Ayurveda, being a health philosophy rather than herbal "pathy", concerns itself with whole life style. In India, day starts with bath. It appears that desire to take bath is generated in healthy body itself. See how birds, cows, buffaloes enjoy bath in nature.
Bath not only supports healing of several skin diseases, but when taken in the morning, invigorates, increases digestive agni and reduces drowsiness, perspiration, thirst and inflammation too. Hence, it should be counted as a tonic.
Most of the advertisements for toilet soaps and cosmetics show a beautiful model bathing and using the product. And Bollywood romantic movie remains incomplete without the actor or actresses seen drenched in rain or bathing in swimming pool! Bathing charges body with both vitality and vigor, cleansing both body and mind. The most enjoyable time for a baby is when she is given a warm oil bath. Her longest sleep is after the feed following bath. Many elders in India take oil bath to beautify and shape body. Other than making skin silky smooth, the oil massage increases blood and lymph circulation too! If one takes an oil massage, follows it with exercise and then take hot water bath, it makes whole day happy.
Many in coastal cities need to take bath in evening too, to cleanse the perspiration and its odor of the whole day. If one is cursed to travel in suburban train of Metros, free steam sauna is a bonus. The perspiration odor, if suppressed by deodorants or antiperspirants, the penalty was discussed in a recent post on ayurvedaonine. Best way is to take an evening bath. Though hot water bath takes care of fatigue, Ayurveda recommends cold water bath, which gives several health benefits. Even if you use hot water for bathing as it suits your constitution better, do not pour it over head, as it causes hair loss, reduces glow in the eyes. Glow in the eyes represents strength of all dhatus. And all the lifestyle factors which raise pitta (hot, spicy and salty foods, excess sex, sleeping late, moving in hot sunlight etc) cause eye glow to reduce. Shivering after cold water bath reduces and body becomes warm after sometime. Author has seen people at least taking a holy dip in cold water of glaciers or Manas sarovar near Kailas peak.
There are instances where bath should not be taken. For instance, when suffering from fever, diarrhea, indigestion, cold, gas in the stomach, tinnitus, blocked ear etc, it is better not to take bath. Bath after meals can affect digestion hence better avoided. The sick can be sponged instead, but it is essential to keep the skin clean so that pores remain open and skin is able to perspire/breath.
Blinded by high pitch advertising in media, you may be tempted to use commercial soaps. The discussion on essences, cosmetic cleansing chemicals and moisturizers in soaps can be carried out separately. Mixing animal fats or the derivatives is also disturbing environmental harmony. Your eyes will really water if you see how testing of several cosmetics is done using mice, rabbits etc. Those poor creatures nee to loose their eyes, so that our eyes look
The best Ayurvedic soap is the powder of amalaki. The Bengal gram floor can also be used to increase the beauty of the skin. A mixture of Bengal gram floor, green gram floor, honey, lemon, amalaki powder, turmeric (special variety termed aamba haldi in India). Sandal powder and lastly milk or cream separated from milk all are the ingredients of a soap/paste. If oil is used for massage previous to bath, use buttermilk instead of milk. This Ayurvedic paste is very useful for babies. The lingering smell of sandalwood makes mind very calm. Use of hot water in which amalaki powder is boiled earlier is a special medicated water to wash hair. It stops hair loss, increases hair length and makes them smooth, silky and retains the black color for a long time. Longevity is bonus in addition.
Another recipe is taking Vacha, Coriander seed, turmeric, rose petals, Daru Haridra, Amalaki, Lodhar and Sarasau (an oilseed consumed in U.P.) all items equal in weight in powder form, say 10 grams, and add 100 grams green gram floor. Mix everything and keep in an airtight box. At bath time, take a little powder, add a little water and make a paste. Apply the paste on body with little friction and wait 5-10 minutes. Wash with cold or look warm water afterwards. Use a cotton towel or cloth to rub and dry the body. If you use this regularly, within six to eight weeks you will start noticing skin becoming silky and smooth. A new glow will start appearing. The problems such as itching, excess perspiration will reduce significantly.
Those who can not make these recipes, you can use a mud soap. The soap is made by most Gaoushalas using Multani mitti (Fullers earth), neem, camphor, Tulsi. The soap has no fragrance or foam. Clears the pores and flow of perspiration, for a healthy skin which can breath oxygen. Our skin breaths, as also eyes. Hence Contact lenses are recommended to be removed during night, and to be worn only outside rather than all 24 hours.
Whereas cold water bath in winter season can increase Kapha and Vata, while hot water bath in summer can vitiate Pitta disturbing equilibrium and pH of blood. Conversely, taking cold water bath in summer will pacify Raktapitta and hot water bath in winter will reduce Vata and Kapha. Those suffering from joint pains and
stiffnesses please note.
Taking bath in open is more beneficial. In India, you will notice masses bathing together in holy rivers. Lakes, rivers or just flowing water is considered more healthy for bathing. Since water is returned to source, environment is also preserved. Bathing in sea is believed to be taking care of allergies, skin diseases, mainly due to minerals in sea water. Bathing in hot water springs was already discussed in Iron rules series.
Regular bathing increases health of mind too. Better character will be molded by regular bathing. Water gives us generousness of heart. Hence in India, bathing is considered essential before most of religious ceremonies such as Puja, marriage etc. Arrange picnics where natural streams, waterfalls, river or beach is located and see how successful it turns out. If you choose full moon day, the success is doubled.