Valentine's day is here! It's always been my favorite holiday (I know, gross!). Not because all of the cheesy hallmark madness of course, but because of the sweetness that comes from simple gift giving. It may also have something to do with my adoration of chocolate, homemade cards, and my birthday beingexactly nine months later (I know, gross!). Whether or not you are pro or anti-Valentine's day, you can't go wrong with expressing love and implementing self-care practices that keep your heart open and healthy.
Here are some of my favorite Ayurvedic practices for heart health:
1.) Self-Abhyana - otherwise known as a warm oil lymphatic massage. Use an oil that is appropriate for your constitution (more on this in later posts) and make long strokes up your arms and legs towards your heart to help move the lymph. Create friction around your joints using a circular motion to build heat and support circulation. 'Snehana' in Sanskrit means oil, but it also means love. Oiling the skin has traditionally been a practice of offering love to the body, making it a great time to say affirmations, chant mantras, and think positive thoughts.
2.) Rose Tea - Rose is cooling, anti-inflammatory, antidepressant, and a aphrodisiac. It has an infinity for opening the heart and bringing mental clarity. It's considered a 'sattvic' herb, meaning it brings forth devotion and invokes higher states of consciousness. You can make your own tea blend by mixing rose and chamomile for example, if you are going for an extra calming effect. Or try Tulsi Rose tea bags from Organic India. Tulsi is an adaptogenic herb which his great for relieving stress and also pairs well with rose.
3.) Hrid (Heart) Basti - an Ayurvedic treatment involving a warm medicated oil and milk decoction placed on the heart, contained in a dough dam. This healing treatment is deeply nurturing, opens the heart on an energetic level, as well as strengthens and regulates cardiac function. Some of the herbs used include rose, hawthorn berry, lavender, ashwaganda, skullcap, and St. John's Wort. The dough that's used has an astringent quality which helps to draw out impurities from the skin. It also rests somewhat heavily on the chest, increasing awareness to this region of the body.
4.) Bow Pose - opens the chest and 'anahata' (heart) chakra. To do this posture, lay on your stomach and reach your arms back, grabbing onto the outside of your ankles. With a deep inhalation draw the torso and legs up off the floor simultaneously by kicking into your hands. Hold the pose for a few breaths and lower slowly on an exhalation. Lay back on your stomach, resting your forehead on the backs of your hands, or go into 'child's pose' to recover.
5.) Cuddling - we all know human touch is important for health and now more and more 'research' is showing how cuddling increases oxytocin and is a remedy for depression. In Ayurveda, human touch and sex are emphasized in the cold, winter months. Just as the trees are bare and exposed, we too need more comfort and nurturing. Get your cuddle on!
6.) Salt foot soak - although this does not directly link to the heart, soaking the feet is overall relaxing and can lower the heart rate. Regular foot soaks followed by oiling the bottoms of the feet, can help relieve deep-seated stress and promote restful sleep; especially when using quality salts like a high-trace mineral epsom or pink himalayan. Adding essential oils and rose petals are a definate bonus to any food soak. Since rose essential oil is quite expensive, a friend just shared with me a nice floral and sweet alternative blend that also works with the heart: 'Champa' & 'Cardamom.'
7.) Heart Breath - place your hands on your heart center, either in prayer position or hands placed one on top of the other. Close your eyes and take several deep breaths. Feel your heart beat and listen within. Making this connection can help slow down our racing mind and tune us in to what matters most. Even if you only have few minutes time, breathing in this way can be highly beneficial and reset your whole approach to the day.
I hope you enjoy these 7 practices, and have and have a wonderful Full Moon Valentine's day. Love it up!
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