In winter we seldom sweat, which leads to the skin becoming dry and scaly. We try to tackle this by using moisturiser, but it is a losing battle against the imposing combination of cold and dry weather.
Ayurveda gives specific tips on the dos and donts for therapeutic perspiration, called swedana. Sweat is induced using different techniques, which should be preceded by an oil massage. The uses of swedana are many the fatty tissues in the body get mobilised, it conditions the body to cleanse itself by liquefying and facilitating the expulsion of toxins and also helps reduce pain. Swedana can be achieved by an external source of dry/wet heat or internal heat generated by the body.
Some simple techniques to induce perspiration are as follows:
Perspiration using external heat (dry/wet): Steam, sauna, exposure to sun.
Perspiration using internal heat: Exercise, using heavy blankets or thick wraps.
Sudation for a particular area of the body: Taking facial steam or poultice in a painful area.
Wet heat: Steam enclosures, warm water baths, jacuzzi.
Dry heat (not recommended in winter): Sauna and walking in the sun.
A cool wet towel or cotton pads should be placed on the eyes, cardiac region and the genitals for protection from excessive heat.
Ayurvedic centres offer treatments like patrapinda swedana where leaves of herbs like vitex, calatropis and castor are processed and bundled into a bag and dipped into warm herbal oils and padded all over the body. This is used to treat arthritis and myalgia. Perspiration also enhances peripheral circulation.
Another technique known as shashtika shali pinda swedana uses a special kind of rice processed with herbs, milk and other medications bundled into bags and padded over the body. This treats degenerative conditions of muscles, nerves and stunted growth in children.
Swedana is to be avoided in summer; after consuming alcohol; when you are bleeding (including menstruation); if you have diabetes; if you are pregnant; are suffering from jaundice or gout; when you are angry or anxious.
After this therapy, individuals are advised to rest, avoid cold, take warm baths and get adequate fresh air. It is better to avoid a cold-water jacuzzi after steam/sauna. Drinking a glass of warm water would further enhance the effects. The session is most effective in the morning when you are on an empty stomach. You should also have a glass of warm water before starting the session.
C.M. Pradyumna is director of medicine at The Vedic Village. Send your queries to firstname.lastname@example.org