Updated: Aug 8, 2022
For someone who’s all about self-care, I couldn’t remember the last time I took a bath.
After a full day of spiritual workshop with guided meditation, soul-expanding wisdom and a mountain of unveiled truths (aka high-vibing shit), I felt whirly and woozy from the intense rush of energy. Even after the recommended physical exercises to ground and clear, I floated around the kitchen, off balance and out-of-it.
In this case, to flush out any accumulation of leftover energy trapped in the body, the teacher suggested a hot bath with 1-3 pounds of Himalayan salt + lavender essential oil.
We’d lived here for over a year and I was yet to christen the tub with a soak. I didn’t even know if the water would run hot long enough. But the August days have been boiling and the pipes primed to fill the tub all the way to the top with steam swirling and squiggling over the surface as I sprinkled a hefty serving of lavender drops and dumped in a pound of pink salt pebbles. They settled to the bottom like rocks find their way in a stream and I lowered myself into the bath, letting my dreadlocks form the perfect layer of cushion behind my neck and upper back.
I’d seen a lot of bath inspo on Insta with a jungle of hanging plants cascading down, stones and crystals lining the rim, a fire-hazard amount of candles glowing, one of those wooden tables that hooks on the edges—adorned with a brownish orange sea sponge, tea with flower petals drifting in it, a book on moon cycles—all set in the middle of a tropical paradise that doesn’t seem to have a source of plumbing . . . but here’s the most magnificent free-standing tub carved from a single piece of rose quartz, and, of course, the water’s surface is dotted with a smattering of lotus, as if they were grown inside the tub itself.
In my personal tub reality, I managed to squeeze a tea light in each corner down by my feet and crook my legs at just the right angle to fit my whole body in the tub, even though my prego-looking belly bulged above the waterline like a sizable island or a whale hump ready to blow.
I forgot how hard it was to take a bath.
When I was 19, studying abroad in Spain, there was a girl in our program who complained about everything. We called her Agua Fiestas - our equivalent for “wet blanket” or “party pooper.” One day my friend invited her to a group dinner (which we were all pissed at him for), and the whole time Agua Fiestas complained about all things under the sun, as usual.
When she dove into how stressed she was about finals, my friend suggested, “How about you take a nice hot bath to relax?”
“I can’t breathe when the water gets up to my neck. It’s like I’m choking.” She shriveled up her nose and hugged her neck with her hands for dramatic effect.
It was all we could do to choke back our food and not lose it laughing at how Agua Fiestas managed to despise everything, even a relaxing hot bath.
Well, 15 years later and two minutes into my relaxing hot bath, it was hard to breathe and I felt like I was suffocating under the heat. It wasn’t soothing or sexy. I was sweating balls. Thankfully the air conditioner kicked on and with the vent angled down, I could sip some cool circulation and calm my mild panic. Whether submerged in hot water, shut in a Bikram yoga room or sweating it out in a sauna—there’s a sense of claustrophobia that makes you feel trapped, even though you’re choosing to be there for the benefit of cleansing, detox and eventual relaxation.
Self-care or otherwise: Almost nothing is what it looks like on Insta.
It took me a good 10 minutes to figure out how to pop the drain after floundering around, naked and sopping in the dark, trying to wedge a butterknife under the rubber seal, to no avail. After sloshing across the bath mats to flip on the light, I realized there was a simple OPEN and CLOSE indicator etched on the drain that signaled twist to release.
Ah well. Such was my bath. Once I’d breathed a bit more deeply under the AC, I put on a short meditation and managed to wrangle in my antsy-ness for a few minutes at least. Allowing any pent-up energy to pull from my pores, I caught wafts of lavender and shots of cool air every bunch of seconds. When I rinsed and twisted my ropes of hair, squeezing out the water from the long snake sponges, I felt officially cleansed. Deeply rested. And relaxed.
Although not-so-relaxing for the larger part of my experience, I guess there’s really something to a relaxing hot bath. I just survived my first one, and already, I want to take another.