Monday, July 30, 2012

Oil bath

Taking an oil bath was recommended highly by Guruji, so this Saturday I decided to take a crack at it.  Let's define terms in the negative, first.  This does not mean I filled a vat, or a cauldron with a fire beneath it if you want to evoke fairy tales, with oil and sat in it.  Furthermore, the theories expressed in this blog are in keeping with Indian traditional medicine, know as Ayurveda, and, as I like to say while I'm teaching, have not been evaluated by the FDA.  In the Indian conception of the body the physical and the metaphysical are both superimposed and interchangeable.  So when one speaks of things such as heat, bandhas, or breath, in yoga one could be talking about physical or metaphysical or both at the same time.  Keep this in mind and bare with me, here.

The goal of an oil bath is to draw accrued heat out of the body built up from the week's asana practice.  The bath requires oil, preferably castor oil, and an equal mixture of soapnut powder and green herbal hairwash powder.  First, I poured a generous amount of oil into my hands and massaged it into my head and scalp (not the face, though) until my hair was quite saturated.  After five or so minutes, I rubbed, more like slathered, oil over the rest of my body.  I made sure to get extra oil into my troublesome joints, which are the shoulders, knees, and lately, my ankles.  I sat, naked and slathered in oil on the bathroom floor for about ten more minutes, letting the oil do its thing.  Phase two was to dump scalding hot water over my body, thus opening pores and letting oil get in that much more.  Phase three is the rinsing process.  I got the powder mixture, which I had made into a molasses-like paste by adding water, and slathered that over my body.  The powder's ability to absorb the oil was like magic.  I rinsed and everything came right out, like it had never been there.  I did a final wash with soap and shampoo for good measure.

Now, my impression of the whole process was not that the oil drew the heat out of my body, per se.  In fact, the opposite.  With all more pores sealed up with thick viscous oil the heat built up, at first.  But when the oil was rinsed off I felt a very powerful release, like water exploding finally out of a hose that had been kinked up for minutes.  The rest of the day I felt deliciously languid.  This is something of which I could definitely make a habit.


  1. what are soapnut powder and green herbal hairwash powder?

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