Everyday Ayurveda by Bhaswati Bhattacharya
Some dos and don’ts
- Bathing in the morning is ideal.
- Factory laborers and farmworkers may want to bathe after their shift before eating in the midday or on resting at the day’s end.
- Health workers and cooks should start work with a clean body and shower again after work.
- Avoid very long showers, which dehydrates the skin and destroys the skin’s microbiome.
- Special occasions requiring bathing include going to a marriage, returning from a death ceremony, going to a temple or music concert.
Ayurveda does not specify one particular time of day for the bath, but it specifies a checklist and order for tasks. The optimal time of day varies by individual, weather, work, availability of water at a tolerable or warm temperature, activities planned after the bath, meals, travel, puja, visitors and distance from the bathing water.
Bathing in water increases the appetite and is used to kindle the gut fire in people who have poor appetite or need extra fire to burn overweight or in the summer when appetite is generally low. When water is poured on the whole body, the pores of the skin close and force the heat from the blood vessels of the limbs and outer layers to move inside into deeper spaces in the trunk. Generally, the heat goes to the center of the body near the gut. Many know their own experience of taking a shower and suddenly feeling an increase in hunger.
If the person is healthy and has a long day ahead, Ayurveda advises rising before dawn and bathing immediately to wake up and get started. After bath rituals, the person is clean and ready for the day.
Yogis commonly bathe in the river at dawn as it frees them to sit for long mornings of pranayama, meditation and puja. Office workers and professionals who must spend a majority of the day away from home will shower early, as they work near strangers and must be clean and smell good. Factory laborers and farmworkers, on the other hand, often need not look clean in the morning, but will want to bathe after a first shift of dirty work before eating in the midday or on resting at the day’s end. Doctors and cooks should start work with a clean body; they often encounter contamination and shower twice a day—before and after work.
People who work at home have more options. In the winter, many people wait until midday when the air temperature is warmer and more comfortable. In most of the world, where hot water is not readily available, waiting until midday when the sun heats a pail or tank of water is the usual practice during the cool seasons. In the West, where hot water is always available and plentifully wasted, bath time can be anytime, and many rituals are made to enjoy the bathtub, including hot tubs, bubble baths, bathhouses, pool parties and romantic dinners in the tub. People take very long showers without consideration of wasting water, and how it dehydrates the skin and destroys the skin’s microbiome.
There are also special occasions which require bathing. Any special ceremony, such as a marriage, returning from a death ceremony, going to the place of worship, going to a music concert, and specific days of the year require a bath. Bathing after eclipses is also recommended. The logic is that the electromagnetic shield in the atmosphere is altered during the change of rays of the moon and sun; ions and radiation are not the usual quantity and quality. Bathing after an eclipse allows water to neutralize all waves and particles that may have affected the skin and body.
More occasions require the washing of hands, feet, face, such as returning from touching any animals, coming inside from the garden, returning from the market, returning from a place of worship, or coming home from school.
The same clothes worn before bathing should never be worn afterward.
While Ayurveda seems unmanageable with so many variables determining each instruction, several constants allow universal application of its principles. The consistency of Ayurveda lies in its prescriptions aligning a person with the laws of nature as summarized by the principles of vāta, pitta, kapha, āma and agni. Each prescription is designed to alter imbalances by first analyzing a patient’s nature and then reducing vāta, pitta and kapha based on the gunas of the prescribed substance, activity or medicine.