I recently enjoyed a holiday to Japan where I was introduced to the cultural ritual of onsen, or hot spring bathing, and I fell deeply in love with it for its restorative and health-giving benefits.
There are natural hot spring pools found all over Japan that are open for public or private use, but even in built up areas there are public baths, and in most homes there remains the tradition of cleansing and bathing in hot baths.
What makes this different from other hot spring experiences is that it is done nude – minus all the layers of the external world – and emphasis is on the element of serene mindfulness. Whether bathing for 15 minutes, or for a few hours, the effect is deeply calming and nourishing for mind, body and soul.
The ritual starts with disrobing and preparing the body and mind for bathing with a vigorous, soapy shower. In Japan this is done seated on a small stool with a handheld shower and small towel. There is no need to rush, and of course mindfulness is key.
Once clean, the next step is respectfully entering the bathing area of hot pools and often includes a sauna, steam room or other therapeutic areas such as salt scrubbing or hot stone beds.
After soaking all your troubles away, it’s time to dry off and put on a clean robe (yukata) and enjoy the feeling of relaxation whilst applying foot balm or sipping freshly brewed green tea.
Sounds pretty good doesn’t it?!
The good news is it can be re-created in your own home, as part of your own self-care ritual. Even better, is that down here on the Peninsula we are lucky to have access to the renowned Peninsula Hot Springs that provides all the ambience and health benefits of natural hot spring waters.
BENEFITS OF BATHING?
HEAT is YANG in quality and is used therapeutically to warm up cold bodies, invigorate blood circulation, combat cold-type aches and pains, and is especially good in the colder months.
WATER and SALTS belong to the KIDNEY (shèn,肾) organ system and help to regulate growth & metabolism, reproductive function, body fluids and the adrenals.
Bathing has a deep effect of Calming the Mind.
Other benefits are:
- Meditative, mindful activity
- Reduce mental and physical stress
- Soothe sore muscles
- Improve breathing and boost the immune system
- Calm the nervous system
- Aid muscle recovery and enhance physical performance
- Preparation for sleep
- Adding epsom salts helps to increase magnesium intake.
HOW TO BATHE AT HOME?
– Prepare the bathtub and surrounding area. Although not necessary and not part of the Japanese tradition, place candles, incense, essential oils, flowers, music, or other special touches depending on the mood you’d like to create. I sometimes like to choose a card from a guidance-deck or write down a goal or intention I’m currently working towards. Whiteboard markers on the mirror are great for this!
– Fill the tub with water that feels comfortably hot
– Add half a cup of epsom salts, and/or 2-3 tsps himalayan or celtic sea salt
– Take a shower first, so that all soap and dirt are washed away
– Soak in the tub for as long as you please 🙂
– Leave the bath slowly and carefully in case there is any dizziness
– Enjoy filtered water or herbal teas to rehydrate and aid any ‘detox’ effect
– Super-charge the experience by dry skin brushing, taking alternating cold showers and hot bathes, adding a salt or coffee scrub, or by enjoying a massage or gentle yoga class afterwards.
Try not to have distractions. This is an opportunity for you to really ‘come home’ to yourself. Notice any thoughts and feelings that arise. If this is an anxiety-provoking challenge for you, it’s a good opportunity to identify the source of that anxiety and make changes accordingly.
HOW FREQUENTLY SHOULD I BATHE?
As often as you like! 1-3 times per week is an ideal starting place. See what suits your body and your needs. It can be enjoyed at any time of day.
WHEN TO AVOID BATHING?
Avoid exposure to high-temperature water in the following circumstances:
* after an IVF or IUI transfer
* during pregnancy
* babies and young children
* if you experience very high blood pressure or very low blood pressure
* men trying to conceive within the next 3 months
* skin rashes – depending on your TCM diagnosis the hot water may exacerbate “heat” conditions
* if you have had recent surgery, illness, wounds, or have a medical condition please consult your treating doctor for advice.
ALTERNATIVES TO BATHING?
Taking a foot-bath, or a ‘leg spa’ with epsom salts can have the same health-bringing effects and is safe for most people.
WHAT ELSE CAN I DO TO RELAX AND RECHARGE?
Acupuncture is a perfect accompaniment to hot spring bathing experiences. It can help to boost and prolong the calming effect, improve blood flow, lymphatic circulation, detoxification, and treat specific conditions.
Enjoy an acupuncture session then head over to the Peninsula Hotsprings in your next free time slot!
Eli is available for consult on Wednesday and Friday’s at Mornington Chinese Medicine.
To book your appointment call us on ph: 5973 6886.