by By Laura Gaskill
The ritual of bathing has been used for health and relaxation since ancient times. Today, a relaxing bath is a simple pleasure still worth making time for. Here are ways to elevate this routine to an art with scents, salts, refreshing tubside sips and more.
Add a bathtub shelf. A beautiful wooden board that fits across your tub is as helpful as it is stylish — use it to hold your book, magazine or journal and pen, as well as a small towel to dry your hands before you pick up your book. This simple addition to the bath can lift the experience from the merely routine to something special.
Indulge in a spa treatment. Soaking in the tub is the perfect time to pamper yourself with a spa treatment. Here are a few ideas to try:
- Place chilled cucumber slices on your eyes or soak a washcloth in chamomile tea and place this over your eyes.
- Put on a face mask or hair treatment while you soak, then rinse it off in the shower.
- Add bath salts, a bath bomb or a tub “tea” sachet filled with fragrant herbs.
- Try body brushing before you get in the tub to slough off dead skin cells and stimulate circulation. Using a brush designed for this purpose (with soft natural-fiber bristles), brush your dry skin, starting at your feet and ankles, and working your way up toward your heart. Use long strokes and avoid any sensitive areas or broken skin. Then use the brush to brush your arms, starting from the wrists and stroking upward toward the shoulders.
Sip a refreshing tea, tisane or infused water. Having something refreshing to sip within reach will enhance your soaking experience and keep you well hydrated. Bring in a pot of herbal tea or a fresh herbal tisane (made with hot water poured over fresh leaves of lemon verbena or mint). Or try a carafe of water infused with mint sprigs, cucumber slices or lemon.
Decorate with fresh flowers. A few bud vases of blooms are all you need to surround yourself with beauty. And if you don’t have bud vases, get creative! Egg cups, cream pitchers, teacups and jam jars make lovely small vases.
Bring your inspiration to life. Are you enamored of the tranquillity of a Japanese soaking tub with a view of a garden, or is a charming claw-foot tub in a cottage with roses twining outside the window more your cup of tea? Even if a bathroom remodel is not in the picture (and really, what could be more unrelaxing than a remodeling project?), there are lots of ways to bring the spirit of your chosen inspiration to life, right in your current bathroom. Here are a few ideas:
- For a Japanese-style soak, swap your old bathmat for a wooden version made from fragrant Japanese hinoki wood, and bring in a bonsai or ikebana-style vase of flowers.
- To get a Shabby Chic cottage vibe, choose a white ruffled shower curtain, stack towels atop a chippy-painted chair and fill vintage teacups with candles.
- For a modern organic spa look, bring in fringed fouta towels, a teak stool and a few luxurious new bath products.
Clear surrounding clutter. What you take away is just as important as what you add — so take some time to clear away the jumble of half-empty bottles and jars from around the sink and tub. Whittle down to just your favorites and stash extra products out of sight in a nearby cupboard or inside a lidded box. You want your bath zone to feel utterly relaxing, and that begins with a clutter-free space.
Put on soothing music. Having music on is wonderful in itself, of course, but this is also a good strategy to use if you must take your bath while others are home — listening to children making a racket is not so relaxing! Just be sure to keep any electronic devices well away from the tub.
Add natural fragrance with essential oils. Try lavender, rose, bergamot, jasmine, grapefruit or anything that smells wonderful to you — most natural grocery stores and health food stores have samples available to sniff. When you are ready to bathe, add a few drops to the tub when it’s filled about halfway. (You can always add more, but you can’t remove it, so start small.) Or, you can place the drops on a half-cup of Epsom salts and then add that to the tub if you wish.
Keep a cool washcloth within reach. It’s best to keep your tub temperature nice and warm, but not too hot, which can cause dizziness. Even at a moderate temperature, if you tend to get too hot in the tub, it can help to keep a bowl filled with ice water and a washcloth beside you, and use the damp cloth to cool your face and neck as you soak.
Light candles. Candlelight can transform the ambience in the bathroom. Go subtle with just one candle or all out with a multitude of tiny tea lights. Turn off the overhead lighting and bask in the soft glow. If you’re short on candleholders, you can use Mason jars or teacups filled with plain votives or tea lights.
Cushion your neck with a rolled towel. If you like to recline while you soak, roll up a thick hand towel and use this to cushion your neck while you relax. If your hand towels are very lightweight, one may not be enough to provide support for your neck — try rolling two together or use a rolled bath towel instead. You can also buy neck pillows designed to be used in the bath.
Treat yourself to a new product. A new bar of triple-milled soap or a wonderfully fragrant tin of bath salts is a relatively small indulgence that can bring you a little jolt of joy each time you use it. The key is to use it — don’t save it for “someday”!
Try alternating hot and cold. From the Finnish practice of alternating time in a hot sauna with a plunge in icy water or snow to the Japanese practice of using a cold plunge pool after a hot bath, variations on this tradition of moving from hot to cold and back again (also known as hydrotherapy) have been used around the world for centuries.
At home, you can try your own (perhaps less extreme) take on hydrotherapy by moving from your hot bath to a quick, cold shower before returning to the bath.
After the bath, wrap up in a robe and continue to relax. Spend a few minutes after your bath savoring the feeling of complete relaxation. Wrap up in a fluffy robe and sip some tea or chilled lemon water, read or write in your journal — or simply close your eyes and rest.