Ayurvedic Take on Cold & Heat Therapies
In Ayurveda we look at the doshas, seasons and your own health. We look at what doshas might be affected by the cold or hot therapies being provided. I went straight to the Ayurvedic text - Astanga Hrdayam to understand what the ancient Ayurvedic wisdom was on the topic.
During extreme winter taking a cold bath or cold plunges can deplete both the kapha and vata dosha since both doshas have cold qualities about them. Cold plunges can cause or worsen respiratory problems such as cold, coughs and asthmas.
During the summer months taking a hot bath or sauna can deplete pitta dosha and blood tissues due to the heat in the body. It can lead to bleeding disorders, dizziness, and digestion issues.
Overall looking at cold water plunges it really can be dosha specific.
Pitta dosha will be better suited for a cold plunge and kapha and vata doshas would be best for warmer baths or saunas.
Ayurvedic Protocols According to the text
- Liver disorders, indigestion, burning sensation- Cold bath is best
- Respiratory, allergies, cough, cold, joint pains and arthritis- warm baths.
- Epilepsy- lukewarm water is best
- Young children and older adults- hot water is best
- Cold water baths in the early mornings are most beneficial to the body.
Cold plunges are best in the summer and hot water in the winter months.
Time of day
- Morning- Cold water is fine
- Evening hours- warm water is better
- If you sweat too much during your exercise- cold water can work just fine.
- Some practitioners will recommend going from an intense exercise program into a cold water bath/plunge. Only if the body can handle it.
- Finally Ayurveda recommends hot water for the body and cold water for just the head as it says its bad for the eyes and hair.
Like most answers in Ayurveda
It Depends is the answer
When looking to see what other Ayurvedic practitioners have said about this mostly from their own perspective vs what the text says. What I found is all the practitioners or doctors promoted what they wanted to believe. If some hated them they referenced why it's not great for vata dosha if they were for cold showers or plunges they talked about how it's great for the circulation in the body.
Confused? Me too!
If Ayurveda doesn't recommend drinking ice cold water, I have a tough time understanding how people can promote cold plunges.
The benefits of cold plunges
- Improved immune system (though universally agreed if you are getting sick to skip the cold plunges)
- Stimulate production of brown fat
- Prevent aging
- Reverse type 2 diabetes
- Reduces inflammation
- Provide pain relief
- Improves mood and fights depression
The negative side of cold plunges
- Jumping straight from a hot therapy to cold plunges can trigger cardiac arrest even in healthy people.
In Ayurveda the answer will be it depends, and how does it make you feel? If you absolutely dread doing a cold plunge, you shiver, shake and your body never adjusts to it, it's probably not great for you.
If it is a ritual that you look forward to and find your body adjusts to the temperature it might be a regular practice for you.
If you have heart issues, are pregnant, are on your bleeding phase of your cycle, feel like you are getting sick, have asthmas or an extreme vata imbalance it might be the time to skip the plunge.
Wanting to live in tune with the seasons?
Ayurvedic for the Winter Season Guide
Download your free guide to winter according to Ayurveda.
- Ayurvedic winter tips
- Winter Meditation
- Yoga asana practice
- Workout to help reduce vata dosha
- A winter practice according to Ayurveda