From guest blogger Auriel Benker:
After I had been practicing Ashtanga for a few months, I started to hear talk of castor oil baths, also known as “Saturday practice.” Traditionally, Saturdays are the day of rest from an otherwise 6 day a week practice.
Castor oil is derived from the seeds of the castor bean plant, native to India, and has been regarded as a healing remedy since ancient times across many cultures. It has also been referred to as “the hand of Christ.” Benefits are said to include body detoxification, reduction in inflammation and muscle aches, improved digestion, immunity and lymphatic function, restoration of the nervous system, and removal of the heat that builds up from a consistent yoga practice.
Of course, I had to try this miracle oil for myself. During the bath, my body started to warm up, and I had the sense it was purging itself of impurities. I found my castor oil bath to be extraordinarily peaceful and luxurious, and I noticed the ache in my low back that had been bothering me for a couple weeks went away immediately. Right away, castor oil baths became an important weekly self-care ritual- a time to show love for myself by caring for my body.
So how does one take the bath?
- Make sure the room to be used is warm.
- Get several old towels or blankets, and lay them out.
- Turn on your favorite relaxing music.
- Measure approximately 2 oz of castor oil. I placed the container in a bowl of warm water to heat the oil so it would be more pleasant to apply.
- Start by applying approximately half the oil to the scalp. Then massage the remaining oil over the entire rest of the body, avoiding the eyes and lips. *Please note, castor oil is very thick. Expect to wash your hair several times to remove it. I have seen suggestions to us sesame or coconut oil as an alternative for the scalp, but based on my research, use castor oil to gain the most benefit.
- Lie down, cover up and relax. It is recommended to start with 10 minutes, and gradually increase the time, up to 1 or 2 hours, depending on your preference.
- Once complete, towel off the feet to prevent slipping. Then shower. Use an all natural soap to remove the oil. Citrus-based soaps seem to work best.
- As a personal touch, I followed my shower with an Epsom salt bath, soaking for 10 minutes with 2 cups of Epsom salts added to my warm bath.
- Be certain to clean the shower floor to remove any oil that may cause the next person to slip. Baking soda will work for this.
There are several important notes regarding castor oil baths:
- The bath is not recommended during pregnancy, ladies’ holiday (menstruation) or on moon days (new and full moons).
- Castor oil is flammable. Towels used should be hung dry to prevent any residue from catching fire in the dryer.
- Take it easy for the next day or so. The body will stretch more easily, making it more prone to injury if overexerted.
- Purchase high quality castor oil. It should be pure, free of preservatives and additives and not extracted using solvents, such as hexane. I purchased my bottle from a local, reputable natural health food store.