A Hot Bath – Your Rx for Relaxation and Health
A hot bath relaxes your muscles, hydrates your spirit, and if you add epsom salts and/or baking soda, can give your body a great detoxifying boost. Taking a shower is an efficient way to clean yourself (and can save water) but it’s a fun and relaxing treat to take a bath.
Bathing in clean, hot water is one of the great luxuries of being human. If you have ever gone on a long camping trip or had a long period away from bathing, you know that that getting clean after being yucky feels especially amazing! Your skin is the largest organ in your body and besides holding you in, it is one of the body’s major elimination pathways. Soaking in (clean) hot water and then scrubbing your softened skin to exfoliate the dead cells is a fantastic way to detoxify and refresh your whole system. You can add appealing scents and healing additives to elevate your bath to a higher level.
Bathing taboo = Historical hiccup
Historically, the wood and labor it cost to fill a hot bath made communal bathing practical for all but the very wealthy. Many cultures have refined their bath houses to a fine level – e.g. Japanese furo, Russian banya, Turkish hammam.
In the West, communal bathing was common until the 6th century . But then Christian authorities first condemned the pleasure of bathing as sinful; then condemned nakedness while bathing; and finally declared that, public bathing leads to “immorality, promiscuous sex, and diseases. The belief spread that water carried diseases that entered the body through pores that were enlarged by the hot water of a bath.
“For most lower class citizens, particularly men, this resulted in them completely forgoing bathing. During this time, people tended to restrict their hygienic arrangements to just washing hands, parts of the face, and rinsing their mouths. Washing one’s entire face was thought to be dangerous as it was believed to cause catarrh and weaken the eyesight, so even this was infrequent.
Members of the upper classes, on the other hand, rather than completely forgo bathing, tended to cut down their full body bathing habits down to around a few times per year, striking a balance between risk of acquiring a disease from the bath vs. body stench. 
You can just imagine the nastiness of medieval European bodies that didn’t bathe for long periods! Yuck.
Baths are In
Fortunately our understanding has shifted and you probably have access to clean, hot water, and can shower or even bathe when you like*. I hope you don’t have to worry about water piped to your home or a commercial facility carrying disease. Unfortunately however, some of that socio-cultural resistance to taking a bath lingers and many people forego this great healing and relaxing resource.
If you have a private bathtub to use – use it! Whether or not you have your own bathtub, I highly recommend finding a communal bath house (of whatever cultural style) and check out the delicious relaxation and renewal of the added combination of steam room, cold plunge, dry or steam sauna, massage to clean and treat your body and spirit. Archimedes Banya, and Kabuki Springs & Spa are two of my favorite bath houses in San Francisco.
Hot baths are for men, too!
When my kids were in school, one of my favorite gifts to give my kids’ teachers at holiday time was bath salts that I made myself. Teachers work so hard, often for little reward, and their bodies are often the unsung heroes of the classroom. I would make a big batch of bath salts, packaged and tagged saying: “The Gift of RELAXATION… May these lavender bath salts inspire you to take a leisurely bath. Allow yourself time relax, unwind and listen to your body. It works hard all the time and deserves the best care you can give it! Happy Holidays, with love,” Some teachers loved them and looked forward to getting them. Others never bothered with the bath idea.
Well, one year, my son’s band teacher was an ex-Marine with extra-tight shoulders. I remember thinking that of all the teachers, his muscles could really benefit from soaking in a hot bath and I encouraged him to use the salts over the school break. A few weeks after the break, I asked him if he’d used the salts. He mumbled something to the effect of, “Nu-uhn, I’m not taking a bath to come out smelling like a girl.” I tried to convince him that lavender is a great skin conditioner and both soothing and relaxing. I told him he could even soap off afterwards if he didn’t like the lavender smell. – No go.
He gave it a try
So at the next gift time, I made a batch of lavender salts and another batch of “MANLY! Eucalyptus Bath Salts” and gave the band teacher those. A few weeks after the break, I asked if he’d used the salts and he said no, he just hadn’t gotten to it. Each gift cycle, I gave him bath salts and finally got him to promise me that just once he’d try a hot bath, to see if it helped loosen his tight neck, shoulders and back.
Wouldn’t you know, the next time I asked him, not only had he tried the eucalyptus salts, he’d tried the lavender salts and found he got an extra-good night’s sleep that night. I explained that eucalyptus is invigorating while lavender is soothing, so lavender is great before bed to help you sleep, but eucalyptus, not-so. He said he’d taken several baths, used up all the salts I had given him, and could he have some more? I asked if he wanted just eucalyptus and he sheepishly said that he wanted some of both. ;-)) I saw his wife the other day and told her the story. She said, “He takes baths all the time now! He loves it.”
Make your Bath Healing and Luxurious:
Add 1-3 cups (500-1500cc) of either epsom salts or baking soda – I use both together + essential oils, depending on your needs. I buy a #50 bag of magnesium sulfate (MgSO4, aka epsom salts) from my local chemical/garden supply outlet and pay 1/10 the cost. You can buy large bags of sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3, aka baking soda) at bulk chemical or pool supply outlets – or even Costco. Luxury doesn’t have to be expensive.
Add Essential oils. I use and trust DoTerra oils for quality and purity.
- Soothing: lavender, myrrh, frankincense
- Cooling: peppermint – esp great in the summer
- Warming: ginger, orange
- Invigorating: eucalyptus, citrus (orange, lemon, grapefruit, bergamot);
- Spirit rejuvenation: pine, white fir, cypress,
- Muscle support & relaxation: marjoram, blue tansey, birch
A bath with lavender oil or other soothing additions before bed can help you get to sleep and sleep deeply through the night. Scrubbing your feet – and skin, generally – after soaking in a hot bath helps them/it breathe, and feels marvelous.
Make it a Bubble Bath!
If you didn’t like baths when you were little, think again. As an adult, you are probably no longer afraid of sliding down the drain; you can regulate the temperature and amount of the water; and you can customize your experience the way you want. Whatever your age, I bet your inner child would love a bubble bath. The sudsing agent in Mr. Bubble and similar products is sodium lauryl sulfate – not something you want to use often, but it certainly makes great soap bubbles. Even expensive bubble bath products often include SLS to produce soapy foam. Now and then the extra suds are worth it. When I want a playful, foamy bubble bath, I simply squirt a good dose of dish soap into the stream of water as the bath fills and get all the suds I want.
Let your Inner kid play! Use any water toys, get a good book to read, an inflatable pillow, etc., to make your bathing experience superb. You work hard and your body deserves it.
In sum: Hot baths are good for you; good for tired, sore or tight muscles; and good for your overall stress level. You can have fun with bubbles, add a bath buddy (human or otherwise) or just soak. Baths can become part of your personal sustainability program. Take a bath- your body will thank you!
* With all due care to conserve our precious water resources, of course!
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