Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Soaps? Oil? Candles? Wine? What helps you destress at bath time?

Baths: Healing Rituals For The Soul
Karen Marie Shelton

Nature, life and circumstances can play lots of tricks on us mere mortals. Throughout history humans have had to live through wars, tragedies, financial disasters and other major stress inducing conditions. When the going gets tough it is important to take time to center, relax, destress and heal the emotional, physical and spiritual pain that may be haunting you.

Whether you retreat to your favorite spa for a rose-petal or hot rock massage or stare at your own personal Aquarium, everyone needs a way to chill out and indulge in some nurturing time.

A great way to get in touch and turn down the world's volume is to take a long relaxing, healing bath. You can do this for minimal cost at home. All you really need is a tub, some water and some privacy to soak and soothe all that troubles you. Your bath can be a simple dip for a quick chillout break or a long lingering hedonistic experience. The choice is ultimately yours to make and enjoy

Centuries of Bath Time
From ancient times water and bathing has held a special place in the rituals of the human race. Public baths were a popular and famous institution in ancient cultures.

The Romans are famous for their bathhouses that included everything from a performance theater to areas set aside for reading and massage. Hedonistic food feasts were often included as part of a visit. One huge Roman bathing facility was thought to be able to accommodate 3,000 bathers simultaneously. Bathing was seen as both a rite as well as a refuge to the Roman people.

Although the Romans saw the bath as a social event, Egyptians bathed to purify themselves before daily prayers and Greeks believed in the fortifying powers of cold showers. Saunas were a form of steam bath popular for their restorative properties adopted by the early Scandinavian cultures.

The Japanese had their own version of ritualistic baths. They believed that a Japanese bath ritual was important to cleanse the mind and spirit and experience man's connection with nature. If dirt was removed in the process, that was just an added benefit.

Ironically, the private rooms for bathing, once the guarantee of royalty, has existed for only a century. The privacy of a room set aside specifically for bathing is taken for granted by most people in modern times.

When Rome fell, so did the standard for cleanliness and the existence of bath houses. Bathing fell out of favor for both practical and spiritual reasons. In the early days cities did not have piped water. Also, spiritual leaders considered nudity, a prerequisite for a bath, as a sin of the flesh. To the clergy, bathing was not as much about being hygienic as it was about being a sensual and sybaritic event.

It took close to 1,400 years before bathing came back into style. Baths were actually considered unhealthy during the Middle Ages and during the Renaissance. Queen Elizabeth I supposedly bragged, "I take a bath once a month, whether I need it or not."

It was the discovery of germs in the mid-1800s that created a turning point. Once germs were isolated and identified the importance of cleanliness was recognized. By 1851 the United States President living in the White House had a private bathtub with running water.

Designing Your Bath Experience
Throughout the world from Italy to Romania there are many varieties of baths from mud baths to mineral-rich waters that have legendary healing powers.

Your bath can be a simple matter of combining hot water with a splash of Epsom salts to ease tense, tired muscles and brain cells. Or it can be an elaborate affair complete with many accoutrements such as candles, music, aromatherapy based bath oils, scented soaps, incense and body lotions. You can choose to paint your body with green seaweed or lounge in your own version of a Medittarean mud bath. Sip hot jasmine tea, ice cold champagne or bottle water.

The type and duration of your bath is completely your choice and the options are endless.

The temperature of your water can range from very hot (100 to 104 degrees) to cold (75 degrees or less). The most relaxing and soothing baths are warm baths that range in temperature from 90 to 98 degrees Fahrenheit. A comfortable zone is 98 to 100 degrees for most people. The Japanese believe in keeping their water over 104 degrees.

Excessive temperatures like very hot or very cold can be more therapeutic but less relaxing. Cold baths are designed to reduce swelling by constrict blood vessels. Hot baths are use to eliminate body toxins or severe muscle soreness.

Remember to always exercise caution before taking a bath that has temperature extremes. Very hot water can scald or burn the skin. Excessively hot baths can be dangerous if medical concerns are present.

If you have a history of reactions to baths you may need to stick to relaxing shows. Some women will develop yeast or bladder irritations from some types of bubble baths, bath salts, oils and teas. Bath additives that have a lot of cornstarch may also be irritating.

If you decide to include essential oils in your bath experience, be sure that you review all posted safety use and warnings. Review an aromatherapy book before creating your own essential oil formulas.

Relaxing Bath Recipe
Before you start always make sure you don't have health problems that preclude the safety of taking a bath. If you have high blood pressure, are pregnant or suffer from a known illness, always check with your physician before taking a hot bath. The same is true if you have recently had surgery or currently have a cast on an arm, leg or related area of the body.

Before you begin gather the following items:

1. Two clean large thick luxurious bath towels. Optional is a heated towel rack that will keep the towels toasty while you float in your sea of pleasure. There is nothing more relaxing then to step from a warm, relaxing bath to a thick bath towel.

2. Robe, Kimono, Flannel PJs, fluffy socks or slippers. If you have a heated towel rack you can opt to sneak your robe or PJs on one of the rungs for a warm treat. A good friend of mine drapes her robe and towels over her steam radiator in her turn-of-the-century house. She raves about the hedonistic pleasure of leaving a warm bubble filled bath and drying off in a warm towel.

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