- Mental Health
Relieve Stress With A Musical Bath Meditation
Music + bath + meditation. Each of these and all together can help relieve stress. I take a musical bath meditation every other week or more - sometimes as a self indulgence, sometimes to feel more deserving or attractive, sometimes for stress relief. When stress is high, it's an excellent time to take a power-packed bath with music, meditation, and other accoutrements added.
The Peace of Meditation
Effects of Stress & Anxiety
Sustained, high stress is one of the health killers of Western culture. We breed it, to the point that a person is somehow seen as "lacking" when they don't exhibit stress under circumstances measured by society as conducive (like losing a job). This attitude has the odd result of making life stressful for everyone, working or not, because the expectation of stress is so high.
When stress has become something to admire, where does that leave us as a society? Sick, always sick - with headaches, body aches, colds, allergies, asthma, indigestion, heartburn . . . did I say headaches? This odd result is, of course, exploited by industry, which offers record numbers of medications (both prescription and non), tests and thorough examinations, psychiatric services - all to relieve stress that doesn't need to be there in the first place.
Musical Bath Meditations Relieve Stress
All this brouhaha and the medical and insurance costs that go with it can be avoided. Why lose time sick in bed, when you could use it for special self-care time, like massage or hatha yoga or musical bath meditations? You could use each of the components of this practice to relax, in fact, since each of them has a different effect:
- Music - Helps the senses focus on pleasant things, thereby soothing the emotions.
- Bath - Warms and cleanses the body. Helps you relax physically.
- Meditation - Opens up the breath, calming the heart and stilling the monkey mind.
I can verify from experience that each of the three techniques work individually to reduce stress and I use them at different times regularly. But when you need a power shot, putting all of them together triples the stress relieving effect, especially with the additional components that go naturally with a bath (like wine and candles).
Stress, Music, and the Brain
For this kind of bath, It's important to choose the right kind of music. Music that enhances anger won't work. Music that reminds you of good times might, but if it's too lively, it would be better to play it while you're doing housework or another activity that will let you dance. The best music for a meditation bath is soothing, so if you don't know your CD collection well, take the time to play through it with eyes closed to assess the effect of each CD on your psyche.
A Cochrane Systematic Review found that listening to music could decrease blood pressure, heart rate, and levels of anxiety in heart patients." - Science Daily, 04/16/09.
The researchers from the University of Kansas Medical Center found that the people who had the most musical training in their lives had the best mental sharpness, and scored the highest on brain functioning tests." - 2011 Neuropsychology Journal.
Stress Relief, Bathing, and Relaxation
Warm water relaxes the muscles and soothes the nerves. Lying down in warm water feels womb-like and safe, separate from the outside world. Adding candles and a fragrance for intimacy further separates and insulates. Adding bath salts and some kind of oil can relieve the worry of chlorine absorption, make the water feel silkier, and help you relax even more. It also makes you feel special to treat yourself in this special way.
Meditating to Center
Meditation is when you separate your mind from everyday world cares and take it into a higher and broader state of peace and/or observation. It's purpose is to get you "centered," i.e. operating from the very best place in you - the most objective and loving place that is both "deep" and "high," encompassing all perspectives of life and all that you are - your Spirit. This is the place from whence the best ideas come. Answers and even the "real" questions are there, accessible once you've relaxed and centered enough.
Soothing music can help get you there. Meditative classical or chamber music works, as do light jazz, Native American flutes, Irish Indy pop, certain Hawaiian music, nature sounds, and chanting. Here are some of my favorites - only a few of the many great recordings available. Note that Amazon lets you play snippets of CDs they sell, so you can get a feeling for the style:
Ten CDs of relaxing classical music by different artists and composers. Some of these pieces are so beautiful they make me cry. I'm about due to buy another set, since the one I have is so old the sound is fading.
The 10-set Meditation Classical Relaxation series (pictured on the right)
Andreas Vollenweider's New Age "free music" (link at the end)
David Young's recorder music
Inya or Clannad (same family) Indy Pop
Martin Pahinui's traditional Hawaiian music
Dancing Cat Records' Hawaiian slack key guitar recordings
Some of Kenny G's saxophone CD's
Nearly anything by Roberta Flack
Much of Carlos Nakai's Native American type music
Ottmar Liebert's rumba collection
Dan Gibson's "Solitudes" and other nature music
Tribal Winds and other music from Native American flutes (Wayra, Carlos Reynosa)
Nature music from Nature's Creations, Nature Recordings (Jungle is nice), and Sounds of Nature. Some of Lifescapes CDs are good too.
The Gyoto Monks' freedom chants
Supplies To Relieve Stress
There are many other supplemental supplies that can make your musical bath meditation soothing and pleasing. Here are some of them:
Rationale For Supplies Above
Bath salts (or just sea salt) to counteract chlorine in the water and provide trace minerals for skin absorption.
Bubble bath (or dish soap) - just a little - to evoke that childhood bubble bath security.
Coconut, olive, or some kind of bath oil to rehydrate your skin. You will have to wash your hair and the tub afterward, but this works great for the skin and makes the water feel great too.
A few drops of scented oil like mint, eucalyptus, patchouli, or whatever scent you want to linger in your hair and on your skin afterward.
Candles - the best good mood producers I know. Use beeswax, so they last longer. Surround yourself. Use unscented ones that won't interfere with the scent of the bath.
Snacks - wine and chocolate (or crackers and a good cheese). Last night I had cranberry juice with chocolate mint drops, an incredible combination of flavors.
Tablet and pen, in case a good idea or some sort of revelation pops out.
Loofa sponge, mitt, or gloves
Setting Up Your Stress-Free Bath
Now that you have all of your supplies on hand, choose a time when you know you can be left alone. Put your overflow protector in place, if you have one, so you can fill the tub up high. Plug the tub and turn the hot water on. Add bath salt/s and a bit of bubble bath. Let the hot water run, as you fix your snacks, set up the candles, and choose your oils.
When the tub is 2/3 full, turn off the hot water and turn on the cold. Choose your music and set it to playing. Choose whatever clothing you'll put on afterward. Light your candles, if you haven't already. Check to make sure the water is just right and turn the cold off. Swirl to dissolve salts. Add oils. Turn off your cell phone. Now you're ready to climb in.
Meditating In The Bath
Check one last time to make sure you can bathe undisturbed, then undress and slide into the bathwater. Savor the feel of the silky warm water swirling around you. Absorb its heat. Move your leg a little to enhance the swirl. Let your body relax and your mind begin to drift.
After a time, ease yourself into watching your breath for awhile. Take some deep, easy breaths and feel what happens. Stretch and let your mind drift again. Ease yourself into the music - feel it in your body. Let yourself drift again. Rouse yourself to take a sip of wine and nibble a chocolate. Relax again. Write a little snippet if something occurs to you. Relax and drift. LIsten to the music. Drift until the water gets cool and you're done.
When you're ready, put on the loofa gloves or use the sponge to carefully scrub your body. This takes off any loose skin. Wash the gloves with soap, if you used oil in the bath. Pull the plug to let the water go. Lie back and feel the water slowly sinking down your body.
When it's nearly gone, turn the shower on and wash your hair, if you used oil. Rather than rubbing, dab your skin dry to prevent the oil from coming off. Be careful climbing out of the bath.
Cleaning Up As A Meditation
If you used oil, you'll need to wash the bathtub as well (I use baking soda to wash the tub). Let it all be part of the meditation. Treat all with gratitude. Thank the candles as you blow them out and put them away. Thank the performers as the music ends. Leave the bathroom clean and be grateful for it.
To carry the good feelings back into your regular world, write in your journal or make your next activity a fun one. Pay extra attention to your children and/or partner, so they learn to like it that you took special time for yourself.
This will set you up for many more hours of special music meditation bath time in the future, with the blessings of everyone around you. It will set a great example for how to deal with stress for the rest of your family too. From then on, when someone snaps at others you could warn them, "Do you want to take a meditation bath?" and smile with them as their eyes light up or they sigh in acknowledgement. Happy bathing!
Links about music and stress:
- Music Therapy and Stress
Music Therapy and Stress relief. The beneficial effects of music on the brain continues to affect the way we process our emotions long after the music has stopped playing.
- Using Music to Tune the Heart - Harvard Health
Researchers are exploring how the use of music therapy may aid in the treatment and recovery of cardiovascular patients.
- Music And Health: 11 Ways Playing And Listening To Music Help Both Body And Mind
Ah, the healing power of music. Whether it's the perfect song after a bad break-up, or something relaxing to listen to while you study, there are endless ways that music makes our hearts and souls feel better.
This is one of my favorite "weird" bath recordings. It relaxes and takes you "out there." I have other CD's by this musician too, and like them all.