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, 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.