You must have noticed, or may have enjoyed the experience of sitting in, a wooden steam box in the Ayurvedic clinic. Ayurveda doctors may advise steam bath treatment after the Ayurvedic oil massage or in combination with other Panchakarma procedures .
Steam therapy has numerous health benefits. It helps
- To reduce stiffness, cold and all conditions of stagnation
- To provide relief from general body aches
- To reduce inflammation
- To relieve stress
- Fat burning and enhancement of the metabolism
- To ease sore muscles
- Give relief from joint pain
- To beautify the skin
Importantly, Ayurveda recommends that the head should not be heated or exposed to hot temperatures. This is because the major sense organs, including the brain, are located on your head. Therefore, we should protect our head from heat exposure.
So what is the importance of herbal steam bath, how does it work, and why is it part of Panchakarma?
Panchakarma (“Pancha” (five), “Karma” (actions)) is therapeutic procedures of expelling the vitiated Dosha (morbid substance) from your body, senses and mind, that involves several actions or procedures.
Steam bath, a type of sudation/sweating therapy, can be used as a pre-Panchakarma procedure. It not only helps to get rid of the excess massage oil from the skin it has deeper benefits.
For example, if the vitiated Dosha are located in the joints, oil massage helps to make soften and loosen the material and bring it together. Steam therapy following massage makes the Dosha even softer helping to melt and expel the unwanted substance through the skin pores. In other words, steam therapy helps to melt the toxins and prepare for easier expulsion of them from the body.
Balancing Vata Dosha
As you may know, the characteristics of Vata Dosha are dry and cold. To balance vitiated Vata, we need to bring opposite qualities to bear. Oil massage helps to balance the dry quality. Steam bath balances the cold quality. Steam comes from boiling water, and therefore adds moisture; it is a type of moisture therapy. Therefore, the combination of oil massage and steam therapy is the best protocol for balancing Vata.
To reduce stiffness
Joints can be the site where Kapha may become dominant. And Vata is responsible for the movement of joints. During oil massage, it is possible that oil may increase the Kapha in the joints, which can contribute to stiffness and tightness. Steam treatment is given to help balance Kapha in the joints. Steam therapy after massage, in Ayurveda, is recommended for arthritis, degenerative disease and joint pain.
Avoiding steam bath for Pitta condition
Pitta represents heat energy. Steam bath is an example of heat therapy. If someone has a predominantly Pitta nature and also a Pitta imbalance, we need to be mindful with the duration of steam therapy. Steam bath for Pitta dosha is not excluded but special care is given to avoid Pitta aggravation.
Is a steam bath useful after Shirodhara?
Shirodhara is the process of external oleation with a stream of warm oil on the forehead. Mild steam therapy after shirodhara helps in further relaxation of mind and nervous system. The duration of steam bath after the shirodhara is shorter and the head and eyes should not be exposed to heat. You can book for a short steam bath after your shirodhara appointment.