Benefits of Snana
In the modern world we tend to think of a shower as nothing more than a hygiene practice, something that we just do every as part of our non-negotiable daily routine, but is there more too it than that? Morning shower vs evening shower, hot shower vs cold shower, showering before or after a meal... do these aspects matter or is it purely personal preference and what fits best with your life? Ayurveda provides some very specific shower wisdom, lets explore it.
Ayurveda, one of the oldest medical systems, suggests the benefits of a daily Snana or shower has more impact on our overall wellbeing and health than we realise.
I grew up in the country and we were often outside all day in the garden or with animals, so from an early age we developed the routine of an evening shower to wash away the remnants of the day before climbing into our nice clean sheets. To this day I still really enjoy an evening bath or shower however Ayurveda emphasises the importance of a morning shower as it is a sacred act that is physically and spiritually cleansing. According to Ayurveda the shower is a is a Nithyakarma meaning 'everyday action' that needs to be carried out to ensure health and prosperity.
The shower strengthens Agni or digestion, Improves the cleanliness and freshness of the body by removing dirt, dust and sweat. A shower is invigorating and energising, which is perfect for the beginning of a new day and it also increases libido and strength. A shower is great for the colour and complexion as circulation increases to the cells, wastes are removed and nutrition is delivered. Also by applying oils prior to the shower, Abyanga, this protects and nourishes the skin while also feeding and supporting the beneficial bacteria on the surface of the skin. The skin is our first line of defence and important for our immune health.
Bathing is purifying, life promoting, a destroyer of fatigue, physically removes sweat and dirt, is resuscitative and a promoter of ojas or divine energy”
~ Charaka Samhita – Sutrasthana shloka on Dinacharya
Always eat after you shower
Shower increases circulation to all the extremities (therefore reducing circulation to the digestive system) is is not recommended to have a shower immediately after the meal as this will slow the digestion of the meal. Ayurveda suggests having a shower 30-45mins before the meal as this will increase the appetite and mean that digestion will not be interrupted. Good strong Agni or digestion is so important for overall health, slow or impaired or interrupted digestion can result in Ama or undigested fermenting food in the digestive track which is best avoided.
Further to that Ayurveda recommends going to the toilet, cleaning the sense organs and having your morning shower before engaging in any other activities such as eating, meditation or work.
Hot shower vs Cool Shower
Cool showers are recommended to balance Pitta conditions, those with too much fire or heat in their body, and hot showers are beneficial for those with Vata or Kapha prominent in their constitution as both of these doshas are cool in nature and warmth helps to restore balance.
One thing that is interesting to note is Ayurveda suggests not to use hot water on the head, the head should always be kept cool. Hot water directly on the head can damage the hair, often resulting in hair loss (high pitta) and eye problems (a seat of Pitta). Whenever I shower I alway stand so the hot water falls from my shoulders down, this is recommended, and use warm to cool water on the head when for washing hair.
I find it interesting that hairdressers often suggest rinsing the hair in cool water to strengthen the hair.
To further enhance this cooling effect on the head, and balance the Pitta dosha I like to add a mix of Peppermint, Rosemary and Lavender essential oils in a coconut oil (cooling oil) base and apply to the crown of my head a few mins before my shower. You can also add these essential oils to your Shampoo or Conditioner for a refreshing, cooling scalp sensation.
Kapha is most prominent in the mornings between 6am and 10am. Kapha is the dosha that has the qualities of being heavy, dense and static... have you ever noticed when you wake up early you feel light and energetic and when you sleep in you feel more tired? This is why, sleep is Kapha increasing because it is heavy and still in nature and these qualities are amplified during the Kapha time. Try to rise earlier and if you wake up late and need to balance the heaviness of Kapha add some uplifting, invigorating essential oils to your shower such as Peppermint, Lemon or R.C (an invigorating blend of eucalyptus, pine and peppermint), and allow the steamy aromas to wake you up and get you moving.
So to wrap up morning shower is sacred and recommended first up, if you like an evening shower have a quick one but make the morning shower your daily ritual. Always shower on an empty stomach and don't use hot water on the head. Ayurveda has a very specific daily routine called the Dinacharya which promotes health, vitality and immunity. What we do everyday matters more than what we do every once in a while... so develop a healthy routine and treat yourself from time to time!
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