When I was a kid we were told to rest first for around 30 minutes to one hour before washing our hands or taking a bath after strenuous play such as basketball, habulan, taguan, patintero, among others and after writing for our homework. We were warned that if we do not do so, our hands would shake when we grow old. This is probably the reason why some enterprising companies came up with waterless hand cleaners.

Somehow, I have always believed in pasma. But even this belief in pasma evolved. Some would say that it was all right to take a bath after strenuous play, sports or exercise for as long as you take a bath in warm water. Some would argue that it is okay to take a bath in cold water for as long as you do it immediately and fast.

So when I began exercising at the gym, I tried taking a bath with warm water and some of my friends would say that I was doing it right. Then summer came and I could not take a hot shower because if I did I would keep on perspiring even after dressing up. So I took a bath with cold water. And my other friends said it was okay for as long as I did it fast.

So is pasma true?

I asked a doctor who also works out at the gym and he replied, “Why do swimmers not contract pasma when they exercise while in water?” He said there is nothing in medical books about pasma. It is an old wives’ tale, he added.

Then when I began running, I completely set aside my belief in pasma. When you are running long distances under the heat of the sun, even when it is only around 8 a.m., it really is a relief to pour cold water on oneself. There are even organized races where volunteers would gladly douse or pour cold water on you if you request them to. There are also races where a Maynilad or Manila Water truck would be parked along the route with water pouring down from an elevated tube, an instant shower. And some runners, including me, would pass through it and sometimes go back and pass through it again. And there is that heavenly sponge, which a runner could take from a big pail of cold water. I would even squeeze it gently while running to maximize the drip of the cold water.

Then there is the exhilarating feeling of running in the rain. It really feels good to run in the rain because you won’t have to contend with the heat of the sun so you could run longer distances. The only annoying thing about running in the rain is the squishing of your rubber shoes as your feet and socks float it water inside your running shoes.

And I haven’t encountered any problem yet: no trembling hands or shaking body.

But if one is to trace the logic behind pasma, it is really about balance: yin and yang. It is about not upsetting the balance of the temperature in your body by suddenly pouring cold water on it. Those who believe in and practice the concept of balance – those into traditional Chinese medicine – do not drink cold water on a hot day because it would disrupt this balance. This may also be the reason why Chinese women who just gave birth are not allowed to take a bath for a month. A Chinese friend of ours followed this strictly after the birth of her first child but did not do it after the second. She said she felt weaker after giving birth to her second child so she followed it again with the birth of her third child.

The need to maintain balance in one’s body, and even in life, makes sense. So again, is pasma true? You decide.

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