The Mysterious Ashtanga Oil Bath

17 Sep

It’s Saturday and it’s a Moon Day and that means as an aspiring Ashtangi I get to sleep in, rest, and attempt to perform an Ashtanga Oil Bath. I will admit, I have been avoiding this…probably because it means that I am taking this Ashtanga “experiment” very seriously. I also had a very bad experience with hot oil treatments when I was a teenager–I ruined my hair before my confirmation party and had a meltdown of epic proportions which in retrospect was *hilarious*. I looked like an extra from the set of Grease, and I’m not talking one of the Pink Lady extras, either.

I used almond oil instead of Castor Oil, especially since the drains in our house are already a little wonky. I started with my head and really massaged the oil in well. I have really long hair, so this took quite awhile. I’ve read that you should only leave the oil on your head for about 5 minutes the first time. It’s suggested that you slowly increase the time to up to two hours over the course of six months or so.

After 5 minutes I greased the rest of my body up, following the suggested instructions to massage any of the areas where you have pain in particular. That would be everywhere, so there was a lot of rubbing going on! I could NOT believe how much oil my skin sucked in! It was crazy. I used up more than half a bottle!

I left the oil on my body for a little over 5 minutes, not including the time it took to massage it in. I chilled out on the bathroom floor on an old towel. Then I started to feel really nauseous! I was very shocked by this, as I’ve slathered myself in oil a million and one times–I live in Las Vegas for chrissakes. It was very odd. I hopped in the shower and it wasn’t that hard to get all of the oil off with my regular shampoo and good old Chandrika soap.

courtesy of—check them out!

Unfortunately, the nausea continued for a while even after I was lying down in bed. I grabbed some crystallized ginger and rode it out. Quite odd. Obviously, there was something going on here so I will be trying the oil bath again when I get back from my trade show in Baltimore. I don’t want to chance taking a oil bath and then having to work the trade show sales floor while I’m sick as a dog!

I know that oil baths are used as a treatment in Ayurveda (especially for Vata dosha), but I’ve always been hesitant to take one because of my Kaphic ways. Oil baths are supposed to be excellent for dissolving ama, excess gnarly toxins. Kapha doshas can use mustard oil, but I don’t even know where the holy heck one finds mustard oil. Traditionally, the oil is “cured” before it is used. Curing basically involves heating the oil on a stove on a very low heat for about 15 minutes. I did not do this step, but I think I will next time. I found this lovely paragraph on Banyan Botanicals website:

“The Sanskrit word sneha can be translated as both “oil” and “love”. It is believed that the effects of abhyanga are similar to those received when one is saturated with love. Like the experience of being loved, abhyanga can give a deep feeling of stability and warmth. Sneha is subtle; this allows the oil/love to pass through minute channels in the body and penetrate deep layers of tissue.” 

Oil=love. Don’t tell that to the Engine2 or Forks Over Knives people!

Any of you more experienced Ashtangis have any particularly interesting oil bath stories? I am very curious about this as far as long term effects, or lack thereof.


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