Self Care in Ashtanga Yoga – The Castor Oil Bath

Yoga is a holistic practice. As much as it is about physical movements, it is strongly a mental process too. And Ashtanga Yoga (which comprises of eight limbs of yoga) is more on the brutal side initially (for beginners). Though Asana (the physical practice of postures) is only one of the eight limbs of Ashtanga, yet the stress that is put onto it is immense.

The physical practice when committed to regularly, creates self-awareness, helps you make better food and lifestyle choices. But in the process of performing the rather complicated postures, most of us get injured. Well, if not injured, we are sure to go through soreness, muscle stiffness and occasional pain. This is not unnatural for Ashtangis. All of these occurs as a result of the change we are making to ourselves. Like opening up the body, awakening the sleeping muscles, learning new movement mechanics, rejuvenating blood supplies and lymphatic flow, etc etc. It is like gaining access to the abandoned areas of our mind and body. Ashtanga is a grueling process. Definitely is. But only for the initial part. It sure gets effortless when we are accustomed to the practice. At a point it even becomes exhilarating. As if you are flying and flowing in the postures.

I didn’t arrive at this phase yet and it’s been almost a year I am into the practice. I still have bouts of soreness in gaps of a week or two. And once, I injured myself a little. I strained a tendon around my knee. This injury kept me out of the practice for two weeks but taught me a very important lesson. Self-care.

And that’s when I came across articles on Google about Castor Oil Bath. Last month I bought myself the oil and tried it twice to see if it is really effective.

Castor oil is pretty thick and has a slight warm factor to it. Difficult to apply due to high viscosity. I went for a direct application even though you can use it mixed with other oils for easy application.

According to the Yoga articles, it is recommended that you apply it from head to toe, massaging well around the joints. And then rest in Savasana for 10-15 mins, allowing the oil to seep into your system. After that, you are supposed to wash your hair and body thoroughly to remove the stickiness.

I cannot say much about it’s effectiveness yet though google says it is really great for hair and skin. Yoga articles say it’s amazing for relieving muscle tension. From my own experience of two uses, I can say that it leaves you with an amazing nutty smell, definitely keeps skin and hair soft. And since it is thick, the effect lasts for 2-3 days. Regarding muscle tension and the internal jobs that it is supposed to do, I haven’t noticed any change. Maybe in the long run there might be.

You should go for this massage once a week, on the day you are not practicing.

But I have found another huge usefulness of this oil. If you are stuck in garbhapindasana and can’t get your arms through, apply a tiny bit of it on your arms and legs and try it. It works. It’s an awesome way to reduce the friction between your skin. Eventually when the muscles become firm or the skin gets toned, I hope garbhapindasana will get easy without the oil.

I am keeping it.

Buy it from Amazon at a cheaper price. On the bottle it quotes 300/- and I got at 195/- from Amazon. Lookout for terms such as ‘unrefined’, ‘cold pressed’, ‘hexane free’. If the product mentions these, it’s good.

That’s it for now. Keep practicing. And don’t forget to take care.

Here’s the illustration as promised:

I love drawing bunnies!


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