During my last year at university, I found myself walking out of a class with a group of women that I had just met in a mutual class. I forget now the exact name of the class, but it was a woman’s studies class where we had been discussing the psychological ramifications of guilt that women often feel when they take time for themselves to meet their own personal needs or have to learn to set boundaries.
It was a class that added to a personal revolution I was going through at the time, but that is for another time.
What was revolutionary and changed a habit of mine forever, was a comment a woman made to the group as we walked out of class and into the massive parking structure that is Cal State Long Beach.
“I only take baths.”
She said it matter of factly, but there was a liberation in her tone. Bath time for her was her own personal revolution in carving out time for herself, away from family, away from work, away from whatever conventions had taught her this was way too indulgent to not be ashamed of.
It has to say a lot about my upbringing that I was pretty scandalized by this.
Growing up we had two bathrooms at home. The one for ‘visitors’ which had a lovely bath tub NO ONE USED, and my parents bathroom with a shower that we all used.
Baths were wasteful, indulgent and selfish because they necessitated longer time locked away in the bathroom by. your. self.
A Ritual Was Born
I found this to be so rebellious, to… MUCH, that I started to take baths that very night.
I’ve only taken baths since, with the exceptions of those times that my husband and I are traveling and staying somewhere that doesn’t have a tub, or I’m dying my hair in which case I need to shower in order to wash the dye out.
Showers are my time. I linger, I close my eyes, I’m alone and get to wash away the day. I don’t excuse it, I don’t apologize for it and over the years it’s become essential to my daily routine. It’s meditative and nothing helps me sleep better than a long hot bath. And during the first day or two of my period when I might feel some cramping? You better believe I’m cranking up the heat and lingering as long as I can.
Health Benefits Of Baths
- A bath helps improve circulation and heart health. In people without heart disease, the warm to hot water of a bath can cause the heart to beat a bit faster. This not only gives your heart a bit of a work out, but it also improve circulation around the body and to the extremities as it makes the blood less viscous and the vessels function better.
- Reduction of pain and inflammation. Being in a tub of hot water relaxes the nervous system and muscles which reduces pain like cramping. And tissue opens due to the increased circulation which aids flushing out inflammation.
- Deepen sleep. The heat relaxes the body, which helps you slow down your breathing, deepening the breath and slowing down the rush of thought we typically have in our heads. A hot bath is a perfect precursor to a good nights deep and replenishing sleep.
- Reduces headaches. Hormone fluctuations can constrict blood vessels in the head and brain that leads to headaches. The circulatory relaxation that occurs during hot bath can lesson the pain of headaches by relaxing the blood vessels.
- Creates a habit of carving out time and space for yourself to actually unwind. This can be the hardest but most important part of a bathing ritual; Self care requires taking time, carving out a solid 15-30 minutes of silence to just be in a state of pleasure and release. It sounds so easy, but in truth, it can take practice bathing for 15-30 and not doing anything. This issue is at the heart of our struggles to stop and simply take care of ourselves to the exclusion of everything else.