In the Greek and Roman bathhouse as many as seven healers at one time would take a client into a bath with each healer taking responsibility for a specific area of the body. Their services were more sought after than local physicians’. These bathhouses, along with the Turkish Hamam’s were places to socialise, do business, even share a meal.
The rise of western spa culture with its focus on luxury and pampering have largely taken away from the more traditional idea of the bath house and consumers are often more interested in combining the medicinal health benefits with beauty routines, scrubs, massages, masks are now here to practise their own bathing rituals. Today’s Hamams are a rare glimpse into an old tradition of self care, a care that is now more commonly practised behind a closed door.
You leave your self vulnerable when you strip down and submerge. But there are big and kind of primal (maybe essential) benefits humans get from baring their vulner- abilities in a communal setting. One of the consequences
of exposing and aged body, a body with birthmarks or childbirth scars is an acceptance of ones body as it is but also an acquiescence to the group. Nudity is a great equal- iser. And the bathhouse once again seems to have become a place of acceptance, body confidence and a place of healing, of treating and sharing a mutual space. That’s whats so interesting - this idea of water as therapy comes in so many forms something that most people do in their daily lives but may not pay much attention to. Why do we use the water - how do we use the water. What I learnt so far is
that even if people appear to just be bathing for leisure its often so much more than that. Its often for mental health or for a sense of relief from life’s daily struggles. A swim in the ocean at the end of the work day seems to instantly lift moods, clear heads, create endorphins - benefit the brain and the body. Other people use bathing to relax, to control aniexties, or medical conditions, to strengthen the body, to relax the body.
This is an ongoing series