Reduce aches and pains.
And glow from within.
Let’s cut to the chase. Here’s how it’s done.
Oil bath is a traditional, weekly Ayurvedic home remedy still practiced widely in South India. Sri K. Pattabhi Jois routinely recommends oil bath to his yoga students especially for the relief of back and knee pain as well as stiffness. Weekly oil bath reduces excess internal heat (pitta in Ayurvedic) particularly in the joints, liver, and skin. This heat is generated by poor lifestyle, including consumption of oily, processed, and difficult to digest foods, alcohol and tobacco, in addition to stress, air pollution and inadequate sleep. This imbalance increases with the heat generated by yoga practice and hot climate. Eating an over sufficiency of healthy foods that are deemed “heating” in Ayurvedic terms, also adds to this imbalance. Excess heat can be felt in the joints as pain and stiffness and in the back, often in the lower right-hand side and hip, as a nearly debilitating pain. This heat also contributes to a short temper, burning anger, red skin, pinkish acne and redness in the eyes. When a daily ashtanga yoga practitioner still carries extra weight, especially around the middle, has difficulty with weight loss or with digestion, and has a regularly sluggish bowel, these are all signs of surplus heat.
In India, oil bath is customarily taken with castor oil which is later removed from the skin and hair with a special paste made of equal parts soap nut and green powders mixed with water. Castor oil delivers the best results but is nearly impossible to remove without these powders. Guruji suggests that, after leaving India, the yoga student can replace castor oil with almond oil, which easily washes off with bath soap.
Daily baths in India are taken by pouring water over the head from a bucket while standing in the bath, a river, or other body of water. It is in reference to this bath that oil bath is so termed. In other words, the student is not soaking in a tub of oil; rather he or she is using oil first on the head. Oil is rubbed into the scalp drawing the heat upward through the body, where it finally exits through the crown of the head.
Pattabhi Jois recommends that a student takes oil bath every Saturday, on his or her day of rest. Oil bath should be taken once a week, at the start of the morning. After oil bath, one should rest for the day and avoid the following: strong sun, cold water, yoga or heavy work of any kind. For men, tradition prescribes that oil bath be taken on Monday, Wednesday or Saturday. For women oil bath is prescribed on Tuesday or Friday; Guruji provides that his female students can take oil bath on the day off, Saturday. A woman should never take oil bath during menstruation rather she should take it on the fourth day (following the first three days of menses, during which time she has abstained from yoga practice). If one is not able to take oil bath on a given Saturday, he or she may take it on one of the above appropriately listed days.
Directions for Oil Bath
1. Apply ample amount of oil to your head, rubbing into the scalp and through to the ends of your hair. When using castor oil, first place the bottle in warm water to thin out the oil for easier application.
2. Leave oil on the head for the allotted time. For your first oil bath leave the oil on your head for only five minutes and the following week increase the time to ten minutes. Continue increasing weekly by five minute increments until the oil is left on the head for a full two hours (a 6 month process); this is the maximum recommendation. At this juncture, you should practice two hours weekly, not exceeding this time.
Years of accumulated heat should safely be relieved in stages therefore it is essential to carefully follow the time recommendation. Inappropriately increasing the prescribed minutes may lead to a cold, vomiting, chills or diarrhea, all of which are symptoms of too much heat rising too soon.
3. Having completed your allotted time for oil on the head, now generously apply oil to the whole body. As you rub oil over your body, take time to rub and massage elbow, knee and shoulder joints, along the spine and into any areas that are chronically sore. You need not apply oil to the face. This step should take an additional five to ten minutes.
4. Take a very hot shower, or bucket bath. Let the hot water run over the scalp as you massage the existing oil deeper into the crown. Continue to rub the oily skin particularly the joints and spine. This is an important step as the hot water opens pores and draws internal heat from the skin and joints. This shower may last five to fifteen minutes.
5. Apply soap and shampoo, or soap nut and green powder mixture to remove oil. After turning off the shower, lather up with soap on the skin and shampoo in the hair to remove almond oil. If castor oil is used, then apply soap nut and green powder mixture rubbing the paste over the whole body and through the hair and scalp. Be careful and avoid getting soap nut powder, dry or wet, in the eyes or nose, as it will cause a burning sensation. As you rub the paste over the skin, it will turn from dark to light green which indicates that the oil is being absorbed.
To make the paste, in a large bowl mix equal parts soap nut powder and green powder with enough water to create a paste with a honey-like consistency. Soap nut is active in absorbing the castor oil and can make the skin feel very dry. Green powder leaves the skin and hair feeling soft and smooth.
6. Take a second shower or bucket bath to remove oil and lather or special paste. Take this shower at a warm, comfortable temperature and use enough soap and shampoo to remove the almond oil. If you are washing off soap nut paste and castor oil, be sure to close your eyes when rinsing your hair; you’ll probably want to follow up with shampoo. This shower lasts up to ten minutes.
You have successfully completed oil bath.
7. Wash the shower/bath area. The shower floor will be very slippery and the drain may be clogged a bit. Scrub the shower area well to avoid slipping and pour a kettle of boiling water down the drain to keep it open. If you have used soap nut paste, you may be faced with a muddy mess. Clean all surfaces and be sure to pour boiling water down the drain.
8. Rest over the next few hours, avoiding hard work, strong sun and swimming in or drinking cold water. For the daily ashtanga practitioner it is important to take a full day off, allowing the body and mind to rest and rejuvenate for the coming week of practice, study, work and family life.
If the desired results of oil bath are not felt at first, don’t give up. Continue to include this time-honored treatment in your weekly schedule and be confident in the radiant health benefits it bestows.
The economy is frigid.
Colder than the blizzard.
Free is a new four-letter word.
Nearly my favorite.
The neighborhood that is.
Walking is, after all, still free.
On a Sunday night drop-in at Otto’s Shrunken Head.
Free live music.
A long line-up of bands with short sets and big hair.
All night in the back room of NYC’s only Tiki lounge.
Every Sunday is lucky Sunday when Margaritas cost 3 bucks and are served in glasses that could float two scoops and root beer with a thick head of foam.
Can a $3 jumbo cocktail tickle like the silken strands of muddled ginger in the Ginger Fig Martini at GPH’s Jade Bar?
But it doesn’t cost 19 loot-cakes either.
Let’s face it, 3 bucks is nearly free.
And if ginger is your poison, order the Scurvy Dog. It’ll immunize you from scurvy and from rabies. The drink includes a down payment on the Tiki mug. Keep it. It’s as good as free.
Head to the back room for the live acts.
MC Frank Wood’s jokes are so old, he can’t give em away.
Which is less than free.
Or is it more?
After Tyrone Noonan’s honeyed set, The Pirates of the Caribbean pinball game beckons; wherever I move in the room Johnny Depp’s pirate peepers lock on me like the Mona Lisa’s at Le Louvre.
Drop in a few coins and this game flashes brighter than the floor under Tony Manero’s dancing shoes.
At five games for 2 bucks it’s practically free and all the easier to declare yourself a pinball wizardess.
Kiki sez, “I’m a pinball wizardess!”
“How much?” a patron asks the bartender.
“Free, Luv”, she answers.
There was something called free love during the Summer of Love.
Free love is really a euphemism for something else.
Love, seemingly free, accrues a cost. Most agree it’s a worthwhile investment.
Like pirate’s booty.
The end of love is called divorce. It is far from free.
Costs a bloody king’s ransom.
At night’s end, Tiki tumbler in hand,
Alone or in pairs.
I’m often asked,
Why don’t more people do yoga?
Buy a mat.
The Black Mat, standing seven feet and weighing in at more than 7lbs!
Shove it in a bag.
Negotiate steps, the subway, a bus, a bicycle, concrete.
Day in and day out.
To wear or not too wear,
your high-ticket yoga togs on the street?
The A side,
you announce to the world, I paid big bucks for shapeless drawstring cropped pants and a t-shirt with some one else’s God on it.
People buy these.
Check me out, the clothes announce,
I do yoga.
My shirt is paying attention, so I don’t have to.
Is that the B side?
A style option?
Sport tightie lycra gear with patterned insets and colored over-stiching. Romper suits for yummy mummies.
But is it streetwear?
Or don’t street-wear it.
Day after day.
Week after week.
Year after year.
That’s why more people don’t do yoga.
The mat, the bag, the clothes.
The days. The years.
Not to mention, all those catty Yoga Queens.
You’re familiar with the Jehovah’s Witnesses, out in their Sunday best with polite smiles, calm voices, taking time out of a busy day to let you know they’ve been chosen to airlift into the afterlife where pandas play with tigers while children of all colors live in one nation in the sky?
Though certain they’ve been specially selected for eternal happiness, they’d like you to be selected too. And to that end, they freely share the Watchtower.
They’re so nice.
Don’t expect the same step-up from a Yoga Queen.
YQ’s wear a smug mug like they found a font of fat-free chocolate and they ain’t sharing.
They want you to know their life gets better exponentially as yours gets worse.
These queens bought at Lululemon and shopped till they dropped down to perfect splits.
And now, they are spiritually better off .
This means you!
YQ’s don’t need a soul mate.
They found their soul mat.
It is in that behemoth bag over their shoulder.
When a YQ asks, What’s new?
Avoid divulging anything other than the following showoff-and-tell:
1. Didn’t you hear? I won the lottery!
2. Both my lovers are Versace models.
3. I’m engaged, isn’t this 3 carat diamond just flawless?
4. Check out my new purse, the Namaste Hobo, only $1,680 at Barneys.
In response, a YQ will shake her $400 dollar highlights, take your hand and welcome you to the fold,
Yoga has changed my life so much too. Aren’t we incredible!
And, I mean never,
answer a YQ, with news of heartache or woe.
Never tell a Yoga Queen:
1. My Mom/Dad has Alzheimers/cancer/Parkinsons.
2. My Grandmother/Uncle just passed away.
3. I’m getting divorced.
4. My son got kicked out of school.
5. My brother’s back in rehab for Oxycodone.
6. The bank took my home.
7. I’ve been laid off.
8. Bernard Madoff stole all my Aunt’s money even after she’d been sleeping with him for years.
To these, Yoga Queen will respond with a far off gaze as she oversees the wheel of karma turn from up, up and away in her karma-free hot air balloon where she sips bubbling kombucha tea from her Sigg eco-jug.
Wow, she’ll say,
without a trace of pity,
YOU really are having a tough year.
And what can you say to that, if even you can speak?
You could try,
1. Princess, your loved ones will get sick and die too.
2. One out of ten marriages end in divorce. Give me hubby’s number and I’ll guarantee yours is next.
3. Id’ like to share this new yoga boost with you. It’s called Adderall, I just bought it off of Craigslist. Here, take a few with your skinny chai latte.
But usually less is more.
Place your hands together before your heart,
Bow your head,
And in the seductive tones that charm snakes from slumber say,
Or if you prefer plain English,
Kiki in black.