The ritual of bathing to help reduce stress, to rejuvenate and to refresh has been with us since the beginning of time. When it comes to bath time, borrow these bathing traditions from cultures all across the globe.
Ofuro – the Japanese art of bathing
In Japan, lying in a relatively shallow, western-style bath is very unusual. A bathtub is known as ofuro, and is a deep soaking or immersion tub. Like many things in Japan the traditions and rituals surrounding bathing are deep rooted, and carefully crafted to cleanse, heal and relax. The Japanese bathe daily – immersing one’s self into warm water and simply experiencing the sensations of the bath – the water, steam, heat and fragrances – brings both the body and mind into a profound state of wellbeing.
Flower baths in Bali
Balinese flower baths are so much more than just a pretty bath to look at. The ritual involves floating either fresh or dry heads of different flowers in the bath, each selected for its individual botanical properties: rose petals will nourish skin; peony will tone; chamomile will soothe irritation; hibiscus will lightly exfoliate.
In spas across Indonesia, flower baths are a common part of Lulur, a traditional cleansing ritual first employed by 17th-century Javanese royalty. After scrubbing the body using a paste of saffron, rice flour and spices, bathers then soak that all off in the flower-strewn water.
The Russian Banya
The banya is Russia’s answer to the steam room. “In one form or another, the banya has existed for at least 1,000 years,” explains Dr Ethan Pollock, author of Without The Banya We Would Perish. “Many Russians claim that to really get clean, one must go to the banya – showers and tubs only clean the skin superficially; the banya opens up the pores, removing toxins from the system.”
The main experience of the banya is to sweat and detox in extreme heat. Bathers brush and hit their skin with dried branches of white birch, oak or eucalyptus to improve circulation.
The Arabic word hammam means ‘spreader of warmth’. It’s also the name for one of the oldest cleansing traditions in the world dating back more than 2,000 years to the Roman Empire.
Moroccan hammams focus on hot steam to encourage a deep and invigorating cleanse. They are renowned for the use of black soap and Argan oil. Hammam rituals are the traditional cleansing treatments which include washing, steaming the body, deep cleansing, exfoliating and massage. It also promotes serenity and relaxation of the mind.
The Ayurvedic bath in India
Bathing lies at the core of Ayurveda, the ancient Indian holistic healing system trusted to balance the mind, body and spirit. Focused on the belief that everyone falls into one of three spiritual categories known as doshas – Kapha, Pitta and Vata – an ayurvedic bath is all about bringing an off-kilter dosha back into balance. After massaging nutritious sesame oil into the skin, bathers soak in water infused with essential oils, milks and herbs, tailored to their dosha and skin needs.