Every day our hands do amazing things without us giving them a second thought. As a bodywork therapist, my hands are the tools of my trade and it wasn’t until I had an accident that left me without the use of one of my hands, that I realised how much I depend on them.
A regular self-care ritual for the hands is a wonderful way to thank them for all they do for us. My favourite includes an exfoliating scrub followed by an Ayurvedic massage working on the marma points of the hands.
Hands can often get dry, rough and in need of some intense moisture and exfoliation, so start off with a homemade sugar scrub. Simply mix a teaspoon of sugar with a tablespoon of oil and massage it gently all over the hands for one minute. Rinse with soap and warm water and dry. In choosing soap, I opt for products without harsh foaming agents such as sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS) as these can strip the natural oils from the skin if used excessively. You can make up a larger amount of the sugar scrub and store it in an airtight jar to use at a later date.
The next step is to apply some oil to the hands and arms, massaging it gently all over, up to the elbows. If you are seated, you may want to place a towel on your lap to catch any drips.
Then begin the Ayurvedic marma massage, using your opposite thumb or fingers, to work on each of the marma points listed below, using a circular motion, five times in each direction.
There are a total of 107 marma points on the body with seven on each upper limb as follows:
KSHIPRA (meaning ‘quick’; referring to its immediate effect): Situated between the thumb and index finger and located bilaterally on the dorsal and palmar surfaces. This is a good marma for acupressure to promote circulation, aid the respiratory system, increase energy flow and get the prana moving throughout the body as a whole. It can be massaged firmly using a strong circular motion (in both directions) for around 5 minutes.
KURCHA (meaning a knot or bundle – of muscles at the base of the thumb): The main point is situated at the base of the thumb joint (metacarpo-phalangeal joint) but the entire marma covers a larger area around that. It is beneficial for the eyesight and all the senses and for stimulating the mind.
TALAHRIDAYA (meaning ‘heart or centre of the palm’): Situated in the centre of the palm facing the root of the middle finger. This is an important point for the respiratory system, heart, energy circulation of the entire body and helpful for all around health and balance. Therapists who use their hands can also massage this point before a treatment to enhance the flow of vital energy or prana to the palms.
KURCHASHIRA (meaning ‘the head of kurcha’): Situated at the root of the thumb, just above the wrist. It is beneficial for eyesight and ‘agni’ – the digestion of food. It also calms the mind and nervous system.
MANIBANDA (meaning ‘bracelet’): Located all around the wrist (like a bracelet) with one main point lateral to the centre of the wrist, opposite the second finger. The site opposite on the back of the wrist can be worked on at the same time. Acupressure is beneficial for the skeletal system, movement of the hands, lubrication of the joints and peripheral circulation.
INDRA BASTI (‘Indra’ refers to the God of war and rainfall and ‘basti’ has several meanings including ‘arrow’ ‘cleanse’ and ‘bladder): Located at the centre of the anterior forearm, half way between the wrist and the elbow. This point benefits the digestive system, particularly the small intestine, which is involved in absorption of nutrients from food.
Finish off with some gentle stroking all over your hands and arms. Then join your hands together at your heart and say ‘thank you’ to your wonderful hands for all they do for you.
If you want to read more about Ayurveda or marma massage, a useful reference book is “Ayurveda & Marma Therapy – Energy Points in Yogic Healing” by Dr. David Frawley.