Turkish Hammam: Not just a beauty routine
From boosting immunity to reducing cortisol levels - the traditional Turkish bath has a lot of physical and mental health benefits
“How clean you feel after a Turkish bath is magical. My skin got rid of all the dead skin and it felt like new. I felt so relaxed,” says Harkiran Singh Bhasin, a photographer from Vasai, Palghar (Maharashtra), as he talks about his first hammam experience in Istanbul (Turkey). While hammam or the Turkish bath is usually known as a traditional way of a steam bath, it’s much more than just a regular spa or sauna. Not many know that it can have miraculous effects on your mental and physical health.
Comprising steps like relaxation, scrubbing, a steam room session, rinsing and massage – a hammam encompasses several therapeutic properties. “The Turkish hammam therapy combines a cleansing and relaxing ritual, followed by the hararet or steam room. Hammam therapy revitalises and rehydrates the skin, improves metabolism while releasing tension from the body,” says Dr Hrishikesh Ashok, BAMS, MS (Ayurveda), chief ayurveda consultant, Naad Wellness, Sonipat (Haryana).
The scrubbing with massage ritual of the hammam, followed by steam, opens the pores of the skin. So, this technique is often used in the treatment of cellulite. “It also improves blood circulation and reduces water retention in the body,” says Dr Sonali Gupta, senior consultant, dermatology and cosmetology, Accord Super Speciality Hospital, Faridabad.
Consisting of hot steam, a Turkish bath is a detoxifying body treatment and a natural way to remove toxins from the body. “It stimulates the immune system and aids lymphatic drainage. The hammam technique also results in an elevated body temperature, which works just like a fever, which helps in boosting immunity by increasing white blood cell production,” says Dr Mrinmayee Mukund, dermatologist, Apollo Spectra Hospital, Mumbai. The massaging with scrub aspect of the Turkish bath helps loosen the tight muscles. In fact, experts suggest that many rely on this therapy for treatment of arthritis. “The hammam facilitates release of muscular tension and helps one get rid of leg pain. The best thing about it is that it’s suitable for everyone,” adds Dr Mukund.
Besides the physical health benefits, the hammam is also capable of making you feel mentally and emotionally relaxed. It reduces the production of cortisol, a hormone that regulates the level of stress we feel. “Relaxation, serenity of mind and relaxation of nerves make the hammam one of the means of treatment for tension and psychological pressures. It gives the mind a calmness that also betters your decision-making skills,” says Dr Niharika Saini, clinical psychologist, Accord Super Speciality Hospital, Faridabad (Haryana).
Ritu June Rathod, a model from Vasai, Palghar (Maharashtra), who experienced the Turkish bath in Istanbul, vouches for its psychological health benefits. “The intense scrubbing made me feel so clean and positive about my body, inside and out. The place where I took the hammam in Istanbul was so quiet that all I could hear was the sound of water, which felt relaxing and therapeutic. I also felt calm and sleepy, which is the greatest indicator of how relaxed I was, mentally,” she says.
The hidden gem
Did you know a street in Bhopal’s old city houses a 400-year-old hammam centre? During the winter, the Hammam-e-Qadimi is frequented by a lot of people from Madhya Pradesh and outside the state. It was built by a nawab in Bhopal and is believed to be the only active hammam in India that has a heritage value.