 30% for the group who rested without receiving massage. Interestingly, it decreased by 20% for those who were in the massage group.
One of the ways that oxytocin works is by altering the microbiology on the skin during the massage. A loving touch will increase oxytocin which, in turn, alters the microbes in a way that supports measurable health gains.
For example, to measure the microbial impact of oxytocin, in one study subjects were given probiotics and their oxytocin levels increased. The increase of oxytocin showed quantifiable changes in skin and hair quality and general “glow of health,” immune and hormonal balance, enhanced fitness and reproductive factors, the capacity for skin wound healing, and was shown to impact attitude and social behavior.
The Outer Skin’s Response to Massage Oil
Wherever you touch the body you will actually touch some nerve ending. So, the so-called sensory nerves located on our skin are interacting with circadian, tactile, microbial, environmental and emotional stressors all the time. As a matter of fact, a human arm comes with more than one million nerve ending and you can calm down all of them by using oil.
It is the best idea to take a shower and apply oil on a clean body. Oil massage can do wonders for our health. Many people claim that they feel completely relaxed and calmed once they perform a 15-minute session. Just think about the fact that you are calming millions of nerve endings and receptors on the skin in a matter of minutes.
A simple oil massage can relax vata too – the nervous system. The best part is that you no longer have to believe only in the Ayurvedic scripts because there is strong scientific evidence that oil massage performed carefully, lovingly and respectfully can make our body boost the production of oxytocin.
What is even more interesting is that microbes that react to oxytocin are usually focused on hydrated and healthy skin which gives nutrients for these microbes like fatty acids, amino acids and water. However, if the skin is dry, affected by chemicals found in creams and lotions, stressed, the setting for the proper growth and activity of skin microbiome will be altered. There are specific types of microbes (probably every microbe that can be found in healthy skin flora) that thrive thanks to the sebum produced by the skin which means that the old technique of oil massage is here to support skin health in ways that we could not imagine before.
Using oils with superior quality directly to the skin will strengthen the skin barrier and protect our body. In addition, it will also:
1. Manages the nervous system and vata.
2. Makes a suitable environment for the microbes.
3. Boosts oxytocin production. This is a hormone that is related to love, bonding and best health.
4. Soothes more that 1.8 billion sensory nerves on the body’s skin.
5. Supports the procreation of useful microbes that boost physical and mental health and mood.
Keep Your Microbes Stress-Free
There is more research to be done to illustrate the effect of positive emotions (like love) on microbes, and why it is important to not just apply oil to your skin during abhyanga, but to do it lovingly. However, there is lots of existing research showing that microbes do not thrive in stressful environments.
For instance, research has found that mice sharing a cage with more aggressive mice showed significantly decreased beneficial bacteria, lower overall diversity of the gut microbiome, and an overgrowth of harmful bacteria, making them more susceptible to infection and gut inflammation.
In another study, during a stressful exam week, researchers found that university students’ stools contained fewer good bacteria than they had during the relatively untroubled first days of the semester.
Let’s Not Forget the Inner Skin!
Obviously the outer skin serves as a barrier that keeps our body safe from external influences. However, the inner skin that goes in the oral cavity, digestive tract, respiratory system and gut is equally important and that’s why Ayurveda has special advice for this part of human skin. For example, the technique that is getting quite popular today, known as oil pulling, was described in Ayurvedic scripts and many people have practiced it for years. This practice requires practitioners to take some oil and swish it in the mouth for about 15 minutes before breakfast. Science has proven that using virgin coconut oil for swishing has even better effects because of the altering of enzymes in our mouth. Thanks to this practice we will be able to pull out or eliminate toxins soluble in fat from the mouth. In other words, we will improve our breath and overall dental health.
There is another popular Ayurvedic technique focused on the health of inner skin and involves tongue scraping. This practice comes with many health benefits like improving the properties of digestive enzymes, lowering unwanted bacterial load, lowering unstable sulphur structures which lead to bad breath and lowering the levels of specific compounds that lead to tooth decay. You can expect the best results if you use brass, copper, tin, silver or gold tongue scraper.
Improve your wellbeing and health by taking good care of the skin from the inside and outside.