It might seem strange to be writing a guide to taking a bath, but we’ve recently discovered the Japanese art of mindful bathing. And it’s pretty blissful. A bath is the perfect time to take a moment out of your busy day to reset and unwind. Instead of reading a book or listening to a podcast or the radio, try this mindful approach and feel the benefits for your mind as well as your body.
Here’s how to have the most relaxing, rejuvenating bath, whether you’re hibernating indoors on an Autumn evening or setting off for a day’s work.
Allow plenty of time so you’re not clock-watching. Lock the door, switch off your phone and tell your family that you’ll be unavailable for the next 20-30 minutes. Light a candle (or several) and set out a clean, soft towel (preferably on a radiator or heated towel rail). Put out any spa accessories, like sponges, loofahs or body brushes. Take slow, deep breaths and run the water comfortably hot. Add some relaxing bath oil or bath bubbles, and breathe in the scent as it begins to help you unwind.
In the Japanese tradition the actual washing happens in a pre-bath shower, but for the sake of practicalities we’ve combined the two. But it’s useful to think of the bath as having two separate functions: cleaning and relaxing. That way you can make sure you get the most out of your time. Step into the bath and immerse yourself in the scented water. Wash all over with a nourishing soap – at this time of year our skin has to deal with the ravages of cold air and central heating, which can leave sore, dry, flaky patches. A gentle soap or cleanser will take care of sensitive winter skin. Buff with a scrub and linen body pad or linen body glove to boost circulation and remove dead skin cells. Rinse well.
Lie back and feel the water take your weight. Close your eyes and notice how supported and calm you feel in this cosy, warm, quiet space. Even if you have a limited time, spend as long as you can focussing on how your body is feeling. If you find yourself thinking about to-do lists or things you have to organise, try to let these thoughts just float by. Feel the water wash away any stresses or annoyances from your day. Feel grateful for the good moments, for this delicious bath and the roof over your head. Top up with hot water if you begin to feel cool.
Slowly step out of the bath and wrap yourself in your warm, soft towel. A linen towel is not only gentle on your skin, it will also absorb water more effectively than a cotton towel. Pat your skin dry, paying attention to the backs of your knees, between your toes and inside your elbows. Slather yourself in a restorative skin lotion to replenish any lost moisture and keep your skin smooth. Slip into a linen bathrobe to stay extra snug. Try not to rush, and keep paying attention to how much more relaxed you feel as you get dressed or put on your nightclothes. Notice the feeling of your feet on the ground, back on dry land. If you’re off to bed, tuck up in luxurious linen bedlinen to keep that wonderfully luxurious feeling. If you are starting your day, drink a cup of hot herbal tea to prolong the tranquility before turning on your phone or making breakfast.
What are your favourite bathtime rituals?