Bath for Self-Regulation *With Breath and Touch Integration*
Updated: Sep 30, 2020
*Variations provided for a similar practice in the shower or outside of the water completely*
I offer this as a practice I have used to ground, relax, and let go, allowing my mind and body to self-regulate. It is a combination of self-touch and massage, grounding, breathing, water, fire, and aromatherapy. This is influenced by the work of many great somatic practitioners who, themselves, have been influenced by the work of countless teachers, practices and traditions, so many of which have stemmed from the wisdom of Black and Brown communities and Indigenous cultures.
There is no wrong way to do it. Take what you want, and leave the rest. Check in with yourself along the way, making sure that you want to do the next thing offered. Take a breath. Do you feel a yes welling up in your body that you want to try the next thing? If not, that’s ok. I recognize that there are parts of what I offer below that won’t be possible for many folks -- logistically, physically, mentally, emotionally or otherwise. I’ll offer some variations at the end as well. Pull what, if anything, from any section, and make it yours. Change what you want to. For some folks, being in or connecting to our bodies is what we want/need, and for other folks, our bodies or parts of them, are places we avoid/might not be ready to be in, or connect with. Both are ok. Listen to what you know about yourself. You are in control of this practice. Do what you feel ready for, and nothing else. If you notice tension or pain or an emotional response come up, trust that your body can hold it; it already is. Trust in the wisdom of your body that you can learn to move it, and hold it differently.
Set yourself up to have a greater possibility of letting go and tuning in to the present moment: Make sure you won’t be interrupted by people trying to use the bathroom. Turn off your phone/notifications/put it out of reach. Turn on music that you want to melt away to. Make a cup of tea, pour a glass of wine, fill a glass of water...Whatever you’d like.
Fill the tub with warm water. Add epsom salt for aches and pains.
Whenever I’m having acute and/or chronic muscle/ligament/tendon pain, there’s nothing that helps me more than a good epsom salt bath and some gentle stretching/yoga after, if I’m up for it.
As you’re filling the tub, get the lighting and music how you want it.
Light some candles. As you light them, start to notice your breath. Are you breathing? Are you rushing? This is your time to slow down. No need to rush. The wick will light; just give it time.
Collect any essential oils you’d like to add to your bath.
I enjoy a progression of cedarwood to ground, to tea tree oil to cleanse, to lemongrass to uplift, throughout my session. Add a few drops to your bath, or just take some slow inhales out of the bottle. Test out how essential oils interact with your skin ahead of time. For me, it’s hard to put lemongrass or peppermint directly in the water as they irritate my skin, but many others are fine. Use what oils work for you/what scents bring you calm.
Get everything set up before you slowly get into the bath. Slowly sink down into the water. Notice your breath. Take a slow breath in through the nose and out through the mouth.
Notice your surroundings. Allow your eyes to look around the room, your gaze to soften, and land wherever you’d like. Notice your breath.
If if feels ok and the time is right, Notice your body. Slowly swirl the water around you.
I will usually add a few drops of grounding oil at this point, and swirl it in a circle around me. Fear is outside of my body. It’s outside of this circle. I am safe in this circle. In this moment. In my body. My mind can allow thoughts and feelings to flow in and out. I’m just noticing them. It’s ok they come in. I don’t have to mind them.
Notice your breath. Take a slow breath in, and a slower breath out. Experiment with your breath. What feels good? Breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth? In through your nose and out through your nose?
See if you can breathe into your diaphragm -- that muscle lives inside your rib cage. Imagine your rib cage filling all the way up with cleansing, healing breath. Release what you can. Release what isn’t serving you. Place your right hand on your belly. Left hand on your heart. Breathe into your diaphragm again, allowing your rib cage and belly to rise and fall.
Keeping your hand on your belly, take another breath in through your nose and our through your mouth, this time exhaling with making an audible “vooo” sound. Our bellies and our brains are connected through the nervous system. Feel that sound vibrate all the way down through your chest, ribcage, and belly.
Notice your body. Notice your body firmly planted into the tub and the tub pushing back on you, supporting you, holding you. What is one body part that feels safe, good, or neutral to notice? Let this area be an area to come back to, to ground with, to notice again if you start feeling tense.
What parts of your body would like to move? Try out a wiggle or shake. Do your ankles want to roll? Do your wrists?
Would touch feel nice? If so, experiment with what kind of touch each body part likes. Gentle? Firm? Circles? Squeezes? Long glides?
Maybe start with your hands or feet, and work your way up your legs or arms.
If you start with your feet, you can work all the way up the body. Feet. Ankles. Calves. Knees. Quads (front/top of thighs). Hamstrings (back of thighs).
Take it slow. Breathe. Notice.
What wants touch? What doesn’t? Honor that. There’s no rush.
When you reach your belly, you can do the diaphragm/belly breath again if you’d like. You can also try a large, slow circular motion clockwise (direction of the intestinal tract which helps with digestion).
When you reach your chest, try moving from your sternum out to your shoulders on each side, imagining you are opening your heart space. Or, wet a washcloth in the warm water and lay it across your chest and/or belly. Notice its warmth and weight. Breathe.
Give your upper arms and forearms some squeezes. Maybe try sweeping each arm from shoulder out through fingertips and then pulling each finger individually. Continue breathing, and imagining release with each sweeping movement.
Gently make small circles up your neck, working both sides of the neck at the same time if possible. When you reach the back of your head, where your neck meets your skull, give this area some extra love and circular motions. Take those circles into the sides of your head and out through the top of your head.
Imagine your jaw is softening and dropping. Imagine your tongue is loose in your mouth and maybe gently touch it to the roof of your mouth, allowing your lips to part. Pull on your earlobes, pulling them down and away from your face.
Place the tips of your fingers on your eyebrows and sweep them away from your eyebrows, up across your forehead into your head. Notice your jaw. Are you clenching? See if your jaw can drop further. Put your fingertips underneath your eyes and drag them down your cheeks and off your jaw. Allow your mouth to drop and open.
Where wants more touch? What body part wants more time in the water?
Do you want to set any intentions in this moment? If not, that’s ok. Just be. Slow down. That is an intention in itself.
Incorporate cleaning your body/hair if you’d like. Notice what a washcloth feels like on your skin. Notice what touch through the washcloth feels like.
When you are ready, pull the plug on the drain. Watch the water flow down. Feel it drain off your body. Breath in. Exhale/release what you can while those last drops drain out of the tub.
Blow out each candle.
Turn on the shower. Try cooler water than you used in the tub if you’d like the effect of some hot/cold therapy. Rinse off. Incorporate offering touch to your back and glutes if you’d like.
Using cool water after a warm bath leaves me feeling more refreshed/replenished. It’s almost like sealing in all the healing before I exit the shower.
After exiting the bath, allow your experience to integrate. Take account of how you feel. If you feel something positive, sit with that feeling. If you experienced a positive moment in the bath, come back to it. You can return to that moment in your mind even when you can’t physically reproduce it.
Spend more time with your body by putting on lotion and/or doing some gentle stretching/yoga/foam rolling. Or curl up or stretch out in bed. Make another cup of tea. Listen to what your body wants. If you can’t hear what your body wants, that’s ok. It takes practice. Take another breath.
Pet a cat. Look at a tree. Listen to a bird. Notice a moonbeam. A ray of sun. Let the experience integrate. Don’t rush to the next thing. Affirm yourself for doing something for yourself today.
If you are in the shower instead of the bathtub, adapt any of this you’d like. You can still experiment with touch. You can still breathe.
Put a drop of essential oil into a washcloth and inhale. Place a wet washcloth on your chest, or on the back of your neck. Let the water rush over your body. Sweep it off your limbs and torso. Feel your feet rooted to the tub. Breathe as you watch the water swirl down the drain.
If it feels better to experiment with touch and breath outside of a bath, you can do all of those things clothed or unclothed on a bed, on the floor, in a chair.
You could also adapt this practice with a foot or hand bath in a bowl/bucket with warm water/salt/essential oil.
If you are incorporating some touch/self massage, try doing that with some body oil/cream/lotion on areas that aren’t clothed.
Notice what you are doing when you put on the oil/cream/lotion. Work into your skin in a circular way, moving slowly, honoring each part of the body you touch, individually and separately. Breath. Inhale what you need. Exhale everything else.
Photo description: Water running into and filling a bathtub. The only light comes from candles placed on the sides of the tub on either side of the running water. Three bottles of essential oils are also there - the lemongrass and cedarwood oil are from Oshun Organics, https://oshunorganics.com/ and the tea tree oil is just from a Trader Joe’s.
J Sheffield, LMT Originally Posted on Facebook April 2020