Castor Oil, the Ashtanga Yoga Saturday Practice

On Saturday I spent 10 minutes covered in oil while resting in corpse pose.

The bath is said to be so powerful that common wisdom recommends taking it very easy on Sunday practice (i.e.: the day after), as the body is prone to be much more supple and stretching might seem easier, tempting one to go further than usual and increasing the chance for injury.  If you are thinking of trying it, it might be useful to talk to a teacher before attempting, just to be on the safe side.

The benefit of the bath is in the heat that the oil produces in the body, every time I bathe I feel the warmth, it feels almost as if I had a suit on me that is trapping and then releasing impurities.  Further benefits among others are the reduction of pain and inflammation, and a healthy glow.

I usually get this oil which used to be sold only in organic or specialty supermarkets but is now available almost everywhere. I use one medium bottle per bath. Then I follow these steps:

1.- Ensure that you have a surface covered either with a towel or some sort of floor protection. Things are about to get messy.

2.- Sit on the towel , pour oil on your head,  and massage the scalp, then continue by pouring oil all over your body and gently massage it.

3.- Lay in corpse pose and relax for about 10 to 15 minutes.  Best not to overdo it, especially the first time, as you are testing the effect that this practice will have on you.  Better to be gentle.

4.- Carefully (as all surfaces you step on will be slippery if you rubbed your feet), step into the shower and remove the oil.  I use this citrus soap, which works very well as it seems to cut the grease, should you follow that link, or whenever you purchase it, make sure it is the citrus one.  I also use soap for my hair as a first shampoo because I find it far too greasy to move into my usual products.  Then shampoo one or two times and condition if you want to.

5.- Once you think you have taken all the oil out of your body, it may be a good idea to soap up again.  The oil is very sticky and you probably have not taken it all out, I know because this happens to me every time.

6.- Clean the shower so the next person coming in does not slip and fall.

Click on the image below to watch Manju Jois talking about the benefits of the Castor Oil Bath among other interesting topics.

7.- Get dressed and take it easy.  Just to give you an example, I am writing this post after taking the castor oil bath and I am feeling a mix of relaxation, a sense of wellbeing, and an urgent desire to lay down.  As soon as I am done writing I will do just that.  Be especially careful not to go under the sun after a practice, and if you live in an area with cold weather, dress warm.  Drink plenty of water.  One thing I have found comforting, especially in winter time is to have some freshly brewed ginger tea.  Jessica Blanchard recommended it and it has worked wonders for me.

8.- Finally, and perhaps most importantly be careful in your Sunday asana practice. Some people report that they do not feel anything different, but many others (including myself sometimes) get hurt by pushing too hard.
It is recommended to do this every Saturday consistently.  I find that for me this is not always possible as life seems to have a way to take over from time to time, but whenever I can I go ahead and do it and find it very rewarding.
If you want to take pictures of your Saturday practice, have a friend or partner help you out, unless you don’t mint the camera getting greasy, I was lucky enough to have a good photographer at hand.
You can read this post by Suzy in which Sharath himself talks about the Castor Oil bath.


  1. Hi, Claudia. You mention knee problems in this post. I'm dealing with a right knee injury. I've practiced yoga for 1 year now. I have never had a problem sitting in Virasana, Child Pose, etc. However, about a month ago, I did something to my knee and now I can't get into those poses now without serious discomfort. I do feel my knee healing, but these poses still make my knee feel uncomfortable. Do you have any advice? Thanks.

  2. Dustin, I am sorry to hear that, I know how disappointing it can be when the knees do not respond as they used to... I would not be able to give specific advise unless we met and talked in person, and even then... but I am curious about what is it that you feel? is it like it gets "jammed", is it just "pain"?

    The best thing would be to talk to a teacher directly so that they can look at you and assess with proper visual clues and information from you, I hope you get better and that you tell me how you do with it.

  3. Hey, the link for the citrus soap took me to the castor oil, is it Dr Bronner's brand?? I still have a ton of oil in my hair from yesterday's bath! After three shampoos! I also used the Dr Bronners lavender soap... not that I mind, my hair is curly and tends to be dry but it is a little greasy ;-)

  4. hmmm, thanks for telling me Loo, I fixed it now, and yes it is the Bronner brand... I know what you mean about the oil in the hair, but if you change the soap from lavander to citrus you will notie the difference, because for some reason it feels as is the lemon cuts the grease, which is something I learned from my grandmother... :-) let me know if you do and if it works for you, I would be interested to know if it does as your hair is curly which is different from mine :-)

  5. yay for Grandmotherly wisdom! I'll get the citrus. I also admit I went a little heavy on the oil this time.

    Do you really use a WHOLE bottle??

  6. yes I do, otherwise I feel it does not "heat" things up enough... but a medium bottle, I am not sure how many sizes they have but it would be the next one up in level from the smallest bottle... I realized just now that I almost used the whole bottle of the soap... we will see what tomorrow's practice brings

  7. Thank you for the instructions Claudia, I really must try this sometime....but I must just say: beautiful photographs.

  8. Claudia,

    Great article and pics. I've been doing these baths a while and do feel very relaxed and my skin feels good, but I commented previously that I don't notice much difference the next morning in practice. I see now that compared to what you describe, I'm not using very much oil at all, not nearly as much as what I see you doing. I'll step it up this week.

  9. Wow...castor oil! You are brave! I thought it was suppose to be sesame seed oil and I really love that. It's not quite as hard to take off and I actually enjoy using a specific blend of oils that are very healing for imbalances like Winter vata stuff :) It's made by Banyan Botanicals.

  10. Thanks daydreamingmel, husband was the photographer... he is pretty good... :-)

    Thanks Kristen, yes I remember you mentioned that, I wonder if more oil would do it or if it is one of those cases where for different people it just works differently. For example, the salt baths do not really do that much for me... but the oil does, maybe for you the salts would work, who knows? would be curious to know more

    Anon, I wonder where did you hear about sesame, sounds interesting.

  11. Claudia,

    It feels like an obstruction. If I bend my knee back past a certain point, it is uncomfortable. I was curious because in your post you mention two bad knees. What was your recovery through yoga like? Did you do anything in particular to help your knees? I imagine a lot of poses were difficult for you in the beginning. Just looking for advice. I have good teachers here. They all say the same thing -- patience and practice.

    Thanks for taking time to write.

  12. Hi Dustin, yes, I also had an obstruction, but mine was intense to the point where my knees would get "locked" and I had to "unlock" them, so I had operations to remove the meniscuses and that helped, but poses like the lotus or Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana were simply impossible in the beginning. What your teachers say is right, I was just very VERY gentle with them and took all the time that was needed. I applied oil to the knees in particular many times, throughout the day, aside from the baths... and that helped too.

    So, yes, I guess patience and practice is the answer

  13. Claudia

    Actually in traditional Indian families especially in South India , people have sesame oil bath on Saturdays and not Castor oil . There is a link to Sesame oil and Saturday as Saturday is meant for Lord Saturn i.e Shani Bhagwan and hence people who are in the grip of Saturn go to temple and sesame oil lamps in front of Lord Saturn shrine and also in the morning have bath hot water and massaging their body with sesame oil . Even those who are not in the grip of Saturn have bath on Saturday mornings after applying sesame oil on their bodies and head and it is found to have great therapeutic effects .But hard work is usually avoid after a bath with sesame oil .
    I usually have a bath on saturday after rubbing my body with sesame oil and daily do oil pulling with sesame oil before brushing my teeth .
    As regards Castor oil it is usually taken inside i.e people swallow a spoon full for purpose of detoxifying the body and is given more to kids to remove germs from their stomach .Castor oils are also used to lighting lamps in Altars and temples
    One can write a book itself on the various oils and its application in traditional homes .Unfortunately many people in India have stopped using these techniques as lot of western shampoos , conditioners , mouth washes , detox products etc are available in market .Many thanks for starting this topic and I am sure everyone will find this very useful .

  14. Ah...Krishna seems to have answered the sesame oil question quite well:) I got my idea from when I went to Kerala a few years ago and had lots of wonderful abhyanga massages at an ayurvedic clinic there so as Krishna says - it is a South India tradition to use sesame oil. I have continued this practice since once a week and sometimes twice when I am feeling out of sorts. Here is a link with more info...and there are plenty of others on Internet :)

  15. @Krishna, thanks for that explanation, I was curious about a the sesame oil.

  16. Thank you. Just curious about your experience.

  17. You are welcome Dustin, glad you commented

  18. Hi, I do have a stupid question. So you said that applied oil everywhere and gently massage it. So... how do I evenly distribute the oil on my back and how to massage my back??? Thanks for your help, I really want to try thing oil bath, it sounds really awesome. :)

  19. Hsihui, you just do what you can...a that is how I go about it...I find it easy to massage the lower back and shoulders which is where I most tend to need it

  20. I believe Nancy Gillgoff said coconut (or sesame oil if you live in a cooler climate) 3 times a month and Castor oil once a month. I believe that is what Pattabhi Jois told her. This will be my 3rd Sat. and I have not tried the castor oil yet because I do not yet have the special soap that takes it out. (maybe I'll try the lemon soap idea, easier to come by...)

  21. Cannot wait to try this tomorrow! Sounds really therapeutic. Just reading through all your posts, and absolutely love your blog. Just fab! What a wonderful learning resource... Thank you xx

  22. Hola Claudia, gran blog, me gusta mucho, tiene muy buena informacion.
    Soy Chileno, vivo desde hace 2 meses en Buenos aires y quiero comprar Aceite de ricino (Castor oil) para hacer el baño de aceite. Sabes donde puedo comprar el aceite aca en capital federal.
    Te agradezco la informacion y muchos saludos desde tu tierra.

  23. Elizabeth thanks for the information on the coconut oil. I have used Sesame, I believe Krishna recommended that too... Which works very well. I actually use it for everyday, under lotion base.

    Soji, hope it went well today.

    Rodrigo, hola, gracias. Hace mucho que no vivo en BsAs, por lo que no se. Has probado preguntar en las farmacias? Me encantaria saber donde lo consigues ... Pablo Pirillo, quien ensenia ahi en Palermo Soho quizas sepa sino. Lo puedes encontrar haciendo un google search por ashtanaga yoga buenos aires, creo que su instituto se llama Inti... Buena suerte

  24. Hola Claudia, Gracias por tu respuesta, justamente estoy practicando con Pablo Pirillo en su shala, se llama inticenter ashtanga buenos aires.
    Encontre venta de aceite de ricino hidrogenado (sirve?) por el momento siempre que he hecho un baño de aceite lo he hecho con aceite de oliva.
    Gracias, y nuevamente, excelente blog. Saludos.


    parece algo demasiado industrial como para ponerese en el cuerpo, no?

  26. Hm, ahora que leo eso si, parece! Por eso otros lectores como Krishna, tambien del Sur de la India recomiendan aceite de sesamo. Yo he probado con el de ricino me fue muy bien, pero supongo a cada uno depende de el que le quede mejor para su propia constitucion piel e ideas...

  27. La pregunta es si el de ricino que se consigue en la Argentina es el mismo que se compra en USA... tal vez es el mismo pero los que lo venden no son concientes de su posible uso en el cuerpo? Quien sabe. Tal vez Rodrigo nos pueda contar su experiencia, si se anima a probarlo.

  28. Claudia,

    How would this affect a pregnant woman?


  29. Brianna, I don't know.  

  30. You mentioned the Medium sized bottle is what you use for your bath.. Would that be the 32 oz bottle or the 8 oz bottle? 

  31. this one:,or.r_gc.r_pw.r_cp.r_qf.,cf.osb&biw=1254&bih=685&um=1&ie=UTF-8&tbm=shop&cid=13722653756741247493&sa=X&ei=DPjUT8T1OaKC6AG147SFCQ&ved=0CIABEPICMAM#ps-sellers

  32. Nice to see a post talking about the advantages of oil bathing. I'm a student of Ayurvedic medicine/massage/ panchakarma and one of the first things i've learned when in Kerala, was that "everything" in life can be fixed with oil, hehe

    Yes, usually sesame oil is used, either plain or as a base for a medicated oil, but depending on the constitution of the individual, it can be coconut oil, which has a cooling effect (sesame warms up your body).

    I use sesame oil daily during the cool season and now, summer, I'm using coconut. It's a daily ritual, just like our practice.

    For the hair, I'm using my own home made Amla/brahmi oil. When you do your own oils, you know they're good quality and they cost less.

    It becomes a healthy habit, and after a while, it feels strange not to soak yourself in oil, it helps the joints, the skin, grounds your mind, makes your hair shine. All the advantages in the world.

    It's funny, i never heard people use castor oil in the body, it's usually taken internally for panchakarma. No one ever mentioned that in Kerala in my school. Maybe it's advised for us "westerners" because our lifestyle has become too toxic? (as castor oil is meat to detoxify you internally??!)

  33. It might be because we are too toxic, yes, that would be an explanation. I believe Krishna who is from South India mentioned he only uses sesame...

    I use castor oil here too but for cooking, it is very expensive to get, did not think of using it on the body but now that I recall I think at Yoga Thailand during teacher training people were using it, then going to herbal baths and it felt good... I think I used it too... yes, I did. Funny the memories that come up.

    Mixing your own oils sounds wonderful. I began doing a little of that but very simple things, not much experience on it, I can see how it would be great so you can find what exactly works for your body.

  34. Brianna, I am not sure, the oil is pretty heavy and warm, and usually if it is winter time I need to be able to cover myself well afterwards so as to not get cold and drink plenty of water... but if I was pregnant, I dont know, it depends what trimestre, weather I already have a practice or not. I am sure for someone who has done it before and who already has an active practice the question may yield a self evident answer, but if you have not done it before it is always good to be cautious... I would visit an ayurvedic clinic or doctor see what they say

  35. I chanced upon your site, and came across this piece on castor oil...wanted to share some things about castor oil which my granny always kept in the shelf:
    1. It was used during nights to keep our eyes cool - in case any irritation in the eyes persisted or generally to cool the part of the body superficially (nose, ear, stomach etc)
    2. In case of rough heels, my grandfather used to ask me to apply the oil to his heels so that it would soften the cracks
    3. Once every fortnight granny applied the oil on my head (you must use it enough so as not to allow it to overflow from your head) and asked me to soak for about 2-3 hrs before taking a head bath
    4. It was used as a purgative - take 1 or 2 t-spoon of oil mixed with warm milk after brushing teeth in empty stomach. The whole day we had only light "rasam" to drink and eat any lighter food
    regards - prasad

  36. Hi, nice info... lots of knowledge to grasp...... I do the same as above every weekend, I change my oil as per season.... Summer calls for cooling oils, so I use coconut or sesame and winters I use mustard oil, which is quite warming. These oils can be used just the same way you have used castor oil, and are slightly less messy.However, nothing beats castor oil if you want to stimulate hair growth, and yes it helps in detoxification.I would recommend you donot wash off the oil with shampoo(if you use coconut or sesame oil only) ....agreed the hair will be a bit limp and sticky, but wait and see how you sleep at night and how you wake up afresh the next morning...Not recommended for people with sinusitis, asthma or similar conditions.


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