Communal bathing in deliciously piping hot water has become the new happy hour. As radical self-care becomes one of the hottest wellness trends of 2018, bathhouses are experiencing a renaissance in America, with most major cities having at least one and a surprising number of new ones being built.
What is a bath house? Think of it as a cross between a spa, a hot spring and a gym. It’s a unique but time-tested approach for pain relief as well as a chief method of boosting wellness and reducing stress.
Communal bathing is nothing new for many countries. It has a rich and illustrious history in Finland, Russia, Rome, Japan and Korea, with each culture having their own version of a community bathhouse, most often housed in town centers.
Bathhouses serve as a gathering place, an invitation to connect in a setting where sensual absorbtion replaces small talk. Bathhouses run counter to our contemporary American notion that baths are to be taken privately, secretly, alone—an idea is often rooted in bodily shame.
A brief history of bathhouses in America
Soaking in healing waters was more popular a hundred of years ago, in the early 20th century, when ordinary Americans traveled to curative springs regularly. As showers and baths became standard features in American homes, the communal bath house fell out of favor. They made a brief comeback in the 1980s-1990s, when bathhouses popped up all over the country as spaces for gay and sexually liberated subculture. Many closed during the era of HIV and AIDS panic.
Today, a resurgence of the bath house tradition is in the making—perhaps as a return to the old wisdom. Take Soak Boulder, a new bathhouse-in-progress in one of the most wellness-forward towns in America. On the website, it says “Soak Boulder fulfills a growing need currently unmet by traditional spa settings, gym facilities and ‘nearby’ mineral hot springs to downshift the nervous system—an accessible and affordable hydrotherapy option that invites radical responsibility for self-care in a clean, contemporary bathhouse setting.”
These days, anything that downshifts the nervous system, aka encourages relaxation, speaks to our collective pain point. Soaking is a way to intentionally unplug and consciously simplify.
Hot tubs inseminated with chlorine don’t quite cut it—for one thing, the harsh chemicals that comprise chlorine can cause skin and eye irritation.
The new crop of bathhouses favors saltwater soaking, which eliminates the needs for chlorine. As a method of purification, salt is both environmentally and skin friendly. Here are some of the key benefits of soaking in salt water:
Promotes cell regeneration
Relieves pain and soreness
Restores the body’s mineral balance
Balances the nervous system
Supports the immune system
Promotes mental relaxation
Next time you get a hankering for a hot bath on a large scale, consider investigating whether there is a bathhouse near you. It may do more than wash away your cares—it can immerse you in the waters of your deepest essence.