Saturday, 27 December 2014

Healthy Practice > Hot Towel Scrub

With the temperature dropping to 6 degrees celsius (and expected to fall further), Delhi is freezing. The sudden onset of cold literally froze my yoga practice. Staying late in bed, eating heavy carbs that the body seemingly demands in the cold weather, and a subsequent feeling of stiffness in the body has kept me from getting onto the yoga mat for a few days now. The one thing that I look forward to, however, is the hot towel scrub.

I was introduced to this wonderful practice during an Ayurveda workshop that I attended a few months ago. The interesting thing about that workshop was that the lady who conducted it, Shonali Sabherwal, is a Macrobiotic Nutritionist and Chef. While giving us helpful tips on healthy eating the Ayurveda way, she drew many similarities between the Ayurvedic and the Macrobiotic approach to food (more on that in a subsequent post). Amongst the other nuggets of information that she shared, up came the hot towel scrub.

How To Do The Hot Towel Scrub
This simple practice is exactly what the name suggests. Dip a hand towel in a tub a of hot water and scrub yourself. Keep dipping the hand towel in the same tub of water. The steam from the hot towel helps to release the toxins trapped just below the skin. The scrubbing action with the towel helps to remove these toxins. Practicing the same repeatedly has a wonderful detoxifying effect and boosts the lymphatic system.

Although the practice is fairly simple, I feel that scrubbing in the direction that the lymph flows is especially beneficial. So start form the limbs inward, towards the heart. Feet upward and raise your arms and scrub downwards, starting from your finger tips. Then neck down to the collar bones, and the down the back of the neck and outward towards the shoulder joint. Scrub your chest area starting from the sternum upwards and then outwards toward your armpits. In the abdomen area it is recommended to move in a clockwise direction.

Since the neck, back of the knees and inside of the elbows have huge clusters of lymph nodes, I spend a little more time in these areas. The other two areas that I enjoy wrapping in the hot towel and scrubbing are the soles of the feet and the palms. The soles and palms have lots of nerve endings as well as acupressure points, hence I find it especially rejuvenating focusing on both.

Dipping the towel in the same water, even as it starts getting dirty, has a unique advantage, according to Shonali. Toxins have an affinity to attract and pull out more toxins! Much like using salted lukewarm water, instead of plain water, for gargling, I think.

Since the practice is slightly dehydrating, much like what you feel after spending 15 minutes in a steam too, do drink some water before and after. Also, slather on some moisturiser since hot water leaves the skin rather dry.

My Experience
I fell in love with this practice the very day I started it. It left me feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. One of the biggest benefits for me was that the PMS symptoms started receding naturally, without any medication. The skin was left glowing, shining even. And in this biting cold, a hot towel scrub feels heavenly.

When I googled the hot towel scrub, I learnt that it is an age-old practice followed as part of bathing rituals in Korean and Turkish households. I especially like this practice for its simplicity. The lack of any additional salts or essential oils makes it largely free of any side effects. The fact that you can spend as much or as little time as you like makes it even more easy to follow.