There's just something about kicking up your feet in the tub that immediately signals release and reprieve. Mindful bathing is a huge part of my self-care routine.
According to Simon Marxer, the director of spas at Arizona-based Miraval Resort, it's not hard to recreate a spa-inspired bathing experience in your own bathroom. It all starts with your state of mind. "The most important element of a relaxing, restorative bath is setting the intention to let go of all else and committing to care for yourself."
Stephanie Ludwig, M.Div., M.A., Ph.D., the director of spiritual wellness over at Canyon Ranch in Tucson, Arizona, adds that once your intention is there, you should set aside a good amount of time to fully commit to your wind-down routine. "A relaxing, restorative bath requires a commitment of at least 30 minutes so that you can slow down and become still, engage all of your senses in the experience of bathing, and revel in the quiet pleasure of caring for your whole being in such a deliciously simple way." Here is a routine she recommends to achieve this stillness:
A mindful bathing ritual for relaxation.
First, turn your bathing area into a personalized sacred space that feels tranquil to you. Remove any clutter from the area (like laundry or children’s toys), dim or turn off the lights, and light candles with a scent you enjoy. Add essential oils, aromatic dried flowers or herbs, or salts to the water that feel comfortably deep and warm to you. (My favorite combination is Epsom salt with dried lavender and rosemary. I rub the herbs in my hands to release their oils and then gently toss into the water.)
Lay out a robe or plush towel in your favorite color. Soothing music, especially nature sounds like flowing water or birds chirping, can be a lovely addition, although silence is a rare luxury I encourage people to indulge while bathing.
Once immersed in the tub, close your eyes; focus your attention on breathing gently in and out through your nose to activate the relaxation response. Settle into the rhythm of breathing, allowing the stresses and strains of the day to release into the water with each exhale. Invite each sense to awaken. This is the time in my own bathing ritual when I speak aloud a prayer of gratitude for sacred water—the water I drink, cook with, bathe and swim in, the water I am dependent upon for survival. This restores a sense of spiritual connection to an element I can easily take for granted when it flows clearly, cleanly, and abundantly from my faucet whenever I want it.
Slowly apply a body oil from your feet upward, pausing at each part of your body to express appreciation and gratitude for how well that part of your body is functioning. When you are ready to emerge from the bath, give yourself ample time to pat dry slowly, dress slowly, and move slowly into whatever activity follows.
Easy ways to make your bath even more indulgent.
To transform your bath routine into a spa-worthy experience, Marxer says to keep accessible luxuries like a favorite snack, a glass of cool lemon or cucumber water, or a chilled towel sprayed with essential oils within reach. You can place these on your face and neck during your time in the water. His top aromatic picks include chamomile, sandalwood, and lavender for relaxation, and ginger, black pepper, rosemary, and chamomile for stress relief. If you're looking for a more energizing bath, he points to patchouli, rosemary, grapefruit, and juniper berry. And before you hop in the water, his pro tip is to gather some fluffy towels, slippers, and a robe that can greet you when you get out of the water to keep the relaxation going a little longer.
What if you don't have a bath?
"You can carry out much of the ritual I have described, with the exception of immersion, in a shower or in a bathroom with a sink," says Ludwig. "It is taking the time, creating your sacred space, restoring peace through the breath, engaging the senses, expressing gratitude for water and your functioning body that provide the self-nurturance that you long for."
Simon adds that a warm shower can be just as pampering, especially if you go with a luscious scrub or exfoliator. For an aromatic element, place a bundle of eucalyptus over your shower head and breathe in the steam deeply.