Rajesh Rajan asks – Is it very important to take steam after the Abhyanga and how it works on body ? Steam helps to get rid of the massaged oil from the skin. But benefit of steam therapy or heat treatment after oil massage goes beyond that.
Steam therapy after Abhyanga Video
Say, when you have cough with sputum or sinusitis, inhaling steam helps easy expulsion of sputum. Right?
Panchakarma is a procedure to expel out vitiated Dosha (morbid matter) from the body. Imagine this morbidity stuck in some organ and in some channels. Oil massage makes the Doshas soft. Steam therapy after massage makes the Dosha even softer and detaches the Doshas from the inner linings of channels of the organs. Thus, it initiates the expulsion of Doshas from the body.
To balance Vata Dosha
Dryness and coldness are two qualities of Vata. Oiliness (unctuousness) is the opposing quality. So, when there is Vata dominance, applying oil helps to relieve Vata, hence helps to relieve pain. Further to it, if steam is given, heat is caused, further relieving Vata and bringing about muscle relaxation.
Related: Understand Tridosha by their qualities
To avoid joint stiffness
Joints are the places where Kapha is dominated (along with Vata). While Vata is responsible for movement of joint, Kapha ensures compactness, smoothness and cushioning of joints. If just the oil is applied without steam therapy, then in some cases, Kapha increases in the joints (because, oiliness is a Kapha quality). It may lead to increased stiffness. It does not happen in all cases, but it happens in early stage of rheumatoid arthritis. If steam is given, then it helps to balance out Kapha, because Kapha has cold quality.
So, in osteo-arthritis, and degenerative disorders or in a normal person, for regular massage, steam therapy or some sort of heat application or at least hot water bath is highly recommended after oil massage (Abhyanga)
In high Pitta conditions
Avoid steam in high Pitta conditions: But whenever there is an active inflammation, as in case of blunt injury or in cases of flared up stages of rheumatoid arthritis or gout, heat / steam application should not be done. Because, active inflammation with redness, swelling etc, indicate Pitta increase. Hotness is a Pitta quality. Hence, if steam is given, it further increases Pitta, hence, further worsens inflammation.
Steam after Shirodhara
Mild steam therapy after shirodhara helps in further relaxing mind and brain. But it should be very mild, sufficient to cause Vata balance and eyes should be avoided.
So, steam therapy / heat treatment after massage is necessary, but only in selected conditions, for specific short period of time.
Related: How does massage work?