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by Teri Brickey
Vol 2-1
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After the Bath: Woman Drying Her Feet
Edgar Dega, 1886, courtesy of CGFA
The Art and Science of Bathing

Hallows marks the return of cold weather to the Northern Hemisphere, and thus the return of one of my favorite rituals, the evening bath. In the summer months, when the sun is still bright at 9 pm and the temperature doesn't drop below 80, even at night, the bath seems a remote pleasure. But when the dark and the cold begin to creep in, there is nothing in the world more relaxing and revitalizing than a good bath.

The bath was always a mystical place for me, as it was the one place that I could count on being left alone by my eight brothers and sisters. It became both a pleasure and a refuge, and continues to be a source of endless comfort and fascination. I was convinced that my baths helped to keep me healthy through the months cooped up indoors, but it wasn't until I started my training in healthcare that I understood why.

Lymph
Lymph is the fluid of our immune system. It filters the blood and carries away the toxins. Lymph vessels, unlike arteries and veins, have no pump of their own and little muscular structure to move the fluid along. So there are two ways that lymph moves: muscle movement and skin stimulation. This is where the bath comes in. All the body scrubs, loofahs and sponges that exfoliate the skin can also stimulate lymph flow, if used intentionally. Below are some of my favorite ways to stimulate lymph flow, along with directions for aiding the flow. They also have the benefit of being very inexpensive when done at home!

Dry Body Brushing: You may have seen this on a spa menu and thought, why would you do that? Well, first of all it feels great! And it's as good a morning pick-me-up as that cup of coffee, and much better for you.

wooden body brush
used with permission, Hicks Mountain Trading Post

Start with a hand-held boar bristle brush (a detachable handle makes it easy to get to your back too). These are readily available in the health and beauty section of most discount department stores for about $5. Brush from fingertips to armpit, using light quick strokes and making sure to move all around the circumference of the arm. Spend a few extra strokes around the breast tissue, the center of the chest, moving downward, and across the top of the chest, back and forth. Brush down the neck, again all the way around. Brush up the legs, spending extra time on the back of the knee and the inner thigh. Make sure the strokes are still quick and light. On the abdomen, move in circles clockwise around the navel (down the left, up the right). On the back, stroke from side to side. When you have finished your whole body, take a minute to appreciate the sensation you have produced! Then proceed with your regular routine.

Exfoliating Gloves: I prefer these to sponges and loofahs because you (literally) have fingertip control. You can get all the nooks and crannies that you can't get with a sponge. In addition, you can give your muscles a little massage as you go. These are used in the shower with you favorite shower gel. Work in the same directions as with dry body brushing, making sure to get in between the toes (the reflexology points for the lymph system) and to massage the scalp.

Salt Glow: This is a common spa treatment that you can do at home for about $50 less. Mix sea salt with massage oil (olive oil or almond oil work well, but any oil that you like will be fine). The mix should be about 1 part oil to 1 part salt (you can adjust for personal preference); ½ cup of each will do most bodies. Add 2-3 drops of your favorite essential oil and apply immediately, working in the same direction as with dry body brushing, from extremities in. You may want to get a friend to help with your back (or the whole thing! It can be a stimulating experience in more ways than one!). Rinse off, and if you want to remove a little bit more of the oil, use your regular cleanser. Rub the oil in and your skin will be as soft as the day you were born.

The Bath Itself: Removing Toxins, Stimulating Regeneration
Water is the great cleanser. It cleanses our bodies of impurities, both inside and out. What we add to it, however, can mean the difference between merely clean skin and a healthy body.

traditional Celtic salt-harvesting
used with permission, GreySalt.com

Salt: We all know that our bodies are made up of mostly water. What else is there? Salt! (And various other minerals, proteins, etc.) Therefore, salt in solution is able to penetrate cellular walls and help to remove toxins through the skin. Sea salt or Epsom salt are the best choices for detox baths. Epsom salts are a smooth muscle relaxer and help relieve muscle pain, as well as clearing lymphatic congestion. 1-4 pounds are necessary for a full bath, which should last about 12-15 minutes. For a mainenance bath, reduce to 2 pounds of salt and bathe about once every 3 days. Sea salt assists in detoxification of heavy metals and radiation, as well as cleaning the aura field and clearing the energetic body (great for pre-ritual preparation). Use 1-2 pounds in a 12-15 minute bath. The temperature should be warm but not hot (a hot bath is okay on occasion, but can increase blood pressure and heart rate so use sparingly, and not at all if you have an underlying condition). You'll want to rinse the salt off your skin after you're done, and don't be surprised if your bath water gets kind of murky - that's a good thing. It means it's working.

Apple Cider Vinegar: Vinegar causes the pores to open, thus allowing the body to detox. It's also great for restoring the natural pH of skin and hair, combating unfriendly bacteria and fungus, soothing itchy skin and relieving sunburn discomfort. In a bath, use 2-4 cups of pure, unprocessed apple cider vinegar in a 12-15 minute bath. This is also the best bath for recovering after a night on the town. J

There are so many other ways to enjoy a bath, I invite you to experiment and enjoy your bath. Please feel free to email questions to Tbrickey@juno.com.

Graphics Credits
+ After the Bath: Woman Drying Her Feet, Edgar Dega, 1886, courtesy of CGFA
+
wooden body brush, used with permission, Hicks Mountain Trading Post
+ traditional Celtic salt-harvesting, used with permission, GreySalt.com

Contributors retain the copyright to their work; please do not take art or words without permission. All other graphics and reference materials are used and attributed as per the Fair Use Provision of The Copyright Act and individual terms of use.
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