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August 6, 2021 — 15:03 PM
Of all the beautifying and wellness rituals out there, baths certainly are among the most popular. In modern times, and in the West, we speak of them using words like “pampering,” “indulgent,” and “splurge.” Of course, bathing practices can be all of those things should you want them to be—but they can also be a vital and integral part of regular life and rejuvenation, as they have been for all of human history. It’s right in the vein of what we talk about here all of the time at mindbodygreen: Taking care of yourself—whatever that looks like to you—shouldn’t be viewed as superficial or lavish.
But here’s one area in which our bathing association with opulence might be spot-on: space. Bathtubs, especially the soaking kind, aren’t a given in many homes or apartments. For Mama Medicine, or Deborah Hanekamp (who wrote a book called Ritual Baths, mind you), she turns to foot soaks in these instances.
“Personally I try to do a ritual bath once a week, but guess what? I lost my bathtub in my apartment—it was taken away from me. Instead, I got really into foot soaks,” she tells me on a recent episode of mindbodygreen’s Clean Beauty School.
Here, her go-to foot soak routine.
An easy guide to a mindful foot soak.
Before we begin, let me give you the rundown on foot soaks: They’re pretty great. According to many studies, they come with loads of benefits—many comparable to a full-body bath. Studies show that nightly foot soaks can help relieve anxiety and may even improve sleep quality. One 2016 peer-reviewed study found that a nightly foot soak was able to help patients sleep more soundly throughout the night—these benefits were even greater when paired with a gentle foot rub. Another small human study found that when elderly patients had a twice-daily hot foot soak, their overall energy levels improved. An additional small human study also done with elderly patients found that a regular foot soak may reduce stress and high blood pressure. And finally, a recent pilot study found that foot baths helped lower levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, in patients.
All sounds good, no? And according to Hanekamp, turning a simple foot soak into a mindful one only takes a few small steps and items, such as the below:
- A basin that fits both of your feet comfortably
- Hot water
- Other plants
Now you’re ready to soak:
- Set your intention. “What changes a bath from a regular bath to a ritual bath is just the acknowledgment of how you feel before you get into the bath and how you feel when you get out of the bath,” she says. “It’s really just a practice of paying attention and awareness.”
- Bring in nature. “Connect to the power of nature in order to be your own healer. I really love bringing natural elements into the bath: flowers, salts, herbal tea, crystals, and even stones that you’ve found on the beach that really speak to you,” she says.
- Seal in the moisture with oil. Post-bath, it’s vital that you trap in all that hydration with a skin-friendly oil. If you don’t, you’ll experience transepidermal water loss and may end up damaging your skin barrier. We love jojoba, coconut, and argan—but whatever one you love the most will do just fine.
If you don’t have room for a full-body tub, you can still get the benefits of a soak in a foot bath. Studies show that they can help in a variety of ways, from improved sleep quality to stress management. And according to Hanekamp, they can even be transformative.