If sleep eludes you, you have trouble falling asleep, or you feel restless in bed, massaging your feet before shutting the lights may help you get better sleep.
In Ayurveda, Vāta is a dosha, or biological humor, made up of the two elements ether and air which make it mobile, cold, dry, rough, hard, light, clear, and subtle. You may notice some of these words describing your sleep pattern and/or your feet. By massaging the feet before bed, it is possible to mitigate or lesson these qualities to allow you to fall asleep sooner, stay asleep, get better quality sleep, and help your liver detoxify your body.
In Sanskrit, pada means “foot” and abhyanga means “massaging the limbs.” Abhyanga is made up of two words, abhi meaning “into, towards, to” and anga meaning “limb.” So, padābhyanga means massaging the foot. The Sanskrit word for oil is “sneha,” which is also the same word for love. It’s time to show your feet some love for all they allow you to do in life!
Oiling and massaging the feet each night before bed, can be a tremendous boon for better sleep and stress management. This doesn’t have to be a major operation and can take as little as 3-5 minutes. If you have the time, it’s good to give each foot a solid 10-20 minute massage each.
In addition to showing the feet some love, you will also be loving up on all your internal organs. Reflexology uses pressure points in the feet to stimulate certain parts of the body. When you give each foot a good massage, you’re also massaging the organ associated with the pressure points you apply pressure to.
Here’s your reflexology “light” lesson. You aren’t literally massaging your internal organs. The pressure points in your feet are energetically connected to your organs through energy channels in the body called nadis. When proper pressure is applied to a specific area of the foot, the energy travels up that channel to the correlating organ to help clear energy blocks. If this sounds awesome, read up on reflexology or get a treatment from your favorite spa.
Because we have these pressure points connected to our organs in our feet, massaging the feet has many benefits, including reducing the qualities of Vāta, which can be leading causes for trouble falling asleep, light sleep, anxiety, worry, and stress. The energy is brought from the head to feet giving the restless mind a break.
- Reduces stress and anxiety
- Better night sleep
- Releases stress and tension
- Improves blood circulation
- Improves digestion
- Softer Feet
- Lessens foot pain
What You Need
- Massage Oil
- Socks you don’t mind getting oily
- Oil warmer (optional)
What Oil to Use*
You don’t have to spend a ton of money of a fancy massage oil, although you can, if that’s your thing. There are many companies you can buy oils from, including your natural foods grocer. Your skin is your largest organ and anything you put on your skin is digested in to your blood stream, similar to food. You can obtain a simple oil like coconut, sesame, castor, ghee, or sunflower from your local grocery store. Organic is ideal, but get what you can.
If you tend to run hot at night (or in general), coconut is a good choice unless, you have an allergy or it irritates your skin. If you tend to have cold feet, sunflower or sesame are a good choice. If you’re not sure which oil to use, sesame or castor oil generally work for most people.* If you don’t love the smell, you can mix in a few drops of your favorite essential oil.
If you’re using an oil warmer, add 1TBS of oil and let warm up for about 5-10 min. You can do this while doing your other bedtime rituals like brushing your teeth, flossing, etc. If you don’t have an oil warmer, you can put your bottle of oil in a bath of hot water to warm the oil. In either case, make sure the oil is a cool enough temperature to put on your skin comfortably. Use an amount of pressure that is comfortable for you in each area of the foot. Note: joints are massaged in a circular motion and long bones are massaged in a linear motion.
Option 1 – I have 3-15 minutes for this
- Wash your feet with a washcloth or in the tub or shower.
- Follow these steps with both feet simultaneously or one at a time. Rub a small amount of oil to coat both ankles and feet.
- With a little more oil, begin to massage your ankles in circular motions all the way around each ankle.
- Dip back in for more oil and begin to massage the top of the feet moving to and from the toes to the ankle.
- Pinch and massage each toe.
- Massage the sole of the foot and heel.
- Interlace your fingers between the toes and role your feet around in the ankles both directions. It’s easiest to do opposite hand and foot.
- Make sure to put on some socks before moving about so you don’t slip. (You can keep the socks on while sleeping or remove them once in bed.
Option 2 – I am making a relaxing evening out of this
- Fill a small tub with warm water, 1/8 tsp crushed ginger and 1/4 tsp Epsom or sea salt. Stir until dissolved.
- Soak your feet in the tub and relax.
- After soaking your feet for about 20 to 30 minutes take them out and pat dry.
- Follow the steps above massaging each foot individually.
*Educate yourself on what oils work for you and when. Not everyone can use the same oils. Don’t use an oil that irritates your skin or you are allergic to the source product of the oil.