Taking a hot bath after a long day has become second nature; just a way to get rid of the dirt buildup while also unwinding. Spending 10 to 15 minutes in warm water can feel therapeutic and energizing, sure, but ultimately, it’s an essential but insignificant part of our day – a means to an end.
But many countries take it a step further. In many parts of the world, bathing is not only a habit, it’s an art form; a sacred ritual integral to the culture. They’re not just about ridding the body of toxins, but more about cleansing the spirit.
Here are some of the top bathing rituals you absolutely must experience if you have the chance.
The Turkish bath or hammam has been around for centuries and is probably one of the most well-known.
To enjoy the Turkish bath, you are first taken to a high-temperature room, known as Caldarium, and must stay there for 15 minutes. Next, you’ll move to a second room with a moderate temperature for a few minutes, in order to prepare your body for the cold-water bath that comes after. These stages can be repeated several times, or you can move to the last step where you undergo massage sessions with natural oils which help you clear your mind and feel refreshed.
Before the Spanish conquest of Mexico in the 16th century, the Aztecs, the Zapotec, Mystic, and Mayan peoples used the temazcal baths to treat diseases and cleanse the body as part of puberty rituals, birth, burials, and other tribal rituals.
5 centuries later, the temazcal is making a big comeback in Mexican hotels and spas.
This bathing ritual is performed in a rectangular or round hut made of mud. Inside, volcanic stones are heated and then splashed with water scented with plants such as rosemary and eucalyptus, which releases steam. As you sit in the heat, the shaman (or healer) then starts to recite Mayan chants, after which they scrub your body with medicinal herbs.
The temazcal may not be for everyone as the temperature can get to 40° Celsius and may feel a little claustrophobic. But if you can take the heat, it’s a unique experience that will let you reconnect with your inner self.
The Finnish Sauna
Sauna has been an integral part of Finnish civilization for centuries. Most Finns go to the sauna at least once a week, even during summer. It is so important to them that a common Finnish saying is “the sauna is a poor man’s pharmacy.”
A typical sauna bath lasts approximately 10 to 15 minutes at 80 to 100° Celsius. Many people enjoy successive sauna baths separated by periods of rest or bathing. As the temperature rises, blood flow in the arteries increases, thereby opening the pores and ridding the body of toxins.
It’s also used as a way to alleviate pain after exercise, arthritic joint pain, and even allergies.