On April 7th I flew to Goa, India, to practice Ashtanga yoga with one of my beloved teachers John Scott. I was also turning 50 this month, and thought what better place to spend your birthday than on the other side of the world practicing yoga in the mother land, right? It was a gift to myself and one that I had been planning for almost a year.
Things never go as planned though, do they. I ended up fracturing my big toe in 2 places on my second day there, and instead of suffering from diarrhea like everyone else, I was actually painfully constipated! Definitely not what I expected.
How do you deal with digestive pain and physical pain all at the same time?
Here’s what I learned from some wise Ayurvedic doctors that I was fortunate enough to meet:
A. Treat the condition at the source – so in the case of constipation, treat the source —> in other words, treat the colon. This meant I needed to do oil enemas and lubricate the colon since constipation usually means you’re all dried up and/or dehydrated. I was told to use 60 ml of sesame or coconut oil and administer this oil as an enema everyday for a week.
I am providing instructions on how to administer an oil enema. This is so useful for anyone who suffers from constipation (Vata Dosha aggravated symptoms):
An oil enema is the insertion of a small volume of unctuous substance into the rectum. Oil enemas, otherwise known as sneha basti are commonly used in Ayurvedic therapy as part of a complex cleansing therapy called panchakarma.
An oil enema can provide the following benefits:
lubrication of the rectum and colon
preparation for higher-volume enemas
relief from gas and bloating
softening of hard stools
relief of constipation
reduction of other symptoms due to excess vata dosha
a gentle complement to your cleansing regime
An oil enema is an effective alternative for individuals who are unable to administer high-volume enemas: pregnant women, the elderly, or people with weakness due to illness.
How to Give Yourself an Oil Enema
An oil enema can be a little more messy than a regular enema, but following the advice below will help to reduce the risks of spills and leaks, and help you to get the most benefit from your oil enema.
Buy the Appropriate Equipment
Using the right equipment is very important for giving yourself an oil enema without the mess. First of all, an enema bag is much too large for the volume of oil you will need, and it will take a much longer time to clean it afterwards. But, most importantly, if you use a bag you will not be able to achieve the appropriate pressure for injecting the oil all the way into to colon. You need a syringe to inject oil; since oil is an unctuous substance it will not flow as water does through enema tubing.
There are a 2 types of syringes available:
enema syringeBulb Syringe – Bulb syringes range in volume from 1oz – 26oz (30-780ml). You will need nothing larger than an 8oz size (240ml) for an oil enema. These syringes are easy to find, however, they can get a little messy and may not be the best choice. Because the bulb self inflates when you release pressure from it, if you do not maintain a firm grip on the bulb for the entire time it is in your rectum, you will draw oil from your rectum back into the syringe. This means that you will end up with less oil in the colon than you were hoping for (you can’t squeeze it back in because then you will also inject a fair amount of air). Also, along with the oil, the bacteria and matter from your rectum will be drawn into the syringe. That is not at all sanitary, as these bulbs are difficult to clean inside.
You may not have problems using a smaller sized bulb syringe, but the larger the bulb the more difficult it will be. To make it easier to use, lay in a position where both of your hands can reach the enema syringe, or get assistance from another person.
Standard Syringe – A larger sized standard syringe is preferable to a bulb syringe, because with this type of syringe, once the oil is injected into your rectum the syringe will not draw it back in. With a standard syringe you also do not have the same risk of injecting air into the colon as you do with bulb syringes. These are easier than the bulbs to clean and sanitize for reuse. One problem with this type of syringe is that they are not designed specifically for enemas; the tip may be rough and is usually not long enough. A work around I have found for this is to just attach the tip from a bulb syringe onto the end of this syringe. A ideal syringe (with an appropriate tip) can be found in panchakarma supply stores in India, but I have yet to find an online source.
Another draw back is that this standard syringe is more difficult to find in a variety of sizes. Sizes ranging from 30- 100ml/cc are common, but you may have difficulty finding this syringe with a larger volume than 100ml. If you want to inject more than 100ml of oil you can either refill the syringe once emptied, or fill more than one syringe and keep it in close reach.
Preparation for Oil Enema
Unlike the larger volume enemas, there is no preparation required for oil enema; however, oil enema should be done at least 1 hour after a meal. Morning or evening is the best time for oil enemas.
Of course you still want to have the basics covered:
make sure the room is warm, because you will probably want to be naked from the waist down
choose a comfortable spot; you will remain there for 30minutes after injection
place some old towels where you be laying to catch any spills or leaks
How much oil should you use?
60-90ml of oil is enough in most cases.
What kind of oil should you use?
You can use any natural oils. Sesame, almond, and castor oil are commonly used. Castor oil is best if you are suffering from severe constipation because it has laxative properties. Use sesame oil if you are the type of person who is prone to becoming cold and use almond oil if you are more prone to becoming hot.
Warm the oil
Heat the oil until lukewarm. The best way to heat the oil is by keeping it in another container which is filled with warm water. You can also heat it over a low temperature on the stove. You will want it fairly warm, to increase it’s absorption in the colon, but make sure you do not heat the temperature above 104 degrees F (40 degrees C); if the oil is too hot it may scald the delicate lining of the rectum; test it with your finger first.
Fill your syringe and make sure everything that you need is in place. You do not want to wait too long before you inject because the oil will cool rather quickly.
Insert and Inject
Before you begin , squeeze the syringe until a small amount of oil comes out; this will get rid of any air in the syringe. If you are using a bulb syringe, maintain your grip and make sure not to let the bulb inflate and draw the air back in.
Lay on your left side with the left leg straight and right knee bent. You can rest your head on your left arm or on a pillow. Your right hand should be able to reach your anus, if it does not, you will need assistance to administer your enema. This position is usually the most comfortable for people.
Lubricate the anus as well as the enema nozzle and gently guide the nozzle into the anus until you have passed the internal anal sphincter (about 3 inches). Remember to relax! Once the nozzle is in, it is time to inject the oil; it will only take a moment to get all of the oil inside the colon.
Leave a small amount of oil in the syringe, if you inject it all into the rectum, you risk injecting air as well. If you take in air, it will become more difficult to retain the enema.
Remove the nozzle and retain the oil
After the enema is administered, slowly remove the nozzle from the rectum and squeeze the muscles of your anus. Retain the oil for 30 minutes. If oil comes out before 30 minutes, then repeat the basti right away; oil which does not remain inside does not serve the purpose.
While you are laying down, massage the abdomen in a counter clockwise direction to move the oil deeper into the intestinal tract.
After you have held the oil enema for 30 minutes you can evacuate in the toilet. If oil does not come out, it is ok, this just means that it was absorbed into the tract. If it is going to come out, it will do so within 9 hours. If 9 hours has passed, then forget about it, it means it was all absorbed.
Be aware of post-enema leaking
Some oil may leak out, even a few hours after the enema; wear a pad or an old pair of underwear that you do not mind getting oil stains on.
Keep in mind, that if you pass some gas after your oil enema, you are likely to pass some oil along with it. Of course, holding intestinal gas is never recommended, so either make sure you are wearing something that will absorb the oil or move to the toilet before expelling the gas.
You will only have to be cautious about the possible leaks on the day which you took your enema; all remaining oil will be absorbed or expelled by the next day.
How often should you take an oil enema?
For maintenance purposes, an oil enema can be performed daily, in doses under 60ml (usually 15-25ml is plenty for daily use). Volumes over 90ml should be done on an as needed basis, for a maximum of 7 consecutive days.
Do not administer oil enema is you are currently suffering from:
cold or flu
consumption of poison
This information was obtained from flowingfree.org
B. Oiling and massaging your scalp to relieve stress is just as important as oiling and massaging your body. Massaging the scalp with coconut oil infused with cooling herbs was a delicious experience. I forgot about the pain in my toe and the stress that I had accumulated over the last couple of months melted away. Even though we were experiencing a heat wave in India, the cooling Ayurvedic herbs infused in coconut oil helped to lower my body temperature and relaxed me in a whole different level.
Here’s a recipe you can make at home to help cool you down as the temperatures go up and to relieve any stress you might feeling (whether caused by trauma or life events):
- 1 3/4 cup coconut oil
- 1 tablespoon neem oil
- 3 tablespoons sesame oil
- 5 tablespoons water
- 1 tablespoon of each of the following herbs: passionflower, licorice, lavender, manjista, Shatavari, and Brahmi (all of these herbs can be found at banyanbotaicals.com).
- Combine all the dried herbs in a pot.
- In a separate pot bring water to a boil. Pour 5 Tablespoons of boiling water on the dried herbs.
- Let herbs hydrate (soak water) for about 2 hours
- Pour all the oils over the hydrates herbs in the pot. Stir well.
- Turn on heat at low so that the oil is warm to slightly hot.
- Continue steeping un-covered at low heat for 2 to 3 hours
- Turn off heat. Let it cool
- Filter to remove all solids
- Heat oil again to remove more moisture for about 30 minutes on low heat
- Let the oil cool and store in a dark colored glass container (non-transparent).
Massage into scalp once the oil has cooled down and leave on for at least 2 hours. If you like, you can massage at night and sleep with oil in your hair for added benefit, and wash out in the morning.
C. Eating fruit in the morning for breakfast during the hot season, will hydrate your body and provide some of the much needed electrolytes that can be lost due to perspiration.
I never ate so much fruit in my life, especially in the morning – and I have to say, my blood sugars where not affected nor was my energy levels or weight. As a matter of fact, it’s exactly what I needed to be able to withstand the 108 degree weather. So as we head into summer and as the temperatures begin to rise, start incorporating more local fresh fruit into your morning diet. Your body will thank you for the extra minerals & natural sugars you’re providing it as you go on about your day.
I hope you’ll enjoy some of these wellness recipes and tips, and I wish all the moms out there a relaxing and nourishing Happy Mother’s Day!