Auvaiyaar (ஔவையார்) - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avvaiyar one of the greatest philosopher-poets from Tamil nadu has created many works and one of them is Aathichudi (ஆத்திசூடி), in which she urges us "சனி நீராடு" which means "Take oil bath on Saturdays". Her words are always attributed with divinity and I just want you to wonder along with me as to what did she find so useful that she requested us to take Oil bath on Saturdays, among others. That sounds silly? But not when you complete reading this blog - hopefully!
I am not sure about your childhood but I can vouch that taking oil bath is one of the hated things during my childhood but neither my parents nor my grandma had any consideration for our objections and they used to force us. The way it used irritate our eyes was the prime reason why we hated it so much.
So what is oil bath? Coconut / herbal / Til Oil (traditionally its Gingelly Oil - நல்லெண்ணெய்) is applied all over the body especially on Saturdays and you take bath with Shikai powder (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acacia_concinna). This was a tradition in most of the families I know and was a strict regimen.
Lets looks at some of the basics and then its benefits.
- Ayurvedic view of life is that every being is a unique combination of 5 elements (Space, Air, Fire, Water and Earth). These 5 elements combine to form three doshas (Vata - Combination of Air and Space , Pitta - Combination of Fire and Air and Kapha - Combination of Earth and Water). You can google for more. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dosha
- Each living organism is a unique combination of this and your unique combinations are classified under 10 categories. You can find out what is your combination. (This is just a sample http://www.drsanjeevsood.com/TridoshaTest/index.html)
- The 3 gunas (Rajas, Tamas, Satvic), the 3 doshas as above, the 6 tastes and the 12 months are all interrelated and you can again google to find out this interesting correlation.
- Disease according to Ayurveda is primarily because of the imbalance in any of the 3 doshas.
- Thiruvalluvar had a gem of a Kural which explained this: "மிகினும் குறையினும் நோய் செய்யும் நூலோர் வளி முதலா எண்ணிய மூன்று". This means any increase / decrease of the three doshas create disease according to experts / doctors.
- Hence it is very important as to how you keep them in balance. You can keep Vata under control by taking laxatives / purgatives regularly aka "Virechana" in Ayurveda. This cleans the large intestine and colon. Recommended twice a year.
- You can keep Pitta under control by emetic means. Ayurveda prescribes "Vaaman dhauti" and this cleans the stomach, small intestine and the esophagus. Recommended once a month.
- You can control Kapha by taking Oil bath. Kapha is the water component in the body and is seated in the head, neck region. But why is controlling Kapha more important than Vata or Pitta that the great poet found it necessary to mention it in her works?
- Probably for the reason that the body has an inherent mechanism to create a balance for Pitta or Vata either through occasional or event based diarrhea or puking, but it does not have a mechanism to eliminate Kapha, at least not so effective.
- A human being when he is born is grown by the quality of vata (till the age of 40) and between 40 to 80 he is protected by the quality of pitta and then he is killed by Kapha (after 80 years... this is assuming a human being would live for 120 years.). Hence balancing Kapha is very important for longer life.
- If you notice the best of the treatments for anti-ageing or healing lies in ensuring that the effects of gravity on the body is reversed or neutralized. Remember Sirasasana is the king of asanas. Blood which always flows easily to the lower parts of the body but Oil bath ensure that blood flows easily to your head. This is a great boon to people who can't perform the head stand pose.
- Maintaining a cool head is not just about the EQ of an individual but also has an impact on health, ageing and even as to how long we live. Oil bath obviously cools the head, body and eyes, restores youth, vigor in an individual and also stops early balding or loss of hair. Increase in body heat is damaging for many of the internal organs and hence Oil bath is a boon as it acts as a thermostat.
- Eyes are the seat of the sun (per Ayurveda) and excess Kapha is the enemy of good vision. Blood to the eyes flow through very thin vessels and when the body / head is hot the blood flow is constricted to the eyes and hence the vision is affected leading to sore eyes or burning sensation in the eyes. Watering from eyes during the bath is good for the eyes though it is very irritating.
- Men should take bath on Wednesdays or Saturdays only before 8 AM. Females should follow this on Tuesdays and Fridays only.
- The don'ts are as follows:
- You are not supposed to take bath on other days and may lead to cold and cough including deficiency in eyesight if you take bath on Sundays.
- Never take bath after 10AM even on all the days including the prescribed days.
- Don't sleep in the afternoon and avoid having sex on this day.
- Avoid eating cold items on that day.
- This is generally not advised for people who have sinus or frequent cold attacks. Check out with your doctor before doing this.
- Traditionally they add lot of herbs to the oil and heat it. You can buy this preparation and heat the oil or use pure Til or coconut oil. Allow the oil to cool down to room temperature before applying this.
- One Siddhar in his poem says the secret for living for 120 years. "நாள் இரண்டு, வாரம் இரண்டு, மாதம் இரண்டு , வருடம் இரண்டு."
"Twice Daily, Twice Weekly, Twice Monthly , Twice Yearly"
Here twice weekly is asking you to take Oil bath two times a week.
The number of life style related disorders and diseases are on the rise and this is primarily attributed to us either ignoring or staying ignorant to our healthy ways of life which has been traditionally followed. We are fine to spend Rs. 1000/-+ for an Ayurvedic massage without understanding its benefits. It is important that we are rational in our approach to reject traditions which has been followed for long and ignored in the name of modern lifestyle, 21st century civilization or as superstition.
The reason I wrote about this is today is it is a tradition to take Oil bath on the day of Diwali before sunrise and if you not taken bath yesterday, I hope you would start this from the coming Friday / Saturday.
Oil bath keeps you cooler, younger, better invigorated, with better vision, without baldness, increases your life span and as a well oiled machine :).
If you are ignorant as i had been for long then this blog may help. I would be happy if you decide to do this to your kids and inculcate this habit and continue the tradition. Under the pretext of superstition or life style definitions let us not deprive the future generation of the benefits of our traditional secrets. We have the responsibility to pass them on.