Roman baths, Turkish baths, hot springs, babbling brooks, water is the essence of a traditional spa. You can have a spa bath either as part of a package, or as a treatment in itself.
Submersion in water is a treat on its own. In a spa, your bath will probably be bigger than your usual, and will certainly feel more luxurious than the one at home. The whole room will be specially lit, scented and heated ready for you. Whilst just being in warm or hot water cleanses and relaxes you, it is what you add to the water, and the ritual and time you take over the ritual, that really distinguishes your experience.
Aromatherapy oils are added to the bath. These have a variety of effects. You might have eucalyptus added to the bath, which is particularly good if you have a cold or blocked sinuses. You might have lavender to soothe and relax you. A hot bath infused with sensual essential oils will soothe and relax, or invigorate you.
Brine, salt, mineral baths and balneotherapy
Minerals - salts, muds, and water containing them - have been renowned for their health-benefits for centuries; the Dead Sea, the salt flats of Turkey and the Blue Lagoon in Iceland are three of the most famous. People still travel to find them in order to have their minds, bodies and souls refreshed, cleansed and renewed, and to treat specific conditions from psoriasis to osteoarthritis. This is in many ways the motivation for traditional spas in the first place. Great buildings were built in Turkey and North Africa and in Roman-ruled countries of the world to harness the mineral waters of the land and provide a pleasurable and organised place to experience them. Angelina Jolie is said to be a fan of this ancient spa treatment, that formed part of the original spas in Roman, Ottoman and other civilisations.
What to expect If you go to a retreat spa in the mountains, you may well find they have a natural mineral spring with renowned health benefits, and guests are encouraged to bathe in the cleansing, healing waters. This can be a very special experience, as much as anything because this water will be so clean and pure, unlike almost any other kind of water you're likely to come across. The water here will be infused with natural minerals as it comes straight out of the ground. At a more conventional spa, a mineral bath is likely to involve a bath to which minerals and salts have been added, chosen according to their skin-cleaning and gleaming properties. The minerals and salts may well come from a specific source, such as the Dead Sea. You are likely to receive the treatment in a room alone, in a specially designed bath, which may also have whirlpool or gentle hydromassage functions as well. A mineral bath of this kind is taken to soothing music and may well be part of a multi-treatment "spa ritual", of which this will be one part. The temperature will be kept constant and the water may be "refreshed" throughout your treatment.
Japanese salt bath: for this bath you are seated on heated benches; the bracing mix of mineral salts and mint essence is intended to really clear your head. This is a mist rather than steam bath.
Balneotherapy is basically a fancy term for a warm mineral bath that involves different temperature jets of water.
Flower petals and essence are added to the water. There are different versions of these baths, including Japanese flower bath, and Indian blossom, each one promises a slightly different experience. Take your pick!
A favourite pre- and sometimes post-ritual treatment. The therapist will begin by placing your feet into a shallow bowl/bath of water that has been treated with herbal or plant oils. The water will probably be warm. This kind of footbath feels very luxurious and pampering, and is a pretty good bet for a therapist worried about whiffy feet.
A full-sized or foot bath containing herbs and possibly essential oils. As you bathe in hot or tepid water, you breathe in the aromas of whatever has been added.
Japanese enzyme baths
Japanese spa-ing is all about purity and simplicity. And this bath is a really refreshing, cleansing and exotic treat. You sit in a wooden tub or deep barrel, which is filled with an aromatic blend of Japanese plant enzymes. You get a cup of hot enzyme tea while you're in there. The enzyme-infused water is thought to boost circulation. It's unusual and fun.
Oil and cream baths
Essential oils and creams are dissolved in the water or rubbed into your skin before you get into the bath. The water activates the oils and makes their effects more intense, so you feel truly relaxed; a real aromatic treat.
This hot bath bubbles clean, oxygenated water around you. Feels great.
We know it doesn't sound promising but the peat is full of proteins and minerals that are soothing for your skin and actually smell pleasantly musty and earthy. There are different ways of peat bathing. Sometimes, spas will mix the peat with other ingredients to make a sweeter smelling herbal paste which is rubbed into your skin by you or a therapist, before or during your bath. Alternatively, peat may be added to the water.
Mud and algae baths
There are various kinds of mud and algae baths. You might have a mineral-style bath whose ingredients are mud- or algae-based. Alternatively, this treatment is as it sounds: you immerse yourself in mud or algae. Both are actually surprisingly warming and relaxing. Once you've got over the initial oddness of getting into a bath full of goo. You will usually be in there for between 10 and 20 minutes. The aim is to detoxify and deeply relax your muscles and leave your skin feeling soft and hydrated.
What are these baths good for?
Different kinds of baths will propose different health and relaxation benefits. Bathe in the choice of possibilities!