The days are shorter and the winds are blustering outside. Anyone else feel a warm bath calling their name?
In Japan, bathing is a ritual. For thousands of years, Japan has embraced the idea that bathing can bring a sense of peace to every person. The practice is not only for the sake of cleaning the body but also focuses on washing away the day. As opposed to having a quick shower in the morning, why not allow a warm bath to peacefully prepare you for the next day?
Ofuro is a term that is sometimes used to refer to an overall Japanese bathing ritual, and is also the term for the specific type of tub that is used in Japan. The Ofuro tub is shorter and higher than the traditional Western bathtub which allows the bather to sit comfortably with the water reaching shoulder, or above-shoulder level. The reason for this tub design is that it allows the bather to relax as opposed to focusing on actively bathing. Another key difference between the Japanese ritual of bathing and the Western way is that before stepping into the bath, a person in Japan first cleanses via a shower. The body is clean before entering the bath.
When I first learned of the bathing rituals of Japan I was enthusiastic about giving it a try but was soon hit with the realization that my bathroom was not set up for this style of bathing. How could I shower before stepping into my tub when my shower and tub are connected and the shower head is not one that is easily manipulated for a quick rinse? It seemed as though all I would be doing was showering, then waiting a good chunk of time for my bath tub to finish filling up. This seemed like it would take too much time, would not help me relax, and would be a waste of water. While I live in an apartment and have no control over how my bathroom is set up, I could take time to focus on the purpose and nature of the bathing ritual and see how I could adapt it for use in my life and my current bathroom.
I believe one of the key elements in any ritual is the setting of intention. For a more peaceful bathing routine, I first had to set the intention for it and then reflect on how I could create such an opportunity. Below are some ideas I had that could be adapted in various ways for each person to find the most meaningful way to wash away the day or week for themselves.
1. Focus on the Face
Taking a soft cloth and purposefully washing one's face can be a calming and restorative practice. Once a week, after cleansing the face, you may want to try a gentle facial steam. While there are facial steamers for sale, a simple towel and glass or ceramic bowl work great too. Simply bring some water to a boil and then pour it into your glass or ceramic bowl. Next drape a towel over your head and hold your face over the water allowing the steam to caress your face. Remember not to place your face so close to the water that your face feels like it is overly hot or like it is burning. Hold your face over the steam for 5 - 10 minutes. After your steam, be sure to put on a moisturizer so your skin does not dry out. A facial steam should only be done once a week at most.
If you have a serious skin condition or severe acne, please consult your physician before doing an at-home facial steam.
2. Focus on the Feet
Our feet work hard and deserve some TLC at the end of the day. If you have a large bucket, you may want to make a ritual out of soaking your feet at the end of the day or week. To make it extra special, you can add some essential oils to aid you in relaxing.
3. Washcloth of Peace
While your bath is filling, pull out a soft wash cloth and cleanse the body before entering the bathtub. When in your bath, allow yourself to relax and focus on your breathe. No need to dwell on the day that has been. Allow yourself to become calm. You may want to silently say to yourself, 'I breathe in peace, I breathe out peace.'