Creating separation between work, play, personal and relax can be an easy tool to help the mind stay present; enter therapeutic bathing.
From the relatively new practice of (legally) soaking up anti-inflammatory CBD to mineral rich hot springs of traditional Japanese Onsen or the ocean water used in French Thalassotherapy treatment, the ritual of bathing has been employed for medicinal and therapeutic benefits for centuries. Take for example, the mustard bath which has records as early on as ancient Rome, Greece and India. Touted as a hangover cure, bedtime magic worker, serious detoxifier, and even a remedy for stressed muscles, colds, fevers and seizures, mustard seed is an expectorant that stimulates the sweat glands to get to WORK. Dr. Singha’s Mustard bath mix is a known soak that includes eucalyptus, wintergreen and rosemary to help beat a hangover or keep an on-coming cold at bay. According to Anne Searles, who co-founded the brand with Dr. Singha, “The skin is the largest organ of elimination in your body,” says Searles. “If you have a good sweat—via exercise, going to the sauna—you activate skin function.” Note that all soaks are not blended equal, and salt as an ingredient can have multiple meanings. Look for Magnesium Sulfate, or Epsom Salt, as it’s commonly referred to on ingredient lists, which is actually the mineral compound that lends therapeutic benefits. It is referred to as salt because of it’s crystalline shape, but does not contain sodium chloride, the active ingredient in table salt that we’d prefer not to soak in. Dead Sea Salt, on the other hand, has a higher mineral content and is safe for a relaxing tub. In regular ocean water, 85 percent of the salt is sodium chloride (table salt); however, Dead Sea salt is only 12-18 percent sodium chloride. This means that Dead Sea salt contains a richer mixture of other nutrients, primarily magnesium as does Pink Himalayan salt. Finally, if an ingredient is simply listed as “Bath Salts” without more information it doesn’t actually indicate what you’ll be absorbing during your self care session.
Let’s linger a bit, over the total experience. If you’re a novice bather, or one who generally plunges in as soon as the bath is full, take a moment to consider approach. Whether massaging the skin with oil for a pre-bath Ayurveda inspired experience, or steaming up the bathroom first for a full mind and body detox, a few simple extra steps offer the opportunity for a deeper connection with self. We have to give an honorable and heartfelt mention here to the late Hellen Yuan, aromatherapist and brand magician who founded HELLEN NYC before her passing late last year. Hellen was definitely onto something with a stellar collection of bath brews, each one with a specific intention and custom music designed to enhance the ritual aromatherapy experience by activating the body’s ability to clear the mind and reach a state of relaxation. Listen to Emerge from the Fog here, HELLEN’s collaboration with Dynasty Elektric. Or, create your own custom playlist and tailor it to your needs.
Equally dedicated to the art of the ritual, is Bathing Culture, a San Francisco based company that cares as much about the earth and community as they do about bathing itself. With a refill program, glass bottles, and biodegradable products, their Big Dipper Mineral Bath is all about welcoming the power of the outdoors inside. Co-founder Tim Hollinger gives us a window into the life of a professional bather.
Did you always love bathing, and the culture of bathing?
I’ve always loved bathing. Like many people, some of my earliest memories involve bathing. I remember the warm water of the tub and water being poured over my head, running down my back and never wanting to get out. I was born in New Zealand and I remember as a young kid being taken up to the hot springs and observing all the naked people sighing in the steam. When I moved to America my summers were full of swimming holes, rope swings and waterfalls. There were almost always groups of people around those spots and I think that’s when I started to see bathing as a uniquely cultural experience that can bring together all sorts of folks. I’m still learning so much about how different cultures experience and share bathing and thrilled to continue to learn and share. Bathing is one of the true joys of life.
How has bathing changed your life?
Bathing has brought me to some of the most beautiful places in the world. It’s pushed me out of my comfort zone in a positive way and led to some of the kindest (and often outrageous!) people I’ve ever come across.
Bathing is like meditation. You might do it every day and not really recognize how profound of an impact it has on you until you look back and see it’s powerful calming and centering effects. And if you’re lucky, you’ll have a truly transcendent experience!
What is your favorite kind of bath to take?
I really like taking baths in the morning. Starting the day relaxed is a gift to everyone you come in contact with.
What was the most memorable bath you ever took and why?
My partner had cut a big bunch of flowers from our garden and arranged them in a vase by the tub. Some piano music was playing and the water looked like a cut crystal. I’d spent the day trail running in the hills just north of San Francisco. It was early spring so the hills were green and muddy, and I think the newness of spring kept urging me deeper into the wild. Before I knew it, I was miles and miles further from home than I wanted to be, and by the time i made it home, it was dark and I was freezing. I’ll never forget the feeling of easing my tired and cramped body into that water. It shimmered and glistened in the warm light, eddies of steam rose around me and everything melted away. I was in the tub and all was right in my world.
One tip for the best bathing experience would be:
Your daily shower doesn’t need to be a utilitarian task – you can turn it into one of the most profound experiences of your day. Take a moment and open all of your senses to the experience. Appreciate the sound, the smell, the feeling, and even the taste of the water. Taking that one minute to go a little deeper can transform any bathing experience.
Tell us about the ingredients in Big Dipper, is there a story there?
When my business partner and I first started Bathing Culture, we would go to a lot of hot springs. Social media and the internet have made it easier than ever to find natural springs and soaking spots. Unfortunately not everyone treats these places sacredly, and even if a hot spring appears to be pristine, it may be suffering.
We realized that in this day and age going to a hot spring should be a special occasion, and we wanted to help reduce pressure on these places. When developing our Big Dipper Mineral Bath, our goal was to allow people to take the hot springs home with them.
The scent is evocative of the redwood grove above one of our favorite hot springs in California. The formula is full of ethically sourced salts that contain hundreds of trace minerals, that are present in many springs. We took hundreds of baths tweaking the blend to ensure that it would melt both mind and muscle stress. We think of it as a transportation tool that can take you to a hot spring from your home.