Dance is the joy of movement and the heart of life. It is an expression of emotion where language is not desired. One such dance form is Bharatnatyam, presumably, the oldest classical dance heritage of India originated in Tamil Nadu, and is regarded as the mother of many other Indian classical dance forms.
Kohl-eyed draped in silks, adorned with breath-taking pieces of jewelry, hair beautified with traditional plait and jasmine flowers, fingers and feet brightened with henna, hands adorned with bangles, the mesmerizing sound of ghoongrus (ankle bells) transports you to a different world.
The World Of Bharatanatyam
A blend of expression, music, rhythm, and dance. This dance form consists of graceful footwork complimenting the beats of the music.
“Yato hasta stato drishti
Yato drishti stato manah
Yato manah stato bhava
Yato bhava stato rasaha”
Meaning, that where the hand is, the eyes should follow there
Where the eyes is, the mind should be there
Where the mind is, there goes the expression,
And where there is an expression, there arises emotion.
it is an all-around compilation of physical, mental, and intellectual orientation with the in-depth concoction of mathematics, science, and immense literature. But what we don’t know is the pain and trauma the dancers undergo.
The Other side of Bharatanatyam
Although the Bharatanatyam dance form is well renowned in the world, there is a dearth of literature with respect to the health issues of this population.
Bharatnatyam is a strenuous dance form. After a long day of dancing, the dancers feel the pain and soreness in their bodies.
It is estimated that today about 75% of Bharatanatyam dancers experience some sort of lower back pain, knee pain, and foot pain.
Bharatanatyam dancers are more prone to foot problems which lead to pain in the ankle and changes in the arches of the foot causing repetitive injury leading to flattening of the arch. It has shown that flattening of the arch causes postural instability and balance problems in the healthy population.
Araimandi is the basic of Bharatnatyam dance; this dancing posture has a closed chain knee flexion with hip abduction and external rotation. To maintain balance (stability), dancers need adequate flexibility in their lower extremity
muscles. Ankle bells (ghungaroos) further add to the stress experienced by the foot.
Daily use of these ankle bells may overload the connective tissues of the legs and can lead to overextension, tendon strain, and other connective tissue injuries during the Performance.
After a long day of practice, choreography and classes, you find yourself sore, exhausted, and completely drained. Unable to press through the next day of rehearsals, you use painkillers to push through the pain. What if the pain never goes away? Without knowing what it will do to your body?
What if you are unable to dance through the lower back pain you are experiencing. What if the ongoing inability to sit in an aramandi position is making the rest of your body hurt. How do you continue to do the art you love without injury while exhibiting strength, balance, and stability in your body? The answer is through Abhyanga.
Abhyanga is a massage that’s done with warm oil. The oil is applied to the entire body, from the scalp to the soles of the feet. This massage is the most popular in Ayurveda.
It is typically performed by a massage therapist. But it’s also possible to do an abhyanga by yourself- There is no greater expression of self-love than anointing yourselves from head to toe with warm oil.
10 Benefits of Abhyanga
Snehaktam svinnama ggam tu vakram stabdhamathapi
Va Shanaimamayitum shakyam yathesttam
As per Ayurveda, massaging the body with oil can even make the hard log into a soft piece of wood.
- Flexibility and Lubrication of Joints
Bharatanatyam dances have increased Vata, resulting in reduced joint mobility. This leads to crackling noise whenever they extend their limbs.
Frequent abhyanga improves joint flexibility and also helps in lubrication of the joints.
- Decreases muscle soreness and tiredness
Abhyanga takes you into a deep state of relaxation, this happens because the strokes used during massage relax the muscles and soothe them. After a hectic day of dancing, abhyanga takes you to heaven.
- Better, Deeper Sleep at Night
If you’re having trouble sleeping due to painful and sore limbs, abhyanga is the solution. You can visit an Ayurvedic center and book a massage. Or you can even do it yourself at home. All you have to do is grab your favorite aromatic massage oil, and take some extra time in the evening to wind down and luxuriate in a warm-oil massage followed by a warm bath.
- Elimination of impurities from the body
Abhyanga involves frequent stroking of the body, this leads to the removal of the impurities from the body surface. Plus stroking also increases blood circulation and makes your skin shine.
- Nourishes the entire body- decreases the signs of aging
The massage is done using various types of oil, the oil nourishes the skin. The signs of aging happen when the skin is dry. But in abhyanga, constant usage of muscles keeps the skin fresh and sans aging.
- Calms the nerves
Abhyanga is great for calming and soothing the entire nervous system. The more often you do it, the greater the effect will be. You may notice a general sense of peace and tranquility, even amid the hectic Bharatanatyam practices and even goings-on of day-to-day life. Abhyanga can help you maintain more clarity and calmness.
- Detox and healthy weight management
Performing abhyanga on a daily basis is a great way to detoxify. Massaging with warm oil helps loosen toxins from the soft tissues in the body, allowing them to be removed by the elimination systems of our bodies. If you take advantage of this benefit and follow it up daily with your dancing, then abhyanga can support healthy weight management and be an effective daily detox. Abhyanga complements a dance by toning the muscles and getting the blood circulating.
- Increases luster of skin
According to abhyanga practitioners, healthy skin is the main benefit of massage. The oil is used to nourish the skin, which supposedly improves its overall appearance. The massage strokes improve the blood flow, this reduces the appearance of wrinkles, cellulite, and scars, ultimately leading to smooth, soft skin.
- Improves vision
Abhyanga relaxes and reduces the stress in the body. This ultimately dilutes the built-up pressure and makes you have a good night’s sleep. A good night’s sleep is a way of relaxing the eye muscles.
- Increases stamina and alertness throughout the day
A great and often unsung benefit of massage with herbal massage oils is increased energy and stamina throughout the day. This results because the massaging action boosts the metabolism, helps nourish and replenish skin tone and muscles, tunes up the functioning of internal organs, and optimizes the body’s ability to flush and remove toxins; and, if that weren’t enough right there, also revitalizes and energizes the cells of the body. Whew! I’m energized just thinking about it.
How often should dancers do Abyangam?
Regular classes- Bharatanatyam dancers who are doing regular classes should get Abhyangam once every 15 days. This decreases the Vata in the body and increases your performance.
Over 30 years of age- The dancers who are above the age of 30 years should get Abhyangam monthly thrice. This is because with age the flexibility decreases, therefore frequent massages are good for the body.
For a particular program- If you are a Bharatanatyam dancer preparing exclusively for a program, abhyanga should be performed weekly once. This enhances the flexibility and keeps you fresh for the program.
After getting Abhyangam from a therapist, get to know about the type of food to be taken from the physician. The physician advises you on the type of food according to your Prakriti and Dosha.
Bharatanatyam is an art that requires lots of practice. The practice drains the energy out of the dancers. It gives rise to painful joints and sore muscles.
Abhyangam is the way to love and enjoy what you do. It eases way the pain and soothes the whole body. Book your appointment today to feel the awesomeness.