Hamam, the Hedonistic Body Detox
The hamam or Turkish bath stands for more than a just place for washing and cleansing. It was actually an ancient variation of a Spa, combining the facilities of hydrotherapy, massage parlour and beauty treatments. Women often brought their food to be cooked in the hamams oven while enjoying the pampering.
There were reportedly 300 public baths in Istanbul in the 16th century (about 60 left today). The hamam once provided a rare avenue for socialising. In fact it played such a crucial role, it is rumoured that women who did not receive their biweekly hamam allowance from their husbands were entitled to a divorce!
I had a wonderful hamam experience while on a visit to the Middle East some years back. The bath was in a traditional house with a large reception area. A water fountain dominated the centre of the room, surrounded with sofas covered with Persian rugs.
Upon paying the equivalent of $20 US Dollars, I was handed a big white towel, a rough cloth mitt and a pair of wooden clogs. I left my clothes in a locker provided, leaving only my underwear on, as total nudity is not tolerated in the traditional baths.
I entered a large central room covered with grey and white marble tiles and water fountains on each wall. Four smaller rooms were accessible from this central room, one of them being the steam room. In the misty steam room, I removed my towel and sat on a marble side bench by the wall.
Ten minutes later, I was ushered into an adjacent room with a fountain, where I sat on a low stool and splashed myself with plenty of cool water using a bowl called Tass. I went back to the steam room for another round of sweating, this time staying in for a good fifteen minutes. When I came out, a woman wearing a loose robe was waiting for me.
Lying down on my belly at the centre of the room, the marble felt clean and fresh. The bath attendant proceeded to rub my skin with my rough mitt, removing dirt, sweat and exfoliating my skin. After meticulously cleansing every part of my back and legs -including behind my ears- she finished rubbing the other side of my body.
She then brought buckets of water of various temperatures splashing it generously over my body. After a last round in the steam room, the attendant finished off with a massage using shower gel for fragrance.
A formal hamam visit is pretty much similar all over the world. You start in the steam room, than go to the washing room, and finish off in the massage room.
Its hard to describe the bliss I felt afterward Lying down in the relaxation room; I dozed off for fifteen minutes, feeling fulfilled, cleansed and supremely relaxed.
The hamams benefits are numerous. The main one however, is hyperthermia or overheating which enhances the detoxification process. Steam elevates the body's temperature speeding up metabolism and blood flow.
The thermal contrast resulting from the use of cold water after the hot steam is extremely invigorating and boosts cardiovascular activity. In turn, this increased metabolism and blood flow stimulates muscles, getting them to release stored toxins.
If you dont have access to a hamam or no time to indulge in one, the Detox Bath is another simple water detox technique you can easily practice at home for an equally powerful detox.
The Detox Bath is based on an ancestral detox technique created by Louis Kuhne of Leipzig in the 1880s. It has been proven to encourage toxin and waste elimination. A 10-minute Detox Bath will leave you feeling as energized, invigorated, detoxified and refreshed as a visit to the hamam!
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