Monday, October 10, 2011

Rubbing your sweat back into your body is the fountain of youth

If you have been following this blog and my posts on my own practice for a while (or if you have the dubious fortune of actually having seen me practice), you'll know that I'm the biggest Ashtangic sweat-hog in the universe: I literally sweat puddles when I practice. I often get a bit embarrassed by this when I practice at studios I'm visiting at.

But I just watched the following video by Authorized Ashtanga Teacher Kimberly Flynn, which gave me a lot of assurance that I am not abnormal for being a sweat-hog. It also confirms something I have believed for a while now: Over the last couple of years of daily Ashtanga practice, I have come to believe that sweating at least a little everyday is a good way to detox the body on both the physical and mental levels. Most of us know that according to Ashtanga philosophy, sweating detoxifies and purifies the body of toxins. I also believe that  sweating has a beneficial effect on your overall mood for the day, especially if you live in colder climates where you might not get so much sun at certain times of the year.

All of this is probably well-known to many Ashtanga practitioners out there. What is perhaps not so well-known is what you should do with your sweat when you are actually sweating. Do you wipe it off with a towel? No! You rub it back into your body!... No, really. Why? Because it is the fountain of youth. Kimberly gives a more detailed explanation in the video below. Enjoy!


  1. I have heard this before, that one should rub the sweat in rather than wipe it away, but it just doesn't make any sense to me. Particularly baffling is the explanation that wiping the body dry makes the body cold. The very purpose of sweat as a cooling mechanism is to coat the surface area of the skin with a layer of moisture in order to facilitate the body's ability to regulate temperature.

  2. Interesting, Megan. Well, I don't wipe the sweat away when I practice, but that's for a rather practical reason: It interrupts the flow of my practice. As for rubbing sweat over the body, the only thing I do that is when getting into Garbha Pindasana: I basically use the sweat as lubricant to get my arms through my lotus :-)

    I don't know about the fountain of youth (as I said, I don't rub the sweat in to get this "fountain effect"), but I think Kiki is onto something when she says that wiping off with a towel has a cooling effect: I definitely have felt that before.

    Oh well, I think this is another one of these practice issues where something isn't scientifically proven (or at least not yet), but which the tradition dictates as significant/sacred... What do you do? :-)

  3. I am a raving Kiki fanatic. Teaching wise she is what is called a natural. And how fun is she? Her latest Paschimattanasana demo is genius.

  4. I am just starting to become a Kiki fan myself :-)

  5. Neither a rubber or a wiper myself, but I can share this from my wrestling days where we would purposefully sweat away anywhere from 5-15 pounds in a single day to make weight for competitions:

    Getting sweat off your body keeps you warmer and keeps the pores open and breathing, which allows one to sweat more.

    We would use credit cards and scrape the sweat off our body for maximum effect (often while riding a stationary bike in a sauna - totally insane I know...). The squeegy effect of the credit card worked wonders - could often drop 8-12 pounds in an hour!!

    In the absence of a credit card, we would use our hands to wipe sweat into or off the body (as much as I like the idea of wiping it back into ones body, I do not think it works that way; I think the wiping just facilitates a partial squeegy effect while also helping the remaining sweat evaporate faster, but without any cooling effect since the rubbing creates warmth.)

    We never used a towel, even in the sauna, because the towel would get cold once it started to saturate and would slow down the sweating/weight loss even though the pores were kept open, dry, and breathable.

    Do not know what this empirical evidence proves about ashtanga yoga and sweating and such, but it does prove that wrestlers are a fairly insane bunch.

  6. Interesting, Tom, especially the part about using credit cards to scrape the sweat off yourself :-) Yes, it does prove that wrestlers are a fairly insane bunch. Then again, so are Ashtangis :-) I don't know if this is relevant in any way, but I have heard that some of the postures in Ashtanga are influenced by Indian wrestling...

  7. I hadn't heard that about Indian wrestling, but I will have to look into it, being a bit of a wrestling and martial arts geek.