Swedana is a concept that should be familiar to anyone who is acquainted with Ayurvedic medicine. It is a body heating or ‘sudation therapy’ that is used to prepare the body for Panchakarma or as an independent treatment. There are various types of swedana, such as Bashpa Sweda, Avagaha Sweda, and Nali Sweda with each having different therapeutic applications. Pinda Sweda is regarded as one of the most important of these sudation therapies.
Also known as Navarakkizhi, Pinda Sweda is one of the most sought-after treatments at Ayurveda clinics in Kerala. In this form of sudation therapy, the whole body or specific areas of the body are exposed to heat with boluses, tied in fine muslin cloth. These are filled with medicinal herbs like nirgundi, shigru, arka, eranda, and shireesh, among others.
The herb or blend of herbs to be used is carefully selected, depending on the underlying health condition that is affecting the patient. Typically, the leaves of these herbs are first heated evenly in an oil such as Til taila.
The bolus is only applied to the desired body part once it is warm enough and the procedure must be performed by at least two therapists, one on either side of the patient. This is because the natural symmetry and rhythm of their movements adds to the healing potential of the therapy.
Like most sudation therapies, great attention is paid to the details and boluses are quickly replaced as they cool down so as to maintain an adequately high temperature at the site being treated. Once the therapy is completed, paper or sterile cloth may be used to wipe down and cleanse the area.
Pinda Sweda is primarily aimed at clearing the Sweda Vaha Srotas, which are the Srotas or micro-channels in the human body that carry sweat, help regulate body temperature, maintain moisture levels, and perform other essential functions. This is the source of various health benefits, but like most Swedana therapies, Pinda Sweda is notable for its relaxing and detoxifying effects on the body. The therapy provides relief from pain, inflammation, swelling, and stiffness that is associated with bone, joint and/or musculoskeletal pains.
To understand how Pinda Sweda helps in the pursuit of deep relaxation, inner peace, and serenity, it helps to look at its effects on some common health conditions that contribute to anxiety and mental chaos.
Lower back pain is one of the most common problems today, causing chronic or persistent pain. This adversely affects quality of life and mood, making natural methods of relief highly desirable. Although Pinda Sweda is not a traditional treatment for the problem, depending on the choice of herbs used, it can have anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects, providing quick relief. The efficacy of the treatment has also been highlighted in a study that appeared in the Journal of Ayurveda Medical Sciences (1).
Like most other massage and sudation therapies, Pinda Sweda is known to be beneficial for circulatory health and can therefore relieve conditions that are caused by poor circulation. With improved circulation, oxygen supply is also improved to muscles, reducing muscular tension and aches and pains. The therapy may also improve vascular function, which could help improve blood flow in the body.
Arthritis is actually a collection of more than 100 inflammatory joint diseases like osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and gout. Together, they are the most common cause of joint pain and disability, which is why most arthritic patients also tend to have higher levels of stress and depression. Although recommended primarily for Sandhigata Vata or osteoarthritis, Pinda Sweda is beneficial for all types of arthritic disease due to musculoskeletal health benefits and pain reduction. Most patients experience a reduction in symptoms and improvements in quality of life after undergoing the treatment (2).
Stress plays a role in the pathogenesis of almost every modern disease, making stress management techniques particularly effective at treating disease. Aside from anti-inflammatory, circulatory, and analgesic benefits, Pinda Sweda is so effective because of its soothing effect on both the body and mind. By reducing muscular pain and stiffness and increasing the range of motion, it promotes physical relaxation, which also yields mental health benefits. Additionally, the calming procedure is believed to lower heart rate and trigger the release of endorphins, enhancing your mood.
Pinda Sweda cannot be easily defined by a few notable benefits as it has so much to offer. In addition to the benefits that are touched on above, the therapy also improves lymphatic drainage, detoxifies the body, eliminates metabolic waste, and relieves almost all Vata disorders. However, there is one defining feature of Pinda Sweda, it would be the sense of serenity that you are left with following the treatment.