Splish, splash: There are over 120 different Kneipp water applications ranging from washing and affusions to herbal baths. But autres pays, autres mœurs: Countries and cultures have their own traditional bathing rituals. We’ve looked all round the world and present the most fascinating ones here.
- Japanese bathing customs
Japanese bathing customs
In Japan, bathing is an important, all-embracing ritual. It is used to cleanse and nourish body and soul. People bathe in hot springs (known as “onsen”). Although they are available for public use, people must wash thoroughly before entering them. This is seen as essential to ensure the body is free of impurities. Once this is done, you can relax completely in the water for up to ten minutes, which is approximately 45 degrees Celsius, relieving persistent feelings of tension.
Japanese people also celebrate extensive bathing customs in their own homes, too. Their primary purpose is relaxation. Again, people wash before bathing. You have to be thoroughly clean before you are allowed to step into the bathtub. The whole family uses the same bath water. It sometimes stays in the tub for several days, a sealed lid maintaining a temperature of around 50 degrees Celsius.
As well as relaxation, bathing is also a social act. If possible, all family members bathe together. If there is not enough space in the bathtub, a hierarchy applies: The head of the family is the first to go into the bathtub, then the other men in descending age order. Then it’s the turn for the women.
- Ayurvedic beauty baths from India
Ayurvedic beauty baths from India
The Indian ayurvedic bath is considered to be humanity’s oldest healing art and has been practised for thousands of years. Ayurveda means “wisdom of life” or even “knowledge of long life” and involves physical and mental cleansing. The bath is used in particular to maintain, promote and restore health, but also to prevent disease.
The best preparation for an ayurvedic bath is to massage sesame seed oil or other medicinal oils into the body beforehand. This detoxifies the skin. The body is then gently cleansed in a bath of fresh medicinal plants such as chamomile, linden blossom or essential oils.
- Hammam - the Turkish steam bath
Hammam - the Turkish steam bath
The hammam is an important part of bathing customs and physical care, particularly in Arab countries and Turkey. This bathing ceremony serves to relax and cleanse the body. A steam bath involves not just sweating in sensual aromas, but cleansing followed by a massage. The hammam is traditionally seen not just as a place of relaxation and physical wellbeing but also as a place to meet.
- Temazcal - the traditional Mexican steam bath
Temazcal - the traditional Mexican steam bath
In Mexican medicine the temazcal is a steam bath with a long tradition and an important part of healing disease. Ritual purification, cleansing of the body and medicinal therapy are carried out in a traditional, round adobe hut (the “temazcal”). Inside the hut herbal remedies are placed on hot stones and water poured onto them. The hot water vapor has a relaxing and calming effect.
- Thalasso: seawater treatment from France
Thalasso: seawater treatment from France
Thalasso therapies are mainly found in France. They originate from the treatment of diseases with seawater, sea air, mud, sun, algae and sand. The saltwater from the Atlantic Sea is rich in minerals and is particularly helpful for treating skin diseases such as rheumatism and neurodermatitis, but also for circulatory problems or back problems. Thalasso therapies can also be used as wellness programs at home.
- Mikveh - the Jewish ritual immersion bath
Mikveh - the Jewish ritual immersion bath
Mikveh is a ritual immersion bath that remains highly significant for Jewish communities today. It serves to cleanse the soul and spirit, and is only permitted in flowing, natural waters (such as groundwater, spring water or collected rainwater).
The whole body is immersed in the mikveh to ensure religious cleanliness and ritual purity, for example following childbirth. Even items of equipment which are not “clean” in the spiritual sense (such as new kitchen utensils) can be immersed in the mikveh to be cleansed.