Public bathing – in cold or hot water, dry or humid saunas – became a cultural norm in some countries, a community practice most often housed in town centers. As a gathering place, these communal baths were efficient and effective for everything from shared water use to negotiating business deals to spreading relevant news.
Rarely are the words “medicine” or “healing” associated with bathing and water in mainstream U.S. culture. This is in huge contrast to the early 20th century, where at least two hot springs were commissioned as military hospitals and “ordinary Americans traveled to curative springs” regularly.
For a brief stint in the 1980s-1990s, the word “bathhouse” was uttered more frequently yet surreptitiously. Bathhouses popped up across the nation as spaces for gay and sexually liberated subculture, then many closed during the era of widespread fear around HIV and AIDS.
We believe in this shared vulnerability, there’s the opportunity for profound acceptance, safety and—despite the option to wear clothes—modesty. We can find our way back to honoring our bodies and shed the judgment, comparisons and anxiety that typically bubble up.
When you add the emotional benefits to the physical results of feeling buoyant, limber and expansive, there is a sense of being more free.
In fact, the industry just began collecting data specifically about mineral/thermal bathing in 2014 because of the surge in interest and, now with three years of data, the industry is projecting solid growth into the future.
Though conclusions still vary significantly, the study of balneotherapy—bathing in mineral water to treat disease—has also advanced, lending support beyond the feel-good vibes to the validity of these practices. As Dr Bruce Becker, a clinical professor of rehabilitation medicine at Washington State University, puts it: “warm-water immersion balances our autonomic nervous system, allowing the brain to make free-form associations, improve working memory, and foster creative thinking.”
In other words, bathing increases our capacity physically and cognitively, in large part because it is relaxing.
Riding a huge wave of interest in the incredible health benefits of traditional soak and sauna practices, we also bring a fresh, innovative and contemporary approach to public bathing spaces and rituals.
We are thrilled to be a part of this resurgence. It’s time for the bathhouse, steeped in ancient wisdom, to nourish North America.