Oxford English Dictionary defines a bath as “an act or process of immersing and washing one’s body in a large container of water.” While technically correct, this hardly captures the essence of this age-old ritual. A bath is something quite profound — a respite from the world with serious restorative benefits, a vehicle for renewal in fraught times. While most people nowadays take showers because they’re quick and easy, every now and then give yourself a break; De-stress: Take a bath!
Health Benefits of the Bath
A bath is a form of hydrotherapy, also known as “water cures” which have been used for centuries for healing. There are many forms — saunas, steam baths, foot baths, sit baths, colonics, etc. — but simply bathing in your home tub is probably the most accessible. If, however, there are any pre-existing conditions or possible health limitations, it is always a good idea to consult a health professional before embarking on any form of hydrotherapy.
Here are some of the many benefits bathing has to offer:
Improves heart health. Taking a warm bath makes your heart beat faster, giving it a gentle but effective work out. Hot water baths, however, are not recommended. They can put unnecessary strain on your heart, especially for those with a pre-existing heart condition.
Helps you breathe easier. Immersing yourself in water up to the base of your neck improves lung capacity and oxygen intake. This is based on two factors: water temperature and the pressure the water places on your chest and lungs. When the water is warm and your heart is naturally beating faster, your oxygen intake can be enhanced and the steam created can clear your sinuses and chest.
Balances brain and nervous system. Submerging in water reduces pain and inflammation, while also calming the nervous system. This lowers stress levels and improves mood. For people with chronic conditions like multiple sclerosis, the warmth and pressure of the water gently relieves spine pain and discomfort which is also a stress reliever.
Strengthens muscles, joints and bones. Stretching and moving in water has been found to have low impact on joints, muscles and bones, while still providing a potent workout through resistance. This is ideal for anyone with a muscular or skeletal injury or for the elderly who may be at risk for falls on dry land.
Increases blood flow and supports immune function. A warm water bath makes the blood flow easier. It also increases oxygenation by allowing you to breathe deeper and slower, especially when taking in steam. A fairly hot water bath can help relieve symptoms of cold and flu and improve immunity.
Balances hormones. Bathing in cooler water temperatures can help improve conditions like chronic fatigue syndrome and some fertility issues. This has a balancing effect on pituitary hormones like ACTH (adrenocorticotropic), beta endorphin or cortisol. Alternatively, warm water bathing tends to increase serotonin levels — the chemical produced by the brain associated with happiness and well being.
Cleans and moisturizes skin, hair and eyes. Being immersed in water and steam ensures overall hydration of the body. The human body is composed of approximately 70% water which is why imbibing water is important. But soaking in water is also extremely salutary. You can amplify this by adding certain oils or salts to the bath water, rich in naturally occurring minerals. (See below, Additions)
Regulates core body temperature. A bath is a quick and pleasurable way to regulate body temperature. On a cold day, a hot bath will pleasantly warm you up all over. On a hot day, a dip in the cold ocean is a surefire way to cool off.
Additions to your bath
Here are some ways to add therapeutic power — as well as a little “zing” — to your bath:
Apple Cider Vinegar (raw organic) — 1 cup per bath helps balance skin pH levels, combat yeast infections, sooth sunburn.
Himalayan salt — 1/2 cup for acne, eczema, psoriasis.
Dead Sea Salts or sea salt — 1/2 cup for psoriasis and arthritic pain.
Chamomile flowers or organic, dried rose petals — for relaxation or better sleep, use flowers to make an extra strong cup of tea to add to bath or place a handful in a muslin bag or sock and steep in the bath.
Ginger — 1/2 cup shredded fresh ginger or 1 tsp ginger powder for increasing the body’s chi, boosting immunity and relieving pain. Follow up with a quick shower to rinse off perspiration (contraindicated in cases of high blood pressure, diabetes, or history of heart disease).
Epsom salts — 1/2 cup to fortify magnesium and augment serotonin which will help increase energy and stamina, decrease irritability and adrenaline, lower blood pressure, increase concentration and improve sleeping habits.
Essential oils — 5-7 drops added. Lavender (nervous support), eucalyptus or tea tree oil (congestion, colds, flu), geranium (adrenal and reproductive hormone support), pine or fill needle (adrenal and nervous support).