Did you sweat today?
I haven’t been active here for a while now, because I got a chance to respond to a ‘real need’ and for the last three and a half months I have been involved with COVID-19 relief efforts in Gurgaon, India. From food distribution to helping workers travel home to their villages, often hundreds of miles away, it has been a fairly hectic, but deeply satisfying experience.
So, how did I fare health-wise? I did pretty well, actually. Not a single day of illness, aches or pains. The coronavirus didn’t get me. We were out each day, interacting with police personnel, slum dwellers, migrants in stadiums/railways stations, running around for about 10 hours daily, and aside from regular tiredness at the end of the day, I felt absolutely fine.
Now as I sit back and reflect on this time, I am convinced that I had built up a storehouse of immunity in the months preceding my volunteering. Almost four months prior I had started a regular yoga practice, drinking fresh vegetable juice, and giving myself small doses of naturopathy detox treatments. All this helped keep my health intact.
But there was another factor that I believe contributed immensely.
Health is Skin Deep
What really kept me and the others volunteers healthy were the high summer temperatures in Gurgaon. Since there was no air-conditioning in the office we frequented for coordination work, and we spent most of our time outdoors, there was constant movement, along with profuse sweating.
Food was erratic and mostly fried, with lots of tea and biscuits — a naturopath’s nightmare. However, the constant sweating meant that we were simultaneously eliminating waste and toxins from our body.
Let me explain. Have you ever noticed how good you feel after you have completely emptied your bowels in the morning or done some form of rigorous exercise that leaves you drenched in sweat? One way to describe that feeling is ‘lightness’. Sweating, pooping, urinating, and exhaling are all ways in which our body eliminates waste from the inside. This is why the skin, colon, kidneys, and lungs are called organs of elimination.
To feel that ‘lightness’ I am referring to, requires some good pooping, hard sweating, or deep and long exhaling.
Let’s talk about sweat
One of the ways health is assessed in traditional medicine is by looking at a person’s skin. Dry, ashen, scarred, pigmented skin are all signs that health is not at its peak, whereas supple and naturally moisturized skin is one of the signs of good health.
It is important to understand the role that our skin and the act of sweating plays in our overall health. The skin functions like the kidney does, in throwing out waste matter from the body. In fact the chemical composition of sweat is somewhat similar to urine, says Dr. Satish Bajaj in his book ‘Naturopathy, the Holistic Healer’. Properly functioning skin, i.e. skin that sweats is a big aid to the kidney.
For sweating to happen, the pores in the skin need to be open. Clogged pores, which can happen because of the constant use of air-conditioning (our pores contract with the cold); an overuse of deodorant, antiperspirant and skin products (even creams); excessive dirt on the body, are all barriers to sweating. Our inability to understand that sweating is good (except when we are trying to lose weight) means that we are forever avoiding it.
Don’t avoid the hot weather — rather, thank it for how easily it makes us sweat. Do yourself a favour and sweat it out daily and feel the difference for yourself. There are no standard activities for this; do whatever appeals to you: work in the kitchen, do some manual labour around your home, tend to your outdoor plants, exercise, but do sweat it out. The only thing to be careful of in high summer temperatures is not to get your head overheated. So cover it with a dry or wet cloth if working long under the sun.
If you notice that despite rigorous activity you are not sweating, then maybe the skin’s pores need some unclogging. A few simple things that help with this:
-Rub yourself dry for at least 10 minutes with a rough towel after a bath. It’s a great habit to incorporate even if you do sweat. Dabbing yourself with soft towels doesn’t help the skin in any way.
-Use a loofa (minus any soap) made of a natural fibre while bathing, and scrub yourself all over with it.
-Get a steam bath. Steam baths are great for not just opening pores, but also to induce heavy sweating.