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Soaking Sanctuary

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The bath has always been a simple source of pleasure and healing, and judging by the proliferation of modern shops offering bath enhancements, the enjoyment we find in a go.

The bath has always been a simple source of pleasure and healing, and judging by the proliferation of modern shops offering bath enhancements, the enjoyment we find in a good soak hasn't diminished over time.

There is an art to bathing that goes beyond just jumping into the tub for a quick scrub down. Bathing relaxes, rejuvenates, promotes healing, soothes emotions and acts as a balm for the spirit. While soaking, people may resolve issues, generate creative insights or find refuge from the demands of a busy life.

Parents can also use this ritual as a way to bond with children, teach them skills and prepare them for bedtime. Some children dread the bath because they don't like the chilly feeling of getting out of the tub while wet. Turning on a heat lamp or portable heater (kept well away from any water source for safety) helps to make the room more comfortable for bathers of all ages.

Nothing says "I love me" like a bath! Light beeswax candles, turn out the light, drop a rose-scented bath balm into the warm water and step in for a few minutes of down time. Or, for an invigorating pick-me-up before heading out to a busy workday, add six drops of peppermint essential oil to six drops of a carrier oil such as almond, apricot kernel or jojoba and swirl into your hot bath water. Bath oils can make the tub very slippery, so be careful getting out of the tub. If you're concerned about slipping, put one or two drops of an essential oil of your choice into a diffuser instead.

The skin is most permeable when wet, so it's worth shopping around for bath products such as colour baths, fizzing bath balms, bubble baths and aroma baths that contain only the purest of ingredients. Bubble baths can be drying to the skin, so don't overuse them. Afterward, try applying a massage blend that combines three drops of an essential oil to one tablespoon (15 millilitres) of carrier oil. Lavender, mandarin and frankincense are all appropriate essential oils for young children.

For sore, overworked muscles, saturate the bath water with Epsom salts the dancer's and athlete's secret ingredient for success. Or gently massage a handful of Epsom salts over your wet skin to exfoliate and stimulate circulation, then rinse off in a brief shower afterwards. Another option to relieve aching muscles is to add a blend of three drops each of ginger, lemongrass and chamomile essential oils in nine drops of a carrier oil to the bath water.

Pregnant women may enjoy a daily bath to ease any physical strain and soothe their emotions. While using essential oils during the first trimester is generally not recommended, a fragrant bath can still be enjoyed using whole herbs. Mix together organic rose petals, lavender flowers, chamomile blossoms, dried mint leaves and rolled oats. Tie them up in a small cotton bag. Attach the bag to the faucet and let the warm water run over it as your bath fills. Rub the bag over your body during the bath to gently stimulate circulation and soften the skin.

Baths can also be a good way to head off an upcoming bout of cold or flu. Combine one cup (250 ml) each of baking soda and Epsom salts with three tablespoons (45 ml) of powdered ginger and add to a hot bath. Drink a cup of water before getting into the tub and an additional one-and-a-half cups while bathing to stay well hydrated. Scrub your skin with a washcloth or loofah every 10 minutes for the 20 to 40 minutes you're in the tub, then finish with a cool shower to get the circulation going.

The benefits of your bath warrant a book of their own. Keep a bath journal and share your discoveries with your family and friends.

People with heart conditions and pregnant women should avoid hot baths. Those with high blood pressure or a heart or kidney condition should avoid using Epsom salts. Avoid exposure to direct sunlight for 12 hours after using mandarin or any citrus essential oil.

Basic Bath Balm Recipe

1 cup (250 ml) baking soda
1/2 cup (125 ml) citric acid
1/2 cup (125 ml) Epsom salts (optional)
10 drops essential oil
10 drops carrier oil such as almond, apricot kernel or jojoba

Mix ingredients together well in a bowl. With a fine spray bottle, spritz some water just a bit at a time to moisten the mixture, stirring after each spritz. (Some people use witch hazel instead of water, as it evaporates more quickly.) This recipe requires very little water, so be careful. When mix begins to stick together, form into ball shapes or press into moulds. Let them dry 24 to 48 hours before storing. Then drop one in your bath and watch the fun!

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