Bathing dates back to Ancient Greece and has been practiced by many cultures. Bathing can be done for hygiene, therapeutic, and religious purposes. I want to focus on the therapeutic aspect of bathing. While bathing can help with the rehabilitation of an injury, many people bathe for relaxation.
Bathing, aka soaking, is one of my personal favorite methods of self-care. For me it’s a great time to be with myself and my thoughts. It also relieves physical pain. I was diagnosed with my first knee issue shortly before I turned 11, and the conditions piled up for years. I’ve had surgery to partially remove a tumor from my right knee, several bouts of bursitis, Osgood Schlatter Disease, and Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome aka Runner’s Knee. At one point, if I remember correctly it was when I diagnosed with Runner’s Knee, the doctor told me I should NEVER use stairs again. I was about 16 years old. To say the least, I’ve struggled with knee pain for about 18 years. It comes and goes. But I find when the pain is particularly uncomfortable a hot bath helps me find relief.
Isn’t soaking just sitting in a tub of water?
Well, put like that is sounds pretty lame. True, sitting in a tub of water with lights blazing can be pretty underwhelming, so while the tub is filling set the mood. Create some ambiance by dimming the lights or lighting a candle or two. Decide if you’d like music or not, and if so, what type of music. My musical choice varies depending on my mood. I’ll listen to anything from instrumental to Birdy to East Forest to Def Leppard. Listen to whatever is appealing in the moment. Then it’s time to decide if you want to add anything to the tub; Epsom salt, essential oils, bubbles, bath bomb, bath salt (not the synthetic kind that make people zombie-like). This, too, depends on my mood, but I’m partial to tub tea. Tub tea is a mixture that steeps in the water as a person soaks. The different elements of the mixture offer different benefits, some physical and some aromatic. I’m currently using a Chamomile Calendula Tub Tea mixture. The recipe can be found at the bottom of the post.
What are some benefits of bathing?
Soaking in a tub of water can do the following:
Increased blood circulation
It’s been reported that soaking can help with Diabetes by reducing levels of glucose and sugar in the blood
Steam from the hot water can help reduce mucus and clear nasal passages
Relieve pressure on joints
These are just a handful of benefits. If you don’t have a tub, don’t worry. You can still take get some of these benefits from a hot shower. While there are some limitations with showering, you can use salt or sugar scrubs to exfoliate skin. For aromatherapy you can hang a bundle eucalyptus stems from the shower head. The steam from the water will help to release oil from the eucalyptus leaves.
Yoga is described as a journey of the self through the self to the self. This is done through physical movement, meditation, sensory deprivation, ethical living, etc. The first step of the journey is through ethical living, and the guidelines for ethical living are called Yamas and Niyamas. Within each guideline is a set of rules or commandments, so to speak.
The focus of this post is truthfulness, which is the Yama known as Satya. “Sat” means “true essence,” “true nature,” “unchangeable.” The practice of Satya is being true and consistent with reality in ones thoughts, speech, and actions. Our thoughts, speech, and actions are interchangeable and tend to be a result of how we feel in a particular moment, a result of primitive thinking, rather than seeing things for how they really are, the unchanging truth. Usually the reaction within a moment comes from a place of fear and conditioning. Thoughts, ways of speaking, and actions are influenced and conditioned by our life experiences such as events, trauma, and relationships.
How does one practice Satya?
First of all, in order to be honest with others we must first be honest with ourselves. It’s typical for people to identify with judgments. For instance, “I am a bad person…,” “I am not in a good mood…,” “I have a bad shoulder so I just deal with it.” These judgment usually arise in the moment and we attach to them. In order to detach from irrational thoughts or feelings offer yourself some space and stillness. Allow yourself to slow down and sit in observation of your thoughts. One way is to observe each thought as it comes up, offer a polite greeting, then watch each thought pass by, as if you are passing someone kindly on a street or watching cars drive by.
However, sometimes a thought or feeling sticks around or continues to come up. In that instance, allow yourself to analyze the thought or feeling. Instead of letting it multiple and grow into this mass of irrational thinking, ask yourself questions. “Why does this thought keep showing up?” “Why does it show during this particular scenario?” “Why do I feel this way?” Begin to dismantle the thought, gently and non-judgmentally taking it apart so you can arrive at the root of the thought or feeling, the truth.
This practice of observing thoughts can be done with regards to other people. Watch your thoughts as they come up. Analyze the recurring thoughts or feelings. Come to the truth about why you feel or think that way toward that person or group of people.
As you start move away from fear based thinking and feeling you can start to live and speak your truth. Allowing your entire self to be seen by everyone and voicing your needs. Speaking the truth can be just as difficult as, if not more difficult than, observing thoughts and feelings. When one is speaking it is easy to state an opinion or judgment. “I don’t like the way you fill the dishwasher.” “I can’t believe you are wearing that dress. It’s so ugly.”
Satya is the second Yama. It follows the first, and most important, Yama, which is Ahimsa (non-violence). In speaking our truth we must also practice Ahimsa. This means we must try to speak in a way that will not hurt ourselves or others. This requires us, again, to slow down and observe what is happening. A way to practice non-violent speech is Non-Violent Communication. Non-Violent Communication (NVC) is observing thoughts and feelings, creating a dialogue, and expressing needs in a way that contains compassion and truth. For instance, you come home and your partner forgot she had a cup of milk on the side table and one of the dogs had gotten on the furniture to get the cup, which resulted in milk spilled on the rug. A lot of thoughts are probably popping into your head, “I can’t believe she left a cup out again! Our dog is in so much trouble! This is ridiculous! I just got home and I have to deal with this crap!” Instead of immediately reacting and coming to your partner with all of these thoughts in your head, give yourself some time to slow down, breathe, and start to observe. Start the conversation by making a non-judgmental observation, “There is milk on the floor.” Then consider and state your feelings, “I am frustrated.” Followed by stating your needs, “I need to come home from work to an orderly space so I can relax.” Then make a request, “Would you be more conscious of where you leave things?”
This type of dialogue will result in less arguments, people will be more willing to accommodate your requests when you approach them in a calmer manner, and you will have spoken your actual truth. This can be used in all kinds of scenarios with all kinds of people. I try to use NVC when speaking to my classes. I recently had two very full classes. One being 36 out of 41 spots filled and 34 out of 35 spots for the other. I become very nervous and very concerned with student safety in classes that full because students only have about a block width between them and each person around them. I handle this by stating the obvious fact, “Wow! There are a lot of people here today!” Then I express something like, “I am so excited to have all of you! I’m also a little concerned about safety.” Followed by my needs and request, which is typically, “I need to create a safe space for each student, and because there are so many of you I need your help with that. My first request is you become and remain conscious of those around you. I’ve literally been kicked in the face while taking a class. It’s not fun to have someone’s foot touch your face. [pause for laughter] My second request is you refrain from doing particularly complex postures, like handstand. Save those for another time, please.” It is incredibly rare for a student to not honor these requests.
Keep in mind observing thoughts and feelings is a difficult task. People are used to having a constant monologue of self-talk in their heads. People are used to reacting from an emotional place. Know there may be times that you are trip up and cause yourself or someone else pain. It happens. In those instances, offer a heartfelt apology, then keep going. This is one of the reasons why Yoga is a practice.
Balance is something everyone strives for. In Yoga the concept of energy management or balancing energy is the Yama known as Brahmacharya. Older texts will describe this as continence or celibacy and relate it to sexual energy. Modern texts speak to this concept as the right use of energy or the prioritization of energy. That’s what this post will be speaking to because there are so many things that effect energy.
Humans are no longer tied to the rise and fall of the sun. We can make our spaces as bright or as dark as we want whenever we want. We can wake up and go to sleep at any time. Our work days are no longer determined by how much light is available. The options for activity are endless.
If you are noticing your energy feels off, but not sure why, and looking to create balance in your life, consider the following.
Contemplate how you actually use and direct your energy.
Sit down and actually think about where you are spending your energy. Think on the macro scale so things like work, commuting, relationships, etc. Make a pie chart if you need a visual. Notice the different things you are directing your energy toward. Which of them are external desires, things that are awesome at the time, but are ultimately fleeing? Which of them are internal desires, things that help cultivate peace and happiness within you? How can you redirect some of your energy from external desires to internal desires?
Listen to your body and mind.
Everyone has intuition, but a major problem is we’ve been taught to ignore it. The body will tell you many things if you’ll only listen. Some days the body might request intense movement like a power yoga class or 5 mile run. Other days it might be needing something gentler like yin or restorative yoga or a walk through the park. Think about this in terms of food as well. Have you ever ignored your body’s messages that is was full and kept eating? Or what about messages that it’s hungry? Do you ever eat anything that in the moment is amazing, but later it feels like a brick in your stomach, your abdomen is painfully bloated, and the mind is foggy? Do you ever consume food that is delicious in the moment and continues to not only fuel your body, but also makes the body and mind feel healthy?
Review your calendar.
Sometimes a full calendar is not the best thing. Become aware of daily activities that are draining your energy. Ask yourself if you can change or cancel some of these things, and in place schedule time for yourself. Do you need to binge Netflix late into each night? What if you watched one less episode and got more sleep? It’s okay to give yourself a moment or two to slow down, catch your breath, rest, and find some peace.
How do you know when your energy is being depleted? How does your body feel? What about your mind? In what ways do you manage your energy?