The Oil Bath: An Ayurvedic Home Remedy.

Via on Jun 2, 2013



Oil bath is a traditional, weekly Ayurvedic home remedy still practiced widely in South India.

Shri 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 Ayurveda) 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 that is later removed from the skin and hair with a special herbal 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 which draws 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 or once per 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.

Kiki Flynn’s guide:

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Awesome Editor: Jessica Walden and Elise Espat  (Albuquerque Ashtanga Yoga Shala)

Cartoon guy: Boonchu Tanti,  Ashtanga Illustrations by Boonchu


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Ed: Brianna Bemel

About Yoga Comics

Editor: Jessica Walden began a daily yoga practice in 1994 and, over the last 12 years, has made several trips to Mysore, India, to study with Guruji, Sharath, and Saraswati. She is married to Andrew Hillam and a happy mother of two boys and one chihuahua. Editor: Elise Espat first practiced Ashtanga Yoga with Guruji when she was living in NYC and has since made several trips to Mysore, India to practice with her teachers Guruji, Sharath, and Saraswathi Jois. A couple of years ago Elise and her husband moved to New Mexico where they enjoy spending time in nature with their little dog named Maple. Most mornings (except Saturdays and moon days) you’ll find Elise teaching at the Albuquerque Ashtanga Yoga Shala. She also keeps the blog Cartoonist: Boonchu Tanti, an engineer who loves drawing cartoons, began a daily yoga practice since 2007. He has made several trips to Mysore, India to study Ashtanga Yoga at KPJAYI with Sharath since then. He now works and resides in Bangkok and draws cartoons as hobby during free time. Find his works at


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7 Responses to “The Oil Bath: An Ayurvedic Home Remedy.”

  1. solfulsoul says:

    Olive oil is good for a daily dab as well

  2. Helen McGinn says:

    Thank you for sharing! I'm going to give this a go.

    For a daily face routine, mix of equal measure organic castor oil and olive oil; castor oil draws out the impurities and olive oil puts in moisture. Get a face cloth as hot as possible and squeeze out excess moisture; place over the face and press down, leave for 30 seconds then rub off every bit of oil from the face. This is brilliant no matter the skin type, it takes make up and eye make up off beautifully. You will love it. <3

  3. Lexa Ann Timothy says:

    spent a week at an ayurvedic retreat in india and was given one of these hot oil baths with one of the two daily massage, my oh my, the most amazing feeling on the planet.

  4. Gaby says:

    Please collect the oil! don't let it run into the water bodies! it will pollute lots of water!!!!

  5. crowhillhouse says:

    First, how exactly would one collect oil off one's skin? Second, this is not motor oil, it's a vegetable based oil that breaks down naturally. Also, a lot of it is absorbed into the skin. Really…it's not going to pollute our water.

  6. Nithia says:

    Indians will use shikakai powder instead of soap or shower cream if they are having oil bath. The powder helps to remove the oil from our skin but it keeps it moisture all day long.

  7. Tamara says:

    Is this safe to do when still nursing a baby?

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