Massage and Grounding
To ground our selves means to express the qualities of the Earth, to express stability. Not an easy thing to do because despite our best efforts life is not lived in a state of equilibrium, a tensionless state, rather it is as the author Victor Frankl once described a constant tension between “what one is and what one should become.” In Ayurveda the qualities of the Earth element are stable, sweet, heavy, slow, soft and dense. These qualities help the body to grow, create a feeling of grounding and insulate us with a layer of fat. This is known as Kapha, one of the three doshas or constitutions that Ayurveda uses to describe the different qualities of a person’s physical and emotional makeup. Kapha can be found in the chest, in the heart and the lungs, anywhere where the earth and water element are to be found. It relates to the production of phlegm, synovial fluid, seminal fluids, it brings moisture to the body, lubrication to the joints, strength and joy. It determines our immunity and our body weight. It affects our sleep and our mental health. It is nourished by the sweet, salty and sour taste, and by the sense of smell. There are those that are born with a predominance of kapha in their nature and they tend to have a resilience and capacity to support others precisely because they hold these enduring qualities.
But we are living in an age when grounding is no longer part of our rhythm. We have become fast, and hardwired to be in our minds most of the time. Our nervous systems have had to adapt to a constant stream of noise and information. This highly reactive existence over stimulates our sympathetic nervous system and depresses our digestive fire. Finding grounding comes down to routine, having regular rhythm calms the nervous system. But also experiencing our senses, the sense of smell and touch reminds us that we are not just our thoughts, that consciousness is also in the body. We tend to over identify with our thoughts, and try to change them, but often trauma and pain is held in the body, so we need to make time to experience what our body is telling us, what we are feeling. This is where massage can be so powerful, it brings us back to the rhythm of our breathe, it helps us to be still even when there are uncomfortable feelings to sit with.
If we are Vata constitution and are ruled by air and ether we tend to be ungrounded and fearful by nature. Vata constitutions can be dry, and cold and their appetites irregular. Abyhanga with its hot, medicated oils can be the best antidote for this, lubricating the body’s tissues and slowing the mind down, by calming the nervous system the energy is brought back to the place of digestion. Mahanarayan oil is a particularly good tonic for the nervous system, it contains up to fourteen different ingredients like ginger, neem aswaganda, and bala, and one of its main uses is for pacifying aggravated vata in the body. Just knowing that our constitution predisposes us to certain patterns helps us to understand that it is not in fact a failure if we feel a lack of grounding, and there are tools that can keep us grounded. For Vata this would be warm cooked meals, massage, gentle exercise, and keeping our daily rhythms simple. Warm sesame oil on the feet at night helps to ground the body and calm the vata mind for sleep.
If we are Pitta constitution and fire is our element then there is a tendency to projection and planning, to be always creating strategies of order and control. The fiery Pitta nature can also easily experience anger and frustration as life doesn’t necessarily work out as planned, and often the more force and focus we put on things the more we have to loose when they don’t bring us a return. Pitta’s often suffer with inflammation, and digestive issues, as the heat in their body can build up toxins, and cause headaches, acne, or recurrent infections. Massage can have a cooling and grounding effect bringing them back to the present moment. Oils such as pinda oil and maharayanan oil are both cooling, anti inflammatory, and analgesic and if the body channels are oelated the toxins can flow freely.
Kapha dosha tends to hold emotion and this can create stagnation, slow metabolism, weight gain or constipation. This is where oils such as mustard oil and triphala oil are useful to increase circulation and clear the accumulation of toxins. Kapha are naturally grounded and calm, but they tend to resist self-care, as they are often caring for others. Massage helps them to acknowledge their own voice, and need to be cared for, to be grounded, to be soothed and to release whatever has been stored up in the body.
Knowing one’s nature is the first step to finding grounding, and Ayurveda not only helps us to do this, but also gives us tools to stay on the right path when life’s challenges leave us feeling disconnected from our inner stability.