Padabhyanga: The Ayurvedic Foot Massage

foot massage

Padabhyanga is one of the essential Ayurvedic massage techniques and refers to the foot massage in Ayurveda. It is an enjoyable and relaxing treatment in which feet, legs, and knees are gently massaged with nourishing oil.

After an ayurvedic foot massage, you will not only be deeply relaxed but also have incredibly soft and supple feet! What exactly happens during a Padabhyanga massage and which ailments it is particularly useful for will learn in the following article.

How does the Ayurveda foot massage work?

The feet (Pada) have a high value in the Indian tradition – because, with them, we are in contact with the earth. In Ayurveda, the human body is seen as an inverted tree: the roots are at the top, i.e., near the head, and the branches (legs and feet) point down. Likewise, the feet show whether the human body has been well treated and nourished.

That is why the ayurvedic foot massage has a very long tradition. So it is already said in the old Ayurveda scripture “Charaka Samhita”:

“By massaging the feet with oil or ghee, roughness, stiffness, dryness, tiredness, and numbness are immediately eliminated; tenderness, strength, and firmness of the feet are promoted.”Charaka Samhita, Sutrasthana 5, 90-92

The foot massage in Ayurveda is a soothing and vitalizing ritual. Before the Padabhyanga, a 5 to a 10-minute relaxing foot bath with fragrant herbs is usually offered. The following massage is then performed while lying down. The treatment’s focus is on the feet, but the lower leg, thigh, and knee are also included. The feet are first rubbed with a warm balsam made of ghee or ayurvedic oils.

If you would like to try your hand at ayurvedic foot massage yourself, we have a guide for you here.

Padabhyanga instruction: Pure relaxation!

For a moment of relaxation in everyday life, you can also apply the basic Padabhyanga massage techniques yourself.

  • All you need are two tablespoons of warm oil (e.g., sesame oil or ghee) and a towel.
  • Sit comfortably cross-legged on the floor or on a chair and place a towel under your feet.
  • A little oil is then gently rubbed into the entire foot and ankle.
  • Now perform various circular and stroking movements on foot.
Proceed as follows:
  • 1. First, massage the spaces between the toes with your thumb and move back and forth in the spaces between the toes.
  • 2. Then stroke the tendons on the back of the foot with your thumb.
  • 3. Now circle the ankle with your index, middle, and ring finger and then stroke out the Achilles tendon with your thumb and index finger.
  • 4. Gently bend all toes with both hands.
  • 5. Also, massage the vital point in the middle of the sole clockwise.
  • 6. You can massage the inner edge of the foot with your thumb in an elliptical shape.
  • 7. Finally, stroke the outer edge of the foot with your hand.

The massage is followed by a resting phase of about one hour. Then wrap the foot warmly with thick socks. You can practice the foot massage as a daily ritual before going to bed and thus prepare yourself for a relaxed night’s rest!

The effect of a Padabhyanga massage

Like all Ayurvedic massages, Padabhyanga is designed to balance the doshas and promote holistic well-being and health. The massage of the feet calms, especially the Vata-Dosha, has a grounding effect and reduces stress. During the Padabhyanga, a deep state of relaxation sets in, which continues even after the massage.

Through the stimulation of the marma points, blockages are released, and the life energy (prana) can flow more freely again. According to Ayurvedic medicine, Padabhyanga has an incredibly positive effect on the lungs and eyes, as there are marma points for these organs at the foot. Further results of the Padabhyanga are:

  • Strengthening and revitalization of the tissues
  • Promotion of the blood circulation
  • Energy flow is stimulated
  • Strengthening of the eyesight
  • Relaxation of muscles, ligaments, and vessels
  • Better sleep
  • Soft and well-groomed feet
  • Recreation of body and mind

The Ayurvedic foot massage: Application

A foot massage is suitable for all Ayurveda constitution types, but the kind of oil can vary depending on the style. For example, ghee, coconut oil, or sunflower oil are recommended for Pitta types.

  • Vata types should use ghee, sesame oil, or olive oil.
  • Kapha types are well advised with ghee, sesame oil, or jojoba oil.

In general, Vata types benefit significantly from a foot massage, as it is very effective against Vata disorders such as stress, exhaustion, and nervousness.

The application areas of Padabhyanga at a glance:

  • States of inner restlessness
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Relaxation difficulties
  • Burn-out symptoms
  • Lymphostasis
  • Calf Cramps
  • Swelling of the feet
  • Pain therapy
  • Dry and cracked feet
  • Visual difficulties

When should the foot massage not be performed?

Padabhyanga is a very gentle treatment, which is suitable for almost all persons. In case of foot injuries, acute thromboses, phlebitis, or open wounds, one should refrain from an Ayurvedic foot massage. Likewise, it would help if you preferably refrained from skin diseases such as eczema or febrile diseases.

The Marma points: Which are there, and where are they?

An essential role in Padabhyanga is also played by the vital points located on feet and legs. According to Ayurvedic teachings, these so-called “marma points” have a subtle connection to the body organs. The stimulation of the marma points strengthens and vitalizes the corresponding organs.

The marma points are the crossing points of the energy channels (nadis) through which our life energy (prana) flows. There are a total of 108 of these vital points, which are distributed all over the body. One of the essential marma points is located between the eyebrows and another on the sternum. Blocking the marma points causes congestion and stress.

However, if you stimulate and massage the facts, this has a relieving, stress-relieving, and refreshing effect. Since the points are connected to specific organs, a marma massage can specifically alleviate various complaints.

The following marma points are located on the feet and legs, among others:
  • At the root of the foot: “Kurcha” – affects vision
  • Middle of the sole: “Talahridaya” – influences the heart-lung function
  • Above the knee joint: “Ani” – promotes muscle relaxation
  • Ankle: “Indravasti” – harmonizes the digestive organs
  • On the thighs: “Urvi” – responsible for the pancreas
  • In the knee joint: “Janu” – in connection with spleen and liver

Padabhyanga with the Kaash Bowl

A unique variation of the Padabhyanga is the foot massage with the so-called “Kaash bowl.” The word “Kaash” refers to the unique alloy (mainly copper and tin) from which these traditional bowls are made. The foot massage is performed with the round side of the Kaash bowl.

It works like this: Before the massage, the bowl is slightly warmed and rubbed with oil or ghee. The masseur or masseuse moves the bowl in circular and stroking movements over the different zones of the foot. The Kaash massage with herbal ghee is said to have a harmonizing effect on the Pitta Dosha.

No matter if you use a Kaash bowl or only oil: after an ayurvedic foot massage, you are entirely relaxed, and your feet are pleasantly nourished. The Padabhyanga is suitable as an evening ritual for a deep, restful sleep or a relaxing wellness treatment by a professional Ayurveda masseur. Why not give your feet a break from everyday life – they deserve it!

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