Beautify and get healthy. (It's a two birds, one stone kind of deal.)
A couple years ago, back when we weren’t the kale-chomping, spin class-attending, deep-breathing, wellness obsessees we are now, the mention of staying on top of something as minute as our water game (a.k.a. drinking those eight-a-day glasses) might have prompted a huge :eyes:roll. But now, since we’re older, seriously wiser, and have had way more experience with water’s healing powers—both in keeping our skin glowing and knocking out that hangover from happy-hour-turned-last-call—we know H2O is a total game changer, on so many levels. We’re not only religious about hitting up our Swell water bottles (ALL.THE.TIME.), you’ll find us filling our plates with hydrating veggies and even dunking our pouts in fancy Perrier for a carbonated water facial (but really—we actually do that).
So when it came to our attention that a few of our regular Insta-girls were hitting up jacuzzis, steam rooms and ice baths, we had to, for the love of :droplet:, know what was behind the dips and soaks. Not to mention, with temps dropping to polar vortex lows, a trip to a bath house is something we will gladly dip into our well-worn wallets for. To get the deets on what exactly goes down in the steam room and sauna, and if we should be adding yet another wellness-related activity to our agendas (is there such a thing as too much?), we roped in Liz Tortolani, holistic guru—she’s studied yoga, massage and art therapy, and integrative nutrition—who just opened up Brooklyn’s newest boutique bath house, cityWell. Spoiler: looks like we’ve found our new H20bsession (see what we did there? :innocent:)
Bath House = (Wo)Man’s First Chill Pill
Though the practice of going to a bath house is just sinking in in North America, hydrotherapy—using water to stay healthy or treat pain—isn’t some novel concept created by hipsters. Beginning with the Romans (the original bath house ballers), humans have been checking into baths/hot springs/Japanese onsens/Russian banyas for quite literally, millennia, and letting water do the healing.
“Water is the primal way of being with the body. If you think about it, as babies in the womb, we essentially grow and develop in water, so it’s so natural, the body automatically relaxes in it—and the ancients took full advantage of its power," explained Tortolani. "Spending time in a bath house will naturally help you unwind, release tension, and clear your head. At the end you’ll notice a huge difference. I like to call it active napping because you feel so blissed out, and because your mind is clearer, you’ll actually be much more energized.”
The trick to purging the body of all the gunk it holds onto from boozy brunches or accidentally diving into another pint/bag/sleeve of your junk food poison of choice is to channel your inner Katy Perry. Think: “You’re hot, then you’re cold.” So, while there are technically no real rules at the bath house—though some might require you to stick to nothing but a birthday suit, Liz’s doesn’t—there is a slightly more methodical way to get the most of out the experience. This means starting out with a temperate shower to limber up muscles and joints, followed by a five to 10 minute steam session, a topped off by an icy shower. You can repeat this one to three times. Hint: just do it once if it’s your first time.
Why the extremes? “By hiking up the temperature, you bring blood to organs and limbs, and then with a cold blast, the blood vessels tighten, which flushes all the toxins out," says Tortolani. "It is especially helpful if you are on the brink of a cold or drank way too much the night before—it’ll help you feel better quicker. Hydrotherapy also speeds up the body’s lymphatic system which clears out toxins like lactic acid and helps the immune system clear out viruses.”
You’ll Still Want to Hydrate
Funny thing about hanging out in all this water is that jumping from steam room to shower to hot tub can leave your skin super moisturized, but zap some of your body’s H20. To avoid an unpleasant collision with the floor, it’s key to drink water, tea, or coconut water before, during, and after.
The Benefits Are Kind of Endless
Seriously, we couldn’t hold in our OMG/WTF for more than a second when we learned how easy it was to score so many physical and mental perks. And basically all you have to do is... sit there. “People are a little shocked when they learn how good it is to a bath house is and how easy it is to feel good with, honestly, very little effort," Tortolani told us. "Research has shown that hydrotherapy lowers blood pressure, heart rate and stress hormones, which of course, when they are high, mean you’re not only frazzled but can contribute to a number of health issues. Because you're relaxed, you’ll also sleep like a baby afterward. We don’t focus on the cosmetic effects of the bath house, but you’ll definitely be super moisturized after and have that rosy, post-facial glow.” In other words, this regime is excellent if you're as L-A-Z-Y as we admittedly are.
Become a Regular
A bath house jaunt is a savior if you’ve gone a bit YOLO at happy hour, clocked in insane overtime at the office, or are coming down with a cold, but it can be way more than just a quick fix for an #OopsIDidItAgain; it’s a way of sidestepping the bad shit—health issues, stress, overeating—before it happens.
“As a culture we’re just used to dealing with whatever happens when it's happening, so sometimes we forget about this concept of prevention and remembering that we can actually reduce stress and poor habits before they even occur," says Tortolani. "You’ll get so many benefits if you make time for the bath house as little as once a week. Connecting with your body in the bath house not only helps you in that moment, it’s like a domino effect of good decisions. Once you are in tune with your body, you can almost automatically start making better choices for yourself. You’ll be more energized to want to make healthy eating choices and cook clean and healthy, to go to sleep when you’re tired, and knowing that ‘just one’ glass of wine probably won’t do you any good. Your body just learns to know what you need." Juries still out on that single glass of Pinot, but it sounds like it's more than worth the attempt.