Or The Yogi Philosophy Of Physical Well-Being

by Yogi Ramacharaka (1904)

Chapter 26:
The Yogi Bath.

It should not be necessary to devote a chapter of this hook to the importance of bathing. But even in this, the twentieth, century a great mass of the people understand practically nothing about this subject. In the large cities the easy access to the bathtub has, in a measure, educated the people up to at least a partial use of water on the outer surface of the body, but in the country, and even in many homes in the cities, bathing is not given the place it should occupy in the daily life of the people. And so we think it well to call the attention of our readers to the subject and explain to them why the Yogis set so much store upon a clean body.

In the state of nature man did not need the frequent use of the bath, for, his body being uncovered, the rains beat upon him, and the bushes and trees brushed against his skin, keeping it free from the gathered-up waste matter which the skin is continuously throwing off. And, then, the primitive man, like the animals, always had streams handy, and followed his natural instinct, which impelled him to take a plunge once in a while. But the use of clothing has changed all this, and man to-day, although his skin is still at work throwing off waste matter, is unable to get rid of the waste in the old way, and instead he allows it to pile up on his skin and consequently suffers physical discomfort and disease. A body may be very dirty indeed and still look clean to the naked eye. A peep at the garbage piles on its surface through a strong glass would shock many of you.

Bathing has been practiced by all races of men making any pretense of culture and civilization. In fact, it may be said that the use of the bath is a measuring-rod by which the culture of a nation may be determined. The greater the use of the bath, the greater the amount of culture, and the fewer the baths, the less culture. The ancient people carried the use of the bath to a ridiculous extent, departing from the natural methods and running to such extremes as perfumed baths, etc. The Greeks and Romans made the use of the bath a requisite of decent living, and many of the ancient people were far ahead of modern races in this respect. The Japanese people to-day lead the world in the recognition of the importance of the bath and in its faithful practice. The poorest Japanese would rather go without his meal than without his bath. One may go into a crowd in a Japanese city even on a warm day and fail to notice even the slightest unpleasant odor. Would that as much could be said of a crowd in America or Europe? With many races bathing was, and is to-day, a matter of religious duty, the priests recognizing the importance of bathing, and knowing that it could be best impressed upon the masses in this way, having incorporated it among their religious rites. The Yogis, while not regarding it as a religious rite, nevertheless practice bathing just as if it were.

Let us see just why people should bathe. Very few of us really understand the matter and think it is merely to get rid of the dust and visible dirt which has accumulated upon our skin. But there is more than this to it, important as mere cleanliness is. Let us see just why the skin needs to be cleansed.

We have explained to you, in another chapter, the importance of a normal perspiration and how, if the pores of the skin become clogged or closed, the body is unable to get rid of its waste products. And how does it get rid of them? By the skin, breath and the kidneys. Many persons overwork their kidneys by making them do both their own work and that of the skin as well, for nature will make one organ do double work rather than to leave its work undone. Each pore is the end of a little canal called a sweat-tube, which extends way down into the surface of the body. There are about 3,000 of these little canals to each square inch of our skin. They are continually exuding a moisture called perspiration, or sweat, which moisture is really a fluid secreted from the blood and laden with the impurities and waste-matter of the system. You will remember that the body is constantly tearing down tissue and replacing it with new matter, and it must get rid of its waste just as a family must get rid of its waste sweepings and garbage. And the skin is one of the means by which the waste is removed. This waste, if allowed to remain in the system, acts as a breeding place and food for bacteria, germs, etc., and that is why nature is so anxious to get rid of it. The skin also exudes an oily fluid which is used to keep the skin soft and flexible.

The skin itself is constantly undergoing great changes in its structure, just as is any other part of the body. The outer skin, often called the scarf-skin, is composed of cells, which are short-lived, and are constantly being sloughed off and replaced by younger cells forcing their way up from beneath the old ones. These worn-out and discarded cells form a coating of waste matter on the surface of the skin, if they are not brushed off or washed off. Of course quite a number of them are rubbed off by the clothing, but a considerable quantity remain, and the bath or a wash is needed to get rid of them.

in our chapter on the use of water as an irrigator for the internal man, we told you of the importance of keeping the pores open, and how soon a man would die if his pores were sealed, as shown by experiments and occurrences in the past. And this accumulation of worn-out cells, oil, perspiration, etc., will at least partially seal up the pores unless the body is kept clean. And then, again, this filth on the surface of the skin is an invitation for stray germs and bacteria to take up their abode there and thrive. Are you extending this invitation to your friends, the germs? We are not speaking of dirt obtained from the outside world now—we know that you would not carry that around with you—but have you ever thought of this waste matter from your own system, which is just as much dirt as the other, and sometimes occasions worse results?

Everyone should wash off his body at least once a day. We do not mean that a bath-tub is necessary (although a tub is, of course, a great convenience), but a good wash-off is requisite. Those who have not a bath tub can get just as good results by taking a towel and a basin and passing the wet towel over the entire body, rinsing the towel after the first rub, and then going over the body the second time.

The most desirable time for a wash-off or a bath is in the early morning, immediately after arising. The evening bath is also a good thing. Never bathe immediately before, or immediately after a meal. Give the body a good rubbing with a rough cloth, which will act to loosen up the dead skin, and which will also stimulate the circulation. Never take a cold bath when the body is cold. Exercise yourself a little until you warm up some. before taking a cold bath. In taking a plunge bath, always wet the head before getting the body under water—then wet the chest, and then plunge in.

A favorite Yogi practice after taking a cold bath, or a cool one, is to rub the body vigorously with the hands, instead of using a towel, and then getting into dry clothes with the body still covered with moisture. Instead of this making one feel cold, as some might imagine, it produces just the opposite effect, for a feeling of warmth is experienced immediately after the clothing is on, which is increased by a gentle exercise, which the Yogis always take immediately after the bath. This exercise is not violent, and is discontinued as soon as one feels himself in a gentle glow all over the body.

The favorite Yogi bath, or wash-off, is in cool (not cold) water. They wash themselves vigorously all over, with the hands, or a cloth, followed by a hand-rubbing, practicing the Yogi deep breathing during the wash and the rubbing. They take this immediately after arising, and follow it with a mild exercise as we have stated. In very cold weather they do not plunge into the water, but apply it with a cloth, followed by the hand-rubbing. A wonderful reaction follows the application of cool water, applied as we have stated, and the body soon manifests a magnetic glow after the clothing is placed on one after the bath. The result of these Yogi baths if practiced for awhile is that the person will become vigorous and "hardy," their flesh becoming strong, firm and compact, and a "cold" becoming almost unknown to them. The person practicing it becomes like a strong, hardy tree, able to face all kinds of weather and seasons.

Right here, let us caution our readers against adopting a too cold bath at the start. Don't do this, particularly if you are of impaired vitality. Try water at a pleasant temperature at first, and then work down toward a little cooler, gradually. You will soon strike a degree of temperature that is most pleasing to you—stick to that. But do not punish yourselves. This morning cool wash-down should be a thing of pleasure to you, not a punishment or a penance. When you have once caught the "knack" of it, you would never think of giving it up. It makes you feel good all day long. You feel a little cool as the wet cloth is applied to the body, but this is followed in a moment or so by a most delightful reaction and a feeling of warmth. In case you take a cool bath in the tub, instead of a wash-down, do not stay in the tub more than one minute, and use your hands vigorously the whole time that you are in the water.

If you take these morning washes, you will not need many warm baths, although an occasional "soaking will do you good, and you will feel better for it. Give yourself a good rubbing down, and put on the clothing over a dry skin (in the case of a warm bath).

Persons doing much walking, or standing, will find that a foot bath at night just before retiring, will prove most restful, and conducive to a good night's sleep.

Now don't forget this chapter as soon as you have read it, but try the plan it advocates, and see how much better you will feel. After trying it for awhile, you will not think of giving it up.

The Yogi Morning Wash-Down.

The following may give you some ideas regarding the way to get the best results from the morning wash down. It is very invigorating and strengthening, and will make one feel the beneficial effect all the day.

It begins with a little exercise which causes the blood to circulate and the Prana to be distributed all over the body, after the night's rest, and renders the body in the best condition in which to take the cool wash-down or bath.

Preliminary Exercise. (1) Stand erect in a military attitude, head up, eyes front, shoulders back, hands at sides. (2) Raise the body slowly on toes, inhaling a deep breath, steadily and slowly. (3) Retain the breath for a few seconds, maintaining the same position. (4) Sink slowly to the first position, at the same time exhaling the breath through the nostrils, slowly. (5) Practice Cleansing Breath. (6) Repeat several times, varying by using right leg alone, then left leg alone.

Then take the bath or wash-down, as described on the preceding pages. If you prefer the wash-down, fill the basin with cool water (not too cool, but just a pleasant stimulating temperature which will bring on the reaction). Take a rough cloth or towel and soak it in the water, and then wring about half the water out of
it. Beginning with the chest and shoulders, then the back, then the abdomen, then the thighs and then the lower legs and feet, rub the body all over vigorously. Wring the water out of the towel several times in going over the body, in order that the entire body shall receive fresh cool water upon it. Pause a second or so several times during the wash-down, and take a couple of long deep breaths. Do not be in too much of a rush, but go about it calmly. At first few times the cool water may cause you to shrink a little, but you will soon get used to it, and will learn to like it. Do not make the mistake of commencing with too cool water, but rather work down the temperature by degrees. If you prefer the tub to the wash-down, half fill the tub with water of the proper temperature, and kneel in it while you do the rubbing, then plunge the whole body under the water for a moment, and then get out at once.

Following either the wash-down or the tubbing, one should rub the hands vigorously over the body several times. There is something in the human hands which cannot be duplicated by a cloth or towel. Try it for yourself. Leave a little moisture on the surface of the skin, and then get into your underclothes at once, and you will be surprised at the peculiar glow which will come over you. Instead of the water making you feel chilly you will experience a peculiar feeling of warmth on all parts of the body covered by the clothing, under which a little moisture has been left on the skin. In case of either wash-down or tubbing, follow the wash or bath with the following exercise, after the under-clothing has been put on:

Concluding Exercise. (1) Stand erect; stretch out arms straight in front of you, on the level of the shoulders, with fists clenched and touching each other; swing back the fists until the arms stand out straight, sideways, from the shoulders (or still a little farther back if they will go there easily without forcing), this stretches the upper part of the chest; repeat several times and then rest a moment. (2) Resume the closing position of 1, the arms straight out, sideways, from the shoulders; the arms still extending from the sides, on a level with the shoulders, swing the fists around in circles, from the front to the back-then reverse, and swing from the back to the front-then vary it by rotating them alternately, like the arms of a windmill; repeat several times. (3) Stand erect, raise the hands over tile head; hands open, and thumbs touching; then without bending the knees try to touch the floor with the tips of the fingers-if you are unable to do this, do the best you can; return to first position. (4) Raise yourself on the balls of your feet, or your toe-joints, several times, with sort of a springy motion. (5) Standing, place your feet about two feet apart, then sink slowly to a squatting position, for a moment, then resume original position. Repeat several times. (6) Repeat No. 1, several times. (7) Finish with the Cleansing Breath.

This exercise is not nearly as complicated as it appears at first reading. It is really a combination of five exercises, all of which are very simple and easily performed. Study and practice each section of the exercise, before you take the bath, and master each part thoroughly. Then it will run like clock-work, and will take but a few moments to perform it. It is very invigorating, calling into play the entire body, and will make you feel like a new man, or woman, if you take it just after the bath or wash-down.

The wash-down of the upper part of the body in the morning, gives a strength and vitality through the day, while a wash-down of the body from the waist down (including the feet) at night, rests one for the night's slumber, and is very refreshing.

Exercise IX.

(1) Stand erect, with the arms extended straight in front of you, from the shoulders, and of course on a level with the shoulders-the palms must be down, fingers straight out, thumbs folded under, and the thumb side of hands touching each other; (2) Bend the body forward from the hips, stooping forward as far as possible, and at the same time swing the arms forward with a sweeping movement, sending them down, backward and upward at the back, so that when the body has reached the limit of the bending forward movement the arms are extended back and over the body-keep the arms stiff, and do not bend the knees. (3) Resume standing position and repeat several times.

Exercise X.

(1) Extend the arms straight, sideways, from the shoulder, and hold them there stiff and rigid with hands open; (2) Close the hands forcibly, with a quick motion, pressing the fingers well into the palm; (3) Open the hands forcibly, and quickly, spreading out the fingers and thumbs as widely as possible, forming a fan-shaped hand; (4) Close and open the hands as above stated, several times, as rapidly as possible. Put life into the exercise. This is a splendid exercise for developing the muscles of the hand, and for acquiring manual dexterity.

Exercise XI.

(1) Lie upon your stomach, extending your arms above your head and then bowed upward, and your legs stretched out full length and raised backward and upward. The correct position may be carried in the mind by imagining a watch-crystal or a saucer resting on the table on its middle, with both ends turning upward. (2) Lower and raise the arms and legs, several times. (3) Then, turn over on your back, and lie extended at full length, with arms extended straight out, upwards over the head, with back of fingers touching the ground. (4) Then raise up both legs from the waist until they stand straight up in the air, like the mast of a ship, your upper-body and arms remaining In the last position named. Lower the legs and raise them several times. (5) Resume 3, lying position flat upon the back at full length with arms extended straight out upward, over the head, with backs of fingers touching the ground; (6) Then gradually raise body to sitting position, with arms projecting straight out in front of the shoulders. Then go back gradually to the lying-down position, and repeat the rising and lowering several times. (7) Then turn over on the face and stomach again, and assume the following position: Keeping the body rigid from head to foot, raise your body until its weight rests upon your palms (the arms being stretched out straight in front of you) at one end, and upon your toes at the other end. Then
gradually bend arms at the elbow, allowing your chest to sink to the floor; then raise up your chest and upper-body by straightening out your arms, the entire weight falling upon the arms, with the toes as a pivot-this last is a difficult motion, and should not be overdone at first.

Exercise To Reduce The Abdomen.

This exercise is for those troubled with a too large abdomen, which trouble is caused by too much fat gathering there. The abdomen may be materially reduce—by a reasonable indulgence in this exercise-but always remember "moderation in all things," and do not overdo matters, or be in too much of a hurry. Here is the exercise: (1) Exhale the breath (breathe out all the air in the lungs, without straining yourself too much), and then draw the abdomen in and up as far as you can, then hold for a moment and let it resume its natural position. Repeat a number of times and then take a breath or two, and rest a moment. Repeat several times, moving it in and out. It is surprising how much control one may gain over these stubborn muscles with a little practice. This exercise will not only reduce the fatty layers over the abdomen, but will also greatly strengthen the stomach muscles. (2) Give the abdomen a good (but not rough) kneading and rubbing.

A "Setting-Up" Exercise.

This exercise is intended to give one a graceful and natural manner of standing and walking, and to cure him of the habit of "slouching," and shambling along. If faithfully practiced it will cause you to manifest an erect, graceful carriage. It enables you to so carry yourself that every organ has plenty of "elbow-room," and every part of the frame is properly poised and counter-poised. This, or a similar plan, is followed by the military authorities of many countries, in order to give their young officers the proper carriage, but its good effect in these cases is somewhat marred by other military practices which cause a stiffness which does not come to those who practice this exercise apart from the drill. The exercise is as follows—follow it carefully: (I) Stand erect, with heels together, toes slightly pointed outward. (2) Raise the arms up by the sides (with a circular movement) until the hands meet over the head, thumbs touching each other; (3) Keeping knees stiff; the body rigid; the elbows unbent; (and shoulders bent well back as the movement is made) bring down the hands, slowly, with a sideway circular motion, until they reach the sides of the legs the little finger and the inner-edge (the "chopping-edge") of the hand alone touching the leg, and the palms of the hands facing straight to the front. The soldier gets the right position by touching the little finger of each hand to the seam of his trousers. (4) Repeat several times, slowly remember. With the hands in the last position, having been placed there by the motion stated, it is very difficult for the shoulders to warp forward. The chest is projected a little; the head is erect; neck is straight; the back straight and hollowed a little (the natural position); and the knees are straight. In short, you have a fine, erect carriage—now keep it. It will help you to stand in this position, and then, keeping the little finger along the trouser4eg seam place, walk around the room. A little practice of this kind will work wonders with you, and you will be surprised at the improvement which you have wrought upon yourself. But it takes practice, and perseverance—and so does everything else worth having.

Now this is about all of our little system of exercises. It is simple and unpretentious, but wonderfully effective. It brings every part of the body into play, and if faithfully followed will indeed "make you over" physically. Practice faithfully, and take an interest in the work. Put some mind into it, and remember always what you are doing the work (or play) for. Carry the thought of "STRENGTH AND DEVELOPMENT" with you when you exercise, and you will get much better results. Do not exercise soon after a meal, or immediately before one. Do not overdo things-start with a few repetitions of any exercise at first, and then gradually increase it until you have reached a fair number of repetitions. Better go through the exercises several times a day (if possible) rather than attempt to do too much at one period of exercise.

The above little "Physical Culture" system, will do as much for you as will many high priced "courses" of instruction--either personal or by mail. They have stood the test of time, and still are "up-to-date." They are as simple as they are effective. Try them, and be strong.