A good bath will always elevate your spirits when you feel down or sluggish. Most of us shower to get rid of sweat and dirt and to feel refreshed. However, Ayurveda looks at bathing as medicinal, providing several benefits. Apparently, the ancient medicine system elaborates much more on the dos and don’ts of bathing.
The most obvious benefits of bathing – it refreshes you both physically and mentally, awakens your body from sluggishness, and prepares you for the day ahead.
But, Ayurveda sees bathing as a therapeutic ritual; when done every day properly, it can give plenty of health benefits.
Read on to know more about Ayurveda’s advice on Bathing, one of the daily rituals of Dinacharya.
As you know, Ayurveda is almost 3000 years old, and some of the suggestions may not be completely relevant today. For example, Ayurveda suggests bathing in water bodies such as rivers and ponds, which is impossible today. Our bathrooms are confined to a few hundred square feet, and a bath in larger water bodies can only be occasional.
However, what we can indeed practice, we may do for sustained health. Before elaborating on bathing, it is good to know a tad about Dinacharya.
Why follow Dinacharya?
Dinacharya is a list of practices Ayurveda suggests following every day, and is an excellent way to jumpstart your day! Some of them are waking up before sunrise, cleaning your teeth, clearing your bowels, oil massage, bathing, etc.
Dinacharya helps maintain your health and prevent diseases. The practices ensure that the bodily systems work properly, including proper digestion (effective digestive fire, Agni), maximum absorption of nutrients from food, efficient removal of ama (toxins), and maintaining a balance in Tridosha, which help keep health problems at bay.
Practising Dinacharya regularly also maintains good mental health, thus providing you peace, happiness, and satisfaction.
Snana (Bath) of Dinacharya
Snana or Bath is one of the rituals of Dinacharya and an important one too.
Ayurvedic texts, including Charaka Samhita, Astanga Hridhayam, etc., talk in length about bathing, its importance in health, and how to do it for maximum benefits.
The benefits of Snana (bath) include,
- get rid of Sweda (Sweat) and keep the body clean
- energise the body for the day’s work
- rejuvenate and energise the mind
- remove fatigue
- enhance virility
- increase longevity
- improve Ojas (energy)
- improve skin health
- improve eyesight
A bath not only cleanses the external body but also vitalises the internal organs. In particular, a bath benefits the heart, skin and eyes and kindles the digestive fire. So your appetite and digestion improve. The skin becomes healthy, looks shiny, and is void of skin problems like itching.
Also, a bath improves the sex libido in a person.
How to do a Snana?
1. Use adequate water to clean your body and soul
Bathing cleans not only your body but also your soul. After a good bath, your senses are rejuvenated, and your soul is elevated, ready to start the day with energy.
An ayurvedic text notes that a person must Snana like Gajendra (Bathe like an elephant), which possibly means that you must use adequate water to clean yourself.
Make sure every part of the body is sufficiently touched by water. You may shower or immerse in a bath. But, ensure you use enough water to make your bathing complete.
2. Abhyanga, Oil massage
Abhyanga, an oil massage before Snana, is highly recommended. Sesame oil is the most preferred oil. However, you can use coconut oil or almond oil.
The massage increases blood circulation, improves flexibility and strength of joints, stimulates nerves, lubricates joints, and assists in removing toxins from the body.
Further, Abhyanga stimulates internal organs such as thyroid glands and can improve their function. And being a lubricant, the oil is excellent for your skin, making them soft, supple, and radiant.
Start massaging from your head, working down your face, ears, cheeks, chin, neck, chest, abdomen, hands, butt, legs, and foot.
Use slow, gentle, circular, clockwise motions while massaging your body. And use downward strokes when massaging the hands and legs. Further, massage behind your ears to ease blocked lymph nodes and help lymphatic fluid drainage.
After the Abhyanga, wait 10 to 20 minutes to let the oil seep in and do its magic.
3. Use herbal powder
After the oil massage, you can rub herbal powder over your body slowly and firmly before washing with water. Widely used Ayurvedic herbal Snana powder contains turmeric, triphala powder, and gram flour. These ingredients have therapeutic effects on your body, such as reducing stress, revitalising nerves, and increasing joints and muscle strength. In addition, the Snana powder hugely improves skin health, making it soft, supple, and shiny.
Traditionally, various herbs and pulses were ground to make Snana powder for bathing. Some of the ingredients used in the herbal bath powder are:
- Besan (Bengal gram)
- Moong dal
- Turmeric (Kasturi manjal)
- Rose petals
- Neem leaves
You may also try herbal products available in your local stores.
Don’t have access to either? No worries, you can bathe with your usual soap or body wash.
4. The temperature of the water
Ayurveda is quite specific about the temperature of the water. Hence, bathing in cold water and warm water has its own benefits.
Acharya Charaka mentions that cold water improves eyesight, stimulates digestive Agni, and improves blood circulation. Also, bathing in cold water is a kickstart for the day as it eliminates laziness. However, bathing in cold water during winter may aggravate Kapha and Vata Dosha.
A warm water bath is beneficial for a fatigued person. You may opt for a warm bath when you,
- Suffer from cold
- Have physical soreness due to physical or mental stress
- Live in extreme cold condition
A warm water bath increases the strength of an individual and lowers Kapha and Vata. However, hot water should not be used on the head but only for your body.
As you may know, every person’s body is a constitution of three doshas, Pitta, Vata, and Kapha. There may be one dosha predominant than the other two.
According to Ayurveda, a Pitta dominant person can bathe in warm water. But are you not sure about your predominant dosha? Then, you can follow some general thumb rules as follows:
- Bathe only in cold water unless you live in extremely cold conditions.
- Never use hot water to wash your head and eyes. Using so may impair your eyesight.
- While bathing in warm water, move upwards from your feet to your neck.
- A cold water bath is from the head to your feet.
- Opt for lukewarm water when bathing in the evening.
5. Is it time for a bath?
Ayurvedic acharyas have mentioned the time to bathe in several medical texts.
It is good to bathe twice daily. One before sunrise, after you clean your teeth and clear the bowels. And the other is around sunset, preferably with lukewarm water to relieve stress and relax your muscles and nerves.
Also, bathe with an empty stomach in the morning. A bath at any other time of the day should be at least two hours after a meal.
6. Do not rush
Bathing in a hurry would not give you the intended benefits. Instead, Ayurveda recommends you bathe mindfully. Take time to massage your body with oil, rub herbal powder on your body parts, and wash well to feel fresh inside and outside.
However, you must not stay in a bath for a long time, either.
7. After a bath
It is best to avoid eating for at least 45 minutes after a bath.
8. Who must avoid a shower/bath?
A person suffering from indigestion, vomiting, acute diarrhoea, cold, fever, bronchitis, sinusitis, eye infection, and throat infection should avoid a bath.
Bathing is not just another simple routine! A nicely and regularly done Snana (bath) improves your eyesight, makes internal organs healthy, boosts digestive health, improves skin health, reduces stress, increases joint and muscle strength, lubricates and reduces stiffness in joints, stimulates nerves, improves blood circulation, eases lymphatic drainage, eliminates toxins, and energises your spirit. So, a good bath is indeed necessary to sprint through the day with joy and vigour!