Padabhyanga: ayurvedic foot massage

by Monica Gisella
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Padabhyanga is the Ayurvedic foot massage considered by many a key treatment wherever you are in your healing journey.

It is the feet that connect us to the earth.

They are the branches of our body, along with our hands, that let us enjoy the sweet fruits of walking, dancing, running.

Therefore, this practice can be profoundly fertilizing, nourishing, and restoring.

In this blog, I’ll discuss how to do it, the benefits, oils to use for each dosha, and its link with foot reflexology.

Ayurvedic foot massage

When we touch the ground with our feet we strengthen the connection to the earth we belong to.

The feelings of being rooted and protected can be amplified with earthing, a wonderful practice that purposefully binds you to nature and replenishes you with full-of-life negative ions.

But grounding can also occur with the therapeutic touch of our feet.

That is Padabhyanga.

The loving and revitalizing massage of the feet using medicinal oils.

Ayurvedic tradition gives much importance to feet.

First, we are an inverted tree and feet are branches of our body. When they flourish, we can appreciate their fruition in the many ways they allow us to move.

Yet, if feet are unhealthy, that might be an indication of an additional disturbance, as they mirror the organs and systems of the entire body.

Second, Padabhyanga, according to Ayurveda, is the mother of all therapies. By taking care of the feet we support consciousness and the feeling of being present in the now.

Padabhyanga benefits

Ayurvedic pada (foot) massage offers many benefits, besides deep relaxation and stress reduction.

  • Clears negative energy and blockages from marmas (vital points in the body) and improves energy flow.
  • Helps restore the functioning of the Central Nervous System.
  • Releases stored wastes, destructive emotions, and toxins.
  • Boosts the immune system.
  • Promotes rejuvenation.
  • Improves doshic balance.
  • Mitigates insomnia and delayed sleep onset.
  • Reduces symptoms of premenstrual syndrome. (PMS)
  • Relieves jet lag.
  • Alleviates foot pain.

There are also eye reflexology points located on both of the feet. Proper massage can help relieve eyestrain and irritation.

How to massage your feet using Ayurvedic reflexology

This is how to do it:

  1. Warm your oil (see below ⇊ for specific recommendations for your body type) by placing it in a small bowl and then immersing it in hot water.
  2. When the oil reaches the desired temperature, apply it on the soles of your feet, the heels, and the ankles.
  3. Using your thumb and the palm of your hand, start the massage on your ankles using circular, soothing but firm movements. Then, move to the Achilles tendon, kneading it firmly and slowly.
  4. Next, while supporting your heel with one hand, soothingly massage the top of your feet until you come to the toes. Squeeze each toe from the root to the tip with your fingers. The pressure you apply here must feel delicious.
  5. To massage the soles of the feet you can either use a foot reflexology map or you can apply pressure to the marma points.

Additional notes

*Make sure to massage both feet to maintain harmony in the blood flow and energy stream.

**Take from 5-15 minutes massaging each foot.

***Your emotions are as important to enhance your health as using the right technique. Make sure you are calm, positive, and focused.

****You can incorporate Padabhyanga as part of your abhyanga practice.

Mama therapy

Marma therapy plays a vital role in health recovery and maintenance.

If you want to finish Padabhyanga with a deliberate marma therapy to promote the smooth flow of prana, focus on the life-energy points that require extra attention as they are connected to specific organs and functions in the body.

Ayurvedic Reflexology combines these lines of treatment for enhanced results.

These are the main marmas of the feet.

  • Kshipra Marma: Heart, lungs, lymphatic system, improves flow of prana in legs.
  • Kurcha Marma: Digestion, agni, improves flow of prana to the head, visual sharpness.
  • Talahridaya Marma: Lungs, heart, immune system, circulation, calming.
  • Kurchashira Marma: Reproduction system, vision, nervous system, muscular system.

Guidelines

  1. Massage your feet first (Padabhyanga) before starting the marma therapy to open the channels or pacify the energy, based on your intent. This will ensure you stimulate your feet and promote receptivity in the area.
  2. Make sure you don’t apply exaggerated pressure on the marmas.
  3. Furthermore, avoid excessive friction by using sufficient oil.
  4. Use the thumb to massage each point. First, in a counterclockwise motion to unblock stagnant prana and dispel toxins. Then, in a clockwise direction to stimulate the marma and the corresponding body part.
  5. Visualize a healing color while doing the massage and breathe deeply. For added benefits, recite a mantra.
  6. Finish by placing the palm of the hand on the sole of the feet. Then, continue to the second foot.

Oils to use

These are some oils you could use when practicing Padabhyanga.

Vata DoshaAlmond oil, ghee, sesame oil, or olive oil.

Pitta DoshaGhee, coconut oil, or sunflower oil.

Kapha DoshaGhee, sesame oil, mustard oil, or jojoba oil.

To promote relaxation, you can always add some drops of essential oils to the base oil. For Vata body types, use lavender or chamomile. For Pitta dosha, sandalwood or rose. And for Kapha constitutions, orange, lemon, or clary sage.

Besides, you can utilize a kasa bowl, a small handmade bronze bowl, to elevate the benefits of the massage.

Padabhyanga vs. Foot reflexology

Many scholars believe Ayurveda is at the core of reflexology, which is the science of massage using Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) principles.

Under the premises of reflexology, all the systems, organs, and tissues of the body are reflected in the smaller areas of the feet.

Some benefits of doing foot reflexology include:

  • Boosting immunity
  • Relieving colds and bacterial infections
  • Easing sinus problems
  • Improving back and arthritis pain
  • Rebalancing hormones
  • Overcoming infertility
  • Regulating digestion

The main difference between the two modalities is that Padabhyanga is limited to the feet, while reflexology also includes the hands, ears, and face.

In addition, powders, lotions, and creams are commonly used for reflexology. In Ayurveda, we tend to use oils or medicated oils.

Further, reflexology focuses on working ‘reflex’ areas on the feet that relate to specific body systems. Padabhyanga, through marma therapy, focuses on working marma points (or regions) to influence specific mind-body functions. 

Give Padabhyanga a try to reinforce and improve the circulation of Prana naturally along the limbs and the body!

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