There’s nothing quite like the restorative rituals of communal bathing and you can even recreate some of the mind-body benefits of hydrotherapy at home.
“When in doubt, take a bath.” – Mae West
The origin of bathing culture dates back centuries. The Greeks and Romans are credited with an early understanding of the therapeutic benefits of hydrotherapy, which remains relevant across many cultures today. Icelanders, for example, soak daily in geothermal springs brimming with skin-healing minerals. In Finland it is said there are more saunas than cars. In Turkey and Morocco, it’s custom to recline and find reprieve on warm marble slabs in steamy hammams. And, with the local, natural resource of bubbling hot springs, people in Japan visit the bathhouse, or sento, as a cherished way to bond with family and friends.
We seek out spa experiences to be transported. It’s hard to imagine those hot, dimly lit, sweat-inducing wooden saunas or fragrant steam-filled rooms that melt muscle tension and purify the skin ever losing their appeal. But bathing culture is more than physical, more than the sum of its parts.
In our increasingly switched-on lives, the ritual of bathing is an opportunity to tap into mental peace and physical renewal simultaneously. Admittedly, part of the beauty of the bathhouse is the communal tradition; an inhibition-shedding, shared experience that unites people of all backgrounds, ages, and shapes. However, if you don’t feel quite ready to visit a bathhouse right now, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the mind-body benefits of hydrotherapy at home.
Here’s how to create your own private bathhouse experience.
DITCH THE DISTRACTION
Rings, dings, notifications, alarms, messages and more – there’s nothing that takes us out of the present moment like our electronic devices. Escape the noise to clear your mind by doing an intentional digital detox, even if only for an hour. The bathhouse experience is mentally and emotionally transformative in part because there are no phones nor clocks in sight; time seems to slow down. Recreate this feeling at home by stashing your phone far away from where you’ll be bathing or showering. While you won’t be able to share your best candlelit bubblebath #selfie, trust that the simple act of powering off will pave the way to true relaxation.
DRY BODY BRUSHING
Try circulation-boosting dry body brushing at home using a firm body brush made from non-abrasive, synthetic bristles. Start from your ankles and work up the legs and buttocks toward your heart using loving, medium-pressure circular strokes. Repeat the process starting from your wrists, up the arms, and ending at your heart. This stimulating form of physical exfoliation helps to buff away any dead skin buildup and also gets your circulatory system flowing. Once you’ve brushed your entire body (excluding the face), it’s time to hop into the bath (or shower).
Most of us don’t have access to geothermal springs on the regular, so instead, we can enjoy rich skin-soothing minerals in our bathtubs. Epsom salts or magnesium chloride are two easy-to-find forms of magnesium which can be absorbed transdermally. Simply add two cups to a warm bath and soak for at least 15 minutes. Of course, you may also like to luxe up your soak with your favourite scented bath salts too.
HOT AND COLD HYDROTHERAPY
Alternating between extreme temperatures is the cornerstone of bathhouse basking. At home, you can use your shower to recreate a similar effect by allowing hot water to cascade over your head and body for a few minutes, before switching the water temperature to as cold as possible for 30 seconds. Repeat this method four or five times, ending your circuit on a cold rinse. Under the warm water, your blood vessels expand and during the cold shower, your vessels constrict. This stimulates circulation and has an energising effect on both mind and body.
WARM BODY OIL MASSAGE
Committing time to lovingly massage your body is a powerful way to soothe your nervous system and moisturise dry skin. This method is especially beneficial in the cold winter months. Sesame oil is one of the best oils for full body massage as it warms well and absorbs quickly. Carefully heat one cup of oil in a saucepan or by using a double boiler technique to gently warm the oil – the temperature should feel comfortable to the touch. Start with your neck, massaging from your jaw, down the neck to the collarbones, working all the way down to the soles of your feet. Take extra time on shoulders or any area that feels tense.
BLEND A BEAUTY BEVERAGE
Make sure to replenish and rehydrate your body from the inside-out by sipping a beauty beverage post-soak. Some suggestions include, iced matcha lemonade, warm black tea with frozen cherries and agave nectar, cucumber and pineapple infused water, or a scoop of your favourite plant-based collagen blended into a smoothie with avocado, frozen banana, and spinach.
Images: Yaroslav Shuraev on Pexels