It is your feet that connect the being in you, to the earth that you belong to. It is believed that our body and soul are connected and embodied in our feet. ‘Pada’ or ‘foot’ has been given most importance in Indian customs, tradition and medicine. In fact, in Ayurveda, ‘Pada’ is considered as an important motor organ (Karmendriya).
Our feet are more than just an essential part of our body. Ayurvedic texts explain that human body is in the form of inverted trees, wherein, roots lie at the top (head), the branches (upper and lower limbs), are all attached to the trunk (body), directed downwards. Just as the trees are nurtured at their roots but fruits are obtained in their branches, the human body too if taken good care, we obtain its fruits in the branches (hands and legs). Hence, while enjoying the fruits in the form of daily activities that we do with our hands and limbs, it is also essential to take good care of them.
Foot-care has evolved over a period of time, however, in Ayurveda ‘Padabhyanga’ or ‘foot massage’ is considered the mother of all therapies. ‘Pada’ in Sanskrit means ‘foot’, and ‘Abhyanga’ – means use of medicated oils.
Padabhyanga is a holistic therapy and religious approach and part of traditional Ayurvedic treatment. In fact, reflexology, acupressure and acupuncture are likely to have originated from this ancient art of healing.
Benefits of Padabhyanga:
It immediately alleviates roughness, stiffness, dryness, numbness and tingling sensation of foot and leg, tiredness of the foot, strengthening the foot, offering stability in the foot, and it makes the feet more attractive.
Apart from the mentioned immediate effects, Padabhyanga offers several benefits to the body as a whole. It helps in improving and maintaining good eyesight, controls and balances vayu, cures sciatica, prevents cracks in the foot and cures fissures, improves blood circulation, removes contraction of muscles, ligaments and vessels of the feet.
Foot massage also heals the marmas (vital points in the body), soothes the nerves, relieves foot pain, prevents occurrence of various foot ailments, and helps in easy locomotion. It activates our immune system, improves hearing capacity, promotes sleep, reduces stress and anxiety, balances doshas, helps in restless leg syndrome, alleviates diabetic neuropathy, cures headaches, activates metabolism, reduces oedema in expecting mothers, relieves hypertension, prevents onset of degeneration.
It is said that foot massages release any blocks that hold back energy, which should otherwise be flowing freely throughout the body.
Method of Padabhyanga/Foot massage:
Actual Padabhyanga should be performed only by an expert after thoroughly examining the patient. The basic constitution and details of morbidity are studied in detail first, after which, the patient will be given instant purgation for detoxification. The treatment is done using ‘tailam’ (medicated oil, medicated ghee, either or both. Sometimes ‘ksheeradhara’ may be required for which milk, along with ‘Dashamula kashayam’ or ‘laksha churna’ are used.
The lukewarm medicated oil/ghee is liberally applied to the feet, including soles, heel, ankle joint and legs. The oil is then rubbed energetically into the whole joint including the bones of the joint and tendon. The massage is done with hands by applying moderate pressure in circular motions. The energy points are massaged with ultimate care to ensure that they are activated. The toxins are eliminated and a path is carved for elimination of negative energy. The whole massage lasts for about half an hour.
The massage MUST be done only by an experienced masseur, and always a single masseur does the massage in both feet so that the synchronicity is maintained. The foot of the person undergoing Padhabhyanga is also exposed to fumes of herbal decoctions, if required.
For general foot health, sesame oil, cow ghee, Ksheerabala tailam and Eranda tailam are used. But for specific conditions like pain, swelling, stiffness etc., other medicated oils like Mahamasha tailam, Ksheerabala tailam, Mahanarayana tailam, Kottamchukkadi tailam, Murivenna, Pinda tailam, Tiktaka ghritam, and Guggulutiktaka ghritam are used.
Points to note during a foot massage:
- Foot massage can be done at any time of the day and on daily basis too.
- It is more effective when done in late evenings or at bed time.
- Foot massage or ‘Padabhyanga’ also form part of ‘Sarva-Abhyanga’ (whole body oil massage)
- Foot massage should not be done when you have fever, cold, toxin induced coma, lymphatic or blood infections, thrombosis, indigestion, abnormal skin conditions, circulatory disorders of lower limbs, and during acute trauma to foot.
On the whole, Padabhyanga may be just the option to choose if you wish to rejuvenate and fortify your health, and keep diseases at bay.