Using herbs both internally and topically can minimize cycles of stiffness and pain after yoga class and even prevent reinjury. Injuries caused by a hatha yoga practice are usually minor and limited to simple ligament sprains and muscle strains, with the occasional slip, fall, or forced adjustment. The most common injuries are caused by repetitive strain or overstretching and occur at the wrists, shoulders, neck, along the spine, and at the sacroiliac joint, hamstrings, and knees. If not addressed, these minor setbacks can have a long-term impact on the balance of alignment within the practice.
Salai guggul, Kapitthaparni, and Bola are three related plant sap resins used internally and topically to reduce pain, strengthen bones and joints, and cleanse the blood of toxins that accumulate around injury sites.
White willow is a Native American remedy and natural source of salicylic acid, the forerunner of aspirin, but without the blood-thinning and stomach-irritating side effects. It also improves mobility in sore or creaky joints. Notoginseng, a relative of Panax ginseng, is known for its analgesic effect on injuries.
These herbs do not remedy the acute, aggravated phase of the injury but instead strengthen the integrity of the tissues and support a more complete recovery. They also are ideal for yoga practitioners who have ongoing vulnerabilities in the joints. Remember, for mild to moderate injuries, the combination of topical and internal botanical remedies is meant to complement the conventional wisdom of resting and icing.