From the mythical Fountain of Youth to healing hot springs in some exotic location, to vichy shower treatments in a spa, to a relaxing baths before bedtime in your own home, using water to relax, revitalize, maintain, and restore health is a holistic method that has been practiced and enjoyed by most cultures and societies throughout history, across the globe.
Brief history of hydrotherapy:
The use of water to heal wasn’t given a technical name until the 19th century, when Father Sebastian Kneipp, reknowned Bavarian priest and holistic healer who influenced many different modalities of “modern” holistic medicine (including naturopathy) called it “hydrotherapy”, and thus became known as the “Father of Hydrotherapy”.
Kneipp’s methods were said to cure everything from tuberculosis and typhoid to simple headaches, using different types of hydrotherapy treatments including including saunas, both hot and cold baths, foot baths, sitz baths, cold and hot water compresses, and even pouring constant streams of warm or cold water directly to different areas of the body. Of course his methods drew much skepticism from other types of doctors back then, who accused him of quackery; but his methods which he outlined in his book My Water Cure continue to be used successfully by practitioners of various holistic and non-holistic modalities today. This book was first published in 1892, was updated several times by Kneipp, and remains in circulation today.
Benjamin Lust, credited for bringing modern naturopathy to the United States, was healed by Kneipp and also wrote of his methods in his book Official Naturopath and Herald of Health.
I was never one for baths…
When I was a kid I always remembered my mother taking her daily bath before bedtime to unwind before bed. Personally I just preferred warm showers both for cleansing and for relaxation.
As an adult I never really soaked in a tub (just a Jacuzzi or hot tub at the gym or a spa) until I started my preparations for my Reiki attunements and training. Before I went for my first attunement, I was instructed by my master teacher to take very warm salt baths every night to detoxify and purify my physical body, as well as my chakras and spiritual body. This practice would put my body in its purest state to be able to get the most strength out of the attunement. I was supposed to use Epsom salts, and soak for about 20 minutes while meditating and practicing some visualization exercises. I was not prepared for the emotional release and intense physical relaxation that followed the baths, but I knew that I had never slept better in my life, and the peaceful feeling lasted throughout the day.
I kept taking the Epsom salt baths on a daily basis during my Reiki study, and even started using an Epsom salt with lavender in it (before I even knew that lavender is excellent for detoxification and relaxation). I even created my own pre-bath chakra purification ritual using white sage smoke, and I proceeded to give myself Reiki during the salt bath itself. I had not been told to do this, but I knew that water magnifies certain waves of energy like UV rays and other rays, so I thought maybe it would magnify the Reiki energy. It sure did. These baths were intense and beautiful at the same time and the effects were lasting. If you happen to be a Reiki practitioner, I highly recommend that you try giving yourself Reiki during a salt bath.
High quality, unprocessed salts from the Earth are wonderful for detoxification as well as from healing. Epsom salts are great, but I have found the pink Himalayan salts and Dead Sea salts to be the best because they have the highest mineral content.
If you read my article about Halotherapy, or salt therapy, you surely remember that salt creates a healthy negative ion charge which is attracted to positively-charged toxins in the body, and thus draws them out through the skin (I mean, who would forget that? ;). Instead of having this occur in a salt cave or salt room, you can create this environment right in your own bathroom (assuming you have a tub). And it does work. You can often see dark gunk at the bottom of the tub when you get out. Fun.
So in the salt bath, the salt (and other detoxifying essential oils or herbs if you use them) draws the toxins out of the body, but at the same time, it replenishes any deficient minerals.
The Holistically Haute™ Detoxifying Salt Bath Ritual:
This should be done close to bedtime, because you will want to go to sleep when you are done. The first thing I always do before a detox salt bath is a thorough dry brushing. This preps and begins the detoxification process of the skin as well as the internal organs and fluids. Your results will be much better if you dry brush first. Read my dry brushing article for more information about this technique.
Optional pre-bath preparation: If you are able to get whole dried white sage, take a few leaves and put them in a fire and heat-safe little bowl and light them (of course use caution and common sense and make sure there’s nothing flammable nearby). A smudge stick made only of white sage will work fine.
Using the chakra diagram below as a guide, hold the bowl with the burning sage embers (or smudge stick) in your left hand, and with your right hand smudge (gently fan the smoke in the direction of the area using circular hand motions) the areas of the body corresponding to where the chakras are located from bottom to top. I like to keep the sage burning during my bath.
Take a cup or two of pink Himalayan or Dead Sea salt (Epsom or Celtic Sea salt if you don’t have the others), or a high quality pre-mixed salt-based detox bath soak and dissolve it in a full tub of very warm, but not hot water. You should be able to submerge yourself without experiencing a heat reflex as if you were walking across hot coals (do not try that at home…or anywhere else…EVER). Relax and clear your mind. This is not the time to think about that meeting tomorrow, or something with the kids, or financial worries…it is the time to just be quiet and peaceful: just be. If you meditate or practice visualization or any other mental relaxation techniques this would be the right time and place to do that.
Stay in the bath for no longer than 20 minutes, or according to Father Kneipp, until you get pink (whichever comes first). Get out, extinguish any sage embers let the water drain out and gently towel off. Go straight into a cool shower (not too cold because it will shock the body). Make sure you use a good washcloth or gentle scrubbing gloves to remove any excess salt and toxins from the skin. Afterwards, it is nice to apply a herbal moisturizer. Once you’re done with your bedtime ritual, get thee to bed and dream sweet dreams. Your mind, spirit, and body should be totally relaxed, clear, and at peace and you should have an amazing night of sleep.