Monday, December 22, 2008

The Virtues of Bathing

Bath, originally uploaded by lady eighty.

Hot bath water
No place to throw
Insects singing all around

The time leading to the holidays can be stressful and strenuous both mentally and physically. Lots of work to get done before the long winter break. Many parties and social functions to attend and/or organize. Even Holiday preparations such as shopping, cooking and baking can take a toll on your health and stress you out if you’re not careful.

Being in the midst of the holiday rush myself, I’ve found that simple little rituals really help to ease out the stress and balance out the overall intensity of these past two months. Giving yourself a little attention, quietly, and being mindful about yourself in the midst of this chaos – even if just for a few minutes – can make all the difference and might save a lot of trouble (i.e.: fatigue, headache, back pain, meltdown or whichever way your system tends to cope with the stress).

Soaking in a hot tub in the evening is a great way to relax and also get your body nice and tired before bedtime. It allows to wash off the worries of the day along with the dirt. In Japan, bathing in the evening is an important ritual that all member of the family take part of. Everyone washes before entering the bath, and all use the same water, which is of course very hot! It is also customary to use whole plants (i.e.: Shoubu, a type of iris) or fruits (yuzu) in the bath depending on the season. These plants are believed to help maintain one’s health.

Traditionally, the Japanese bath tubs are made from wood such as hinoki - a Japanese cypress with a very pleasing aroma. I found these awesome bath salts at Daiso (a Japanese twonie/100 yen store located in the Aberdeen Mall in Richmond, BC), which smell wonderful and surprisingly natural (especially knowing their price). I particularly enjoy bathing in the soft light of candles, especially scented; and my Bois d’Hiver candles make a beautiful compliment to this woody bath soak.

The virtues of bathing go beyond basic hygene practices. The sound of the water flowing into the tub and swishing around is relaxing and calming. In the soft light, you mind can relax and put behind all the day's worries and stress and ready itself for a peaceful slumber. The act of washing and bathing brings awarness to every part of the body and to the body as a whole. Bathing with your partner can also be a shared time of relaxation and intimacy (schedule and bath size permitting...). And of course you could also argue water's many symbolic meanings of a source of vitality, a place where our life began (the womb), and purity.

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