Given my affinity for bathing, I was a little surprised that I hadn't written on the subject before. Baths are responsible for any amount of sanity I maintain, and there is no better time for a bath than the shift from summer to fall.
I am obsessed with baths. I suppose I come by it honestly, given the fact that my mom has taken a daily bath every night of her life– or as long as I can remember. Every night she would get off work she would draw a bath, pile up some magazines and everything else could wait until she'd had a bath. Ahhhh.... I've been conditioned to think that a bath equals the only way to end the day. My obsession with bathing has rubbed off on my whole family, and there are many evenings when we all plop in the bath together. I'm sure some people might think this is odd, but I really have to wonder why. It's actually really cozy!
There are plenty of people who will debate the bath versus the shower. I also realize that a comfortable place to take a bath is most definitely a luxury, and not something that I take for granted. But bathing is one of those things that in our culture has a little bit of a taboo. We think that baths are for women (historically they were actually more for men) or that they are for special occasions, or illness. But not for daily maintenance. We're often too focused on efficiency to take the time for a bath. In our culture, it is not only a luxury of resource it is a luxury of time.
What is wrong with slowing down to take a bath? Leaving your phone in the other room, and savoring the moment? Is that so bad? Are we in that big of a hurry? People always ask me how I have time to read or take baths, and for me its really simple– I just DO those things because it is super important to me. Bathing is one of these habits that I've regularly done for a long time, and it has only started to receive more attention for its healing benefit.
But bathing is by no means a new thing, nor does it need to be done in a solo environment. The culture around bathing (outside of our own) is quite remarkable, and full of history. Bathhouse culture has existed for centuries– the oldest dating back to 2500 BC in what would be present day Pakistan. Called "The Great Bath", this remarkable structure gives us an idea of what communal bathing would have been like 5000 years ago. Bathhouse culture is virtually as old as human history. These were places where community and ritual was performed around cleansing. While getting naked in front of strangers is now the ultimate taboo, and these bathhouses have adapted to social norms over the years– I do wonder if we've gone too far in the opposite direction. Now we think it's weird to even bathe with our own families.
The cultures with some of the most prolific bathhouse cultures are Russian (banya), Turkish (hammam), Japanese (onsen), Korean (jimjilbang), and Finnish saunas are simply remarkable. It is such a beautiful and interesting way of relating to each other. These bathhouses were places that represented equality, diversity and celebrated the bare naked human universality that we are all experiencing. Without clothes we become more equal. I'm not ready to get naked in front of my neighbors any more than you are, but I do wonder why not.
Like so many things– unprocessed food, clean air, clean water, time... these rights and rituals have been co-opted into something of a luxury. Spas or wellness centers or even a bathtub isn't something that most people have access too. We continue to make things more divisive, and these simple luxuries that heal and make life a much more enjoyable experience is saved only for those who have access.
I don't have the answers to all of these problems, but I do believe that it is important to look at what we consider "wellness luxuries" and realize the importance and value these have for all of humanity. If you do currently have the luxury to take a bath, try doing so with grace, gratitude, and exercise the ability to slow down for 10 minutes.
Lastly, I can't speak about baths without mentioning water. What about water conservation? How can I promote baths in a drought stressed California?
A daily bath doesn't have to be filled to the brim. You can get warm and cozy in a half full tub (or even 1/3 full) and if you're bathing with your family in the same water it's actually pretty efficient. That long relaxing shower that we all like actually isn't that great for water conservation. All the more reason for a communal experience.
Here is my recipe for a great bath, with or without friends and family.
1 - Get rid of your phone. There is nothing that wastes water or time like bathing with your phone. If you are like me, and you like to use the bath to ideate - try a pen and paper.
2 - Open windows if possible. Ahhh....
3 - Dry brush before getting in. Use a gentle natural brush. It takes two minutes to give your skin a little wakeup.
4 - Use an oil before, during and after the bath. As someone with really dry skin, I've read all of the debates on bath vs shower for dry skin. Hands down baths win for me. If I take a hot shower all of my dry skin flares. If I take a bath slathered in oil, I come out feeling soft and deeply moisturized. I of course recommend The Oil or The Balm.
5 - Get friendly with your favorite essential oils. A few drops of essential oils will elevate your bathing experience. Don't let someone tell you what to use. Find your favorites, and indulge yourself.
6 - Grab a book. If you don't like to read, close your eyes.
Most of all, enjoy!