Saturday August 02, 2014
"I have not yet grown weary of looking at the water, doing nothing, thinking idly in a haphazard sort of way." Doris Grumbach
The ingenuous inventors of the Turkish bath captured the sun to create a palace of humidity.
The Turkish bath reveals the luxury of the Ottoman Empire, always elegant and distinguished, with high vaulted ceilings, rich marble veneer and geometric fountainheads. Described as a magnificent Turkish carpet, hundreds of years old, displaying patterns that had evolved to perfection over centuries, these bathing establishments were originally complementary to the mosques.
The visitor to the baths took great pleasure in the traditional social and spiritual aspects thereof. "The Romans classed bathing as a ceremonial ritual, and for the Turks the bathhouse was a social and recreational center which was a dispensable part of daily life." (Jane Campsie)
The Finnish Sauna is the same as the Russian bath, a room built of logs that contain large stove piled with stones. It is customary for Scandinavians to invite their friends and neighbors to the sauna for health purposes and to bring about therapeutic change.
The ritual begins by sitting in the dry heat to start the flow of blood circulation to various body parts and cells. To increase the heat’s intensity the bather makes steam by throwing water on the hot rocks. After about 20 min., one should cool off either with a shower, or by jumping in a nearby lake, or rolling in the snow. Another important component of the ritual is brushing the body with a birch whisk. To increase circulation, one whisks the body from top to bottom. Then one soaps up. It is quite pleasant to whip up lather with a birch whisk; the fragrance of birch lingers on the skin. After rinsing off, a bather may enjoy another or several more rounds of heating up and cooling down.
The Ancient Greeks would consider it bad manners not to offer a travel-weary guest the use of a bath, during which oils would be rubbed onto the body and scrubbed off. (Warm water, considered effeminate, would be reserved for women. Men had to settle with a splash of cold)
In this refuge, a handful of rose cuttings are added to cup of bath salts. Drifting petals create lulling scented islands in this bath time escape, an act of kindness a traveller, or home dweller, will not soon forget. - LESLIE GEORGE
Courtyards surrounded gardens of olive trees and cypresses, fragrant gardenia bushes and trickling fountains, and offered a sanctuary to meditate. "I'd rather have roses on my table, than diamonds round my neck" – EMMA GOLDMAN
The hypothalamus in our brain controls the homeostasis of the autonomic nervous system between the sympathetic (active) and the parasympathetic (relaxation) nervous tone. Continual stress may alter the point of homeostasis with effect on the sympathetic nervous system and the immune system. High levels of stress hormone, causes conditions of hypertension or high blood pressure. Therapeutic Sauna has shown to aid adaptation, reduce stress hormone, lower blood pressure and improve cardiovascular conditions.
A Japanese bath is not organised in the same way as the Western Bath. The pattern is the same, whether at a public bath or at a private home. Proper etiquette of the bath is essential.
First the bathers thoroughly soak themselves outside the bath. Public Bath Houses in Japan have played a role as community gathering places for hundreds of years comparable to pubs or coffee houses in Europe: centres where neighbours meet regularly to share news and gossip. And until recently both sexes shared the same bath.
Bathing with others rather than solitude, reinforces the most cohesive element in Japanese society, the sense of community. Washing takes place outside the actual bath. Having thoroughly soaked themselves, the bathers then carefully wash themselves off, allowing the soapy water to run away in separate channels. Then and only then, the bather can enter the water, to sit and chat for hours. Lulled by the heat, all tension and pain gone, replaced by calm and tranquillity.