7 Ayurvedic Home Remedies for Injuries and Prevention
A new year has started and with each new year come resolutions of being more active, getting in shape, picking up a new gym membership or doing Yoga every day. Though these are great plans, sometimes the body isn’t quite ready or conditioned to pick up a new exercise routine without signs of muscle fatigue, spasms and cramps, or we may even walk away with a torn muscle or a sprain.
No pain, no gain is the philosophy our society has adapted to with little questioning. In circles of sports and exercise it seems that the ultimate goal is to achieve more in less time by training harder, longer, faster, more intense, and more explosive, all times of the day.
This attitude, or philosophy, also gets applied to Yoga. We have Fitness Yoga, and Yoga with weights, which focus mainly on the fitness component. But even traditions like Ashtanga Yoga or Hot Yoga are quite physically strenuous.
In the Yoga Sutras the sage Patanjali suggests to practice ahimsa, non-violence. The first Yama, or yogic guideline, wants us to do no harm against others, and ourselves. But accidents can happen, and if they do we want to recover as quickly as possible.
Here are seven home remedies to help relieve muscle pain and the discomfort of minor soft tissue trauma.
Ayurvedic Home Remedies for Injury
1. Turmeric and Bromelain
Combined, these two can help speed up recovery. The combination of Bromelain and Turmeric is known for it’s natural blood thinning and pain relieving properties and is often used for menstrual problems as well as and anti-inflammatory for painful joints. Though the use of Bromelain may not be traditional Ayurvedic treatment, Turmeric is used in many cultures as an anti-inflammatory agent, taken internally and often applied externally to reduce swelling.
2. Golden Milk
A great way to add more injury treating and preventing Turmeric to your diet is with an Ayurvedic remedy called Golden Milk. Though nearly every Ayurvedic practitioner will have a slightly different version of this drink, this is my favorite recipe:
1 Tbsp unprocessed sugar cane or Succanat
1 Tbsp Ginger juice
1 Tbsp Turmeric powder
1 cup water
½ cup of Milk, Coconut-, Rice-, or Almond Milk
Add the sugar cane or Succanat to the water and simmer until melted. Add the Ginger juice and Turmeric and simmer until ½ cup of liquid remains. Add your choice of milk and enjoy hot.
Just like turmeric, ginger has strong anti-inflammatory benefits. When nursing an injury I like to increase the use of ginger in my daily habits. I add fresh ginger to my cooking and prepare a tea of 2 inches of fresh ginger, 1 tsp Lose Green Tea (or 1 teabag of organic green tea), 1 liter hot water, a squeeze of fresh lemon and raw honey to taste, in the morning which I keep warm in a thermos and sip throughout the day.
Another use of ginger is to add a few slices in your hot Epsom salt bath or put a couple of tablespoons of ginger juice in your bath. If you have sensitive skin please be careful as raw and dry ginger has a hot quality and can irritate your skin.
4. Castor oil
Castor oil packs are great in alleviating pain and help heal injuries as well as lessen the appearance of old scars. Warm a teaspoon of castor oil in your hands and massage into the area you want help with. Cover with a dishcloth or a couple of sheets of fleece to prevent staining. Then put a warm water bottle or heating blanket on top and leave on for 20-30 minutes so the oil can absorb into your skin.
Again, if you have sensitive skin do a small “patch test” first to make sure you don’t react to the castor oil.
5. Cool it
If you have a fresh injury you can apply an ice pack to counteract inflammation and swelling. Wrap the ice pack in a dishtowel so you don’t apply direct ice to your skin. Applying ice to a fresh injury can be really helpful as a first response. It will reduce blood flow to the area and numb the pain receptors. Keeping ice on the injury for too long however can hinder the healing process. So make sure you use cold treatment wisely and in alteration with heat to flush out the tissue. There are different hot-cold applications suggested for different types of injuries.
6. Pineapple and Pomegranate Juice
Both juices contain an enzyme that acts as an anti-inflammatory and anti-irritant, which speed up healing. When you feel you’ve overdone your practice and have a new pain or ache that doesn’t feel right, power up on anti-oxidants and said enzymes to support the healing process. Make yourself a juice or smoothie with lots of fresh pineapple and/or pomegranate, then add a little ginger and turmeric while you are at it.
7. Epsom Salt Baths
Epsom salt is a great help with recovery after a vigorous practice. Epsom Salts have been found in experimental studies to relieve pain and muscle cramps, relax the body and calm the mind, increase blood flow, and help muscles and nerves function properly. A twenty-minute bath with plenty of Epsom salts has been found to be equally effective as a 45-minute deep tissue massage.
Injuries are best treated when fresh. Don’t wait two days before applying heat or cold, or before starting to increase your intake of injury reducing anti-inflammatory foods. The best time to apply treatment, even self massage of the area, is right away before internal scarring of the tissue occurs and the injury settles in. When in doubt, always seek professional advice.
Please note that the above are suggested home remedies that can be very effective, yet you may need other means of physical adjustments. If you have an injury that doesn’t go away or at least get noticeably better after twenty-four hours please see a physician or sports therapist to get your injury assessed and take appropriate action.
Prevention is always better than treatment. Honor your body, know where you are, leave the ego off the mat, and if your teacher asks you to move in a way that doesn’t feel right to you, know that it’s okay to listen to your instinct and move accordingly. Pushing too far can mean a long time away from the mat and the practice you love so much.
Dinacharya: Your Daily Yogic Routine
Translating to “knowledge of life” in Sanskrit, Ayurveda is the 5,000 year old sister science of yoga that assists practitioners in leading their lives by way of intuitive rituals. In adhering to one’s specific needs, those utilizing the practice of Ayurveda fall into rhythm with the seasons of self, emulating Mother Nature’s transitions and revelations in spring, summer, fall, and winter.
The Ayurveda practice of dinacharya, or “law of nature,” consists of daily self-care routines, which provide structure for instilling balance and establishing cohesiveness in the physical, mental, and emotional bodies.
Dinacharya is based on the philosophy that human beings run on a biological clock dictated by the patterns of the sun and the moon; different times of day adhere to different types of energy. These energies, known as doshas, connect the body and the mind in functionality. Three doshas exist: vata, kapha, and pitta; each dosha is associated with elements found in nature.
The first and early waking hours of the day 2am to 6am, and their afternoon inverse 2pm to 6pm, are identified as vata, which is associated with the elements of air and ether, or a sense of lightness. Movement is incredibly important at these times, as they are both transitional periods. In the early hours of the morning, it is believed that sleep and dreams are most active and that we are most receptive to thought; in the afternoon, many experience the need to mobilize to reenergize, sparking creativity.
From 6am to 10am and 6pm to 10pm, it is said our kapha energy governs the manner in which we show up in the world. Kapha works in relation with earth and water, countering vata’s airiness with a sense of grounding.
Pitta energy runs its course through our systems during the hours of 10am to 2pm, and 10pm to 2am. Related to fire and water, waking pitta hours are correlated with high productivity. During the wee hours of the evening, typically the mind is resting, but the internal organs are vigorously cleansing the body, preparing us for the next day to come.
A Path to Balance
When the body and mind are in balance with these cycles, we experience a sense of contentment in all areas of our lives. As represented by the changes in even a matter of hours, the human condition is not static. It is not uncommon for one of the doshas to dominate at different points in time, regardless of where the dosha cycles suggest we should be landing on the energetic spectrum. We do not remain in a place of equanimity without putting forth awareness and effort, but it is possible to achieve balance through establishing a dinacharya routine.
Dinacharya practices help to establish congruence in our vata, kapha, and pitta energies.
When instability encroaches into our energetic cyclicality, we may feel noticeably “off” and over time, unbalanced physical, mental, and emotional bodies breed disease and dis-ease. Benefits of dinacharya can be experienced almost immediately, and can serve vitality for decades when adhered to properly.
Components of dinacharya can be incorporated into virtually any time of day, and can be quite extensive; according to Aryuvedic Physician Vasant Lad, there are nineteen steps composing a proper morning awakening of the physical and mental bodies alone. Many traditional dinacharya practices applicable to specific hours of the day can be adapted and become inputs to forming a consistent self-ritual.
Wake Before the Sun
This vata time of day is believed to be one of quiet connection. Once the sun is in the sky, the clock of Ayurveda ticks to kapha, signaling it is time to move and be productive. Waking earlier than you usually may begin the day offers a chance to connect energetically with self, rather than your inbox first thing.
Because the morning boasts fresh energy and serenity, this segment of the day has the potential to serve as an undistracted platform for meditation. Perhaps your sit consists of a few quiet moments, or maybe lasts a bit longer. Returning to a mindfulness practice at the end of the day allows for you to come full circle with your day’s experience, and is effective in supporting more restful sleep.
Finding time to be active throughout the day is important for maintaining balance and focus, as well as setting the stage for fulfilling the day’s requirements with ample energy.
In the morning, support the waking of your body in a way you enjoy, whether it be taking a brisk walk around your neighborhood, working with kriya, hitting the mat for Pilates, or devoting time to your yoga practice to energize or unfold slowly.
The afternoon is a prime time to get the blood flowing. After your largest meal of the day is consumed at lunchtime, give yourself at least 10-15 minutes for a walk or afternoon stretch to promote blood flow, ensuring the body and mind stay fired and inspired. Evening calls for gentler movement, such as a yin yoga practice, so that sleep may be gracefully eased in to.
This practice has been an aspect of dinacharya for thousands of years, and involves swooshing oil, such as sunflower or sesame, around your gums and teeth for 15-20 minutes each day, typically in the morning. Oil pulling is effective in removing toxins and parasites, which reside in the nooks and crannies between teeth, around the tongue, and in the gums.
These organisms not only affect the outer appearance of our pearly whites, but are often the root of inflammation and infection occurring throughout the body.
To reap the benefits of a brighter smile, clearer sinuses and skin, and healthier immune system, simply drink a glass of water upon waking, melt 1-3 tablespoons of an oil of your choice either on the stove or in your mouth, gargle for 20 minutes (this can be done while preparing breakfast or lunch, reading emails, etc.), spit, and rinse with water.
Known as Abhyanga in Ayurveda, self-massaging is often practiced as a component of dinacharya in either or both the morning and the evening. According to Sandhiya Ramaswamy, regarded Ayurvedic chef and educator, abhyanga, when performed daily, enhances balance in the energy bodies and overall longevity, calms the nervous system, softens skin, and tones muscle, amongst other benefits. Using warm oil, start at your scalp and work your way down the body using your fingertips and palms. Once applied, allow for the oil to marinate into your skin for five to ten minutes, and follow with a warm bath or shower.
This Ayurvedic technique requires a very small time investment, but pays greatly in its dividends. Using silk gloves or a dry skin brush, start at the feet and work your way up to the crown of your head. According to Dr. John Doulliard, director of LifeSpa.com, a leading resource in Ayurvedic wellness, brushing toward the direction of your heart drains the lymphatic system, and can help the body move waste more quickly and stimulate the burning of fat. This technique can be practiced preceding self-massage for added benefit.
Morning and evening meals should be light in comparison to your lunchtime consumption. Afternoon is the time of day most appropriate for intake of your heaviest meal, for several reasons. The digestive system has fully awakened, and the body has ample time to break down what has been consumed without interrupting your awakening or your sleep cycle. Agni, or digestive energy, is in full force; in order to keep the fire roaring, it is necessary to fuel adequately.
According to Monica Bloom, author of “In Your Elements: A Blooming Ayurvedic Guide to Creating Your Best Life,” a warm, vegetable-filled plate should be consumed at this time. Acknowledging this may not be ideal for meals eaten at work in terms of preparation, Monica suggests preparing a large batch of healthful dishes at night, eating a small portion for dinner, and bringing the majority on the go with you the next day to save both time and hunger pangs.
Head to Bed Early
It is recommended to begin your evening ritual around 8:30pm to ensure a restful transition into your evening rest. Unwinding with a book or a bath serves as a palate cleanser between the busyness of the day and the tranquility of bedtime. Establishing an early bedtime initiative for your self can also prevent late-night, metabolism-hindering snacking; around 10pm, pitta energy kicks back in which, when awake can spark hunger, when resting allows for full-body restoration.
The above are only a select few options on the full menu of dinacharya offerings. Taste one, taste all offerings; Director of Ayurveda Programs at Shankara Ayurveda Spa Medha Garud notes that the adoption of two dinacharya-inspired changes can make a difference when enveloped into your day-to-day routine. The implementation of a personal dinacharya ritual can serve as powerful and effective insurance for physical, mental, and emotional congruence and observance.