Writing my way through the A-to-Z blogging challenge, I’ve tasked myself with creating a manifesto reflecting wonders, curiosities, and delights currently captivating me – all through the lens of unusual, obscure, or simply charming-to-me words.
B is for…
balneal – of or pertaining to baths or to bathing.
I believe regular practices that promote calmness and serenity not only help alleviate stress, but actually help us thrive. And one of my favorite recommended self-care practices is taking a bath.
We are all such watery beings, no matter what our emotional constitution; and it simply makes sense to me that immersing ourselves into water is a way to return to balance. I particularly love Isak Dineson’s proclamation:
“The cure for anything is salt water – sweat, tears, or the sea.”
But let’s focus on the bath part today. While self-care can certainly look like indulging in a scented bubble bath with an exciting new novel and perhaps a little dish of bonbons and glass of wine nearby, that’s a rather limited view of the magic you can invite into your life with a little ceremony and a lot of water.
First I like to start out with an intention. What do I want from this bath? A clearing? A pre-bed dose of relaxation? A bit of time out of my ordinary elements and a chance to indulge in a water meditation? The list of possibilities is endless, but I like to be clear on my focus so the rest can come together with perfect ease.
Once I know what I want, I can gather the bits I need – some kind of bath additive(s), be it salts, herbal teas, seaweed, essential oils, flower essences. Maybe I want to add some candle light, or music, or incense, or bring a vase of flowers in. I happen to be a serious junkie of artisan soaps so that’s always a consideration as well.
When everything is gathered then I begin. The very first thing I do as I’m drawing the water is offer a blessing and gratitude to the water. I love doing that – it feels right and it always makes me smile – who doesn’t want to have happy water molecules to commune with? As I’m adding whatever I’m using in my water, I state an intention for what I want. Do I want peace? clarity? a sense of renewal? a release of something? I welcome and thank all the co-creators of this experience – the salts, oils, essences. And when I’m done with my bath, I say thank you again. So see, it’s really quite simple, but intentional, and that can make such a difference.
So what kinds of things can you add to the water?
Salts are great, especially for detoxing and clearing. Epsom salts which are magnesium sulfate can be very relaxing and help release toxins. Baking soda can relieve itchy or sunburned skin, but can also be used to sooth that frazzled-nerves-on-edge-I-want-to-jump-out-of-my-skin feeling as well. Dead sea salts or Celtic salts or Himalayan pink salts are also wonderful additions. I happen to have a fabulous stash of pink salt chunks that look like chunks of rose quartz – so lovely! I also enjoy making my own blends of mineral-rich salts by adding essential oils (and sometimes a bit of carrier oil as well.
- Recipe: 3 cups of salt, 15-20 drops of essential oils, and optionally, 1 T of carrier oil such as jojoba which can be bit moisturizing. Mix well and store in a tightly sealed jar, perhaps a beautiful glass container. Add ½ – 1 cup per bath. Give the water a little stir to make sure the salts are dissolved.
Essential oils are wonderful to add directly to the water, or mixed in a bit of carrier oil which is then added to the water. 7 drops is about right for a tub, or added to an ounce of carrier oil which is then added to the water. Of course you always want to be careful when using oils when in the tub – you don’t want to slip.
Herbal teas are great additions as well. You can bundle a handful of herbs into a square of cheesecloth or a muslin bag that can be tied and then placed under the running water. You want to infuse the water without actually having to deal with plant bits floating in the water and potentially messing with the plumbing. You can also make actual teas, as in steeped liquids, to add directly to your water as well. Here’s a nice one:
- Recipe: For a relaxing bath:
- handful of dried lavender flower; handful of dried chamomile flowers; optional: a pinch of dried roses or hibiscus or something else you love
- Fill a small sauce pan with water leaving enough room to add the flowers. Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes. It’ll be nice and dark. Strain the flower bits out of liquid and then add the liquid to your bath.
Flower essences are one of my favorite things to add to a bath, and I almost always use them no matter what else I’m using, if anything. Remember flower essences are different than essential oils – they contain no actual plant material but rather the vibrational essence of the flower. So you don’t have to worry about safety precautions with flower essences in the way you do with essential oils. I like to add 7 or sometimes 11 drops of a single or combination of essences per tub.
Something else I like to do sometimes is use tuning forks while I’m in the tub. I don’t actually know anyone else who is doing this, but I like the idea of the symmetry of it – water being so much of what we’re composed of and putting that container (us) inside a container of water (the tub) and allowing the tuning forks to vibrate it all. Seems magical to me.
I am a steadfast adherent of balneal indulgences that relieve stress and promote well-being.
So there you have it, my ideas on ritual bathing. What about you? Are you using baths in a therapeutic way? Do you like to add things to your water? Have any favorite bath recipes to share? Or are you strictly a shower-only kind of person? Do tell – you know I love to hear.