One of the gentlest, yet most effective ways to spring into fitness is through the art and science of bathing, especially with the use of essential oils. Bathing reduces stress, eases aching muscles, opens your pores, gives your skin a healthful glow, and stimulates your lymph flow by pulling toxins and wastes from your body via sweat. Taking a hot bath before bed will also help you sleep — a critical part of fitness and weight loss.
A key component in your spring detox is getting your lymph moving. Since your lymph doesn’t have a pump like your heart does, you must take matters into your own hands. A few effective ways to do this are exercise, massage, rebounding, and using essential oils — which all happen to work so very nicely together. When your lymph (the body’s garbage collector) gets lazy, it can lead to chronic illness, poor circulation, allergies, weight gain, and cellulite.
Spring is a wonderful time of year because it prompts and motivates us to cleanse, refresh and renew any area of our lives that we would like to improve. As you strive this spring to reach fitness goals before the onset of summer, you can use these baths to decongest and detox not just fat from your body, but harmful toxins, as well. Like gentle stretching, bathing is essential to pair with any fitness regimen for maximum results and optimal health.
Essential oils are all the rage right now and it’s much deserved. What may come first to your mind are oil diffusers, which are great to put throughout your home, but correctly chosen oils can also greatly enhance the power of bathing. You may feel like you’re seeing essential oils all over the place, but do you know exactly how they’re made?
Essential oils are distilled from the roots, leaves, and flowers of wild or organically grown plants. When you rub them on your skin or put them in a bath, they are quickly absorbed by both your skin and your nose, carrying their subtle messages to your limbic system — the portion of your brain that creates a sense of wellness and harmony. From there, they travel to your hypothalamus, the gland that regulates anxiety, depression, and hormonal balance.
Essential oils are credited with numerous positive effects, including reducing water retention and fat deposits, alleviating stress and anxiety (which reduces cortisol and in turn aids weight loss), and reducing muscle soreness.
Research suggests that certain essential oils can stimulate the hypothalamus to suppress your appetite, relieve pain, and stimulate your immune and lymph systems. Plus, let’s face it — they just smell so divine! The distinct smell of cinnamon, the spicy aroma of bergamot, and the zesty smells of lemon and orange stimulate your senses and reawaken your awareness of your physical self.
There are many very practical reasons to lose weight and become fit, such as combating heart disease, lengthening your life span, and boosting your energy levels. But it’s nice to remember that the ultimate purpose of these plans is to enable you to enjoy your life, take pleasure in your body, and renew your spirit.
Soaking into Spring
My favorite way to get started with aromatherapy is by putting some essential oils into your warm bath, enabling the oils to penetrate your skin. You can choose more than one at a time, adding a total of ten drops to your bathwater while you fill up the tub. Be careful to not overdo it, as these are potent substances and using them in excess can sometimes irritate sensitive skin or trigger other unwelcome side effects.
Simply soak for twenty minutes at the end of your day (about an hour or so before bedtime), using this time to release any stress and tension you’ve been carrying and transition into a peaceful sleep after you dry off.
There are some important things to remember when it comes to using and caring for essential oils.
Avoid oils that contain synthetic ingredients, which might produce an allergic reaction, and buy only 100 percent pure and natural oils. For storage, keep the undiluted oil in a tightly closed blue or amber glass bottle, away from the sunlight or heat. The refrigerator is an ideal spot. You should also keep them far away from candles or open flames, as they’re highly flammable! While the aromatic fragrances might entice your senses, please never swallow these highly concentrated oils, and keep them away from your eyes, ears and mucous membranes.
Finally, if you would like to rub them directly on your skin, ensure that you mix them with a carrier oil (like almond, macadamia or jojoba) before application.
Here are some of my seasonal favorite, lymph-friendly essential oils that are ideal for spring fitness:
- Clary sage — supports endocrine function and helps to release fluid from swollen tissues.
- Cypress — strengthens weak connective tissue, restores skin tone, enhances circulation, and releases toxins.
- Grapefruit — dissolves fatty deposits, has toning and tightening qualities, and is also highly antimicrobial.
- Juniper — promotes the elimination of toxic waste and helps to reduce fluid retention.
- Lemon — dissolves fatty deposits, as the other citrus oils do, while also purifying the system.
- Lemongrass — tones and strengthens connective tissue and stimulates lymphatic drainage; also acts as a diuretic to purge excess fluids from the system.
- Orange — stimulates circulation and helps to increase lymphatic flow, relieving puffiness and water retention.
- Rose and lavender — reduces stress and controls cravings.
- Rosemary, lavender, peppermint, and mandarin orange — reduces pain from muscle aches, headaches, or arthritis.
Aromatherapy baths aren’t the only way to turn your bathtub into a therapeutic refuge and healing sanctuary.
There’s another very healing bath that you can do on a weekly basis, especially to reduce the effects of environmental pollution, X-rays, and CT Scans. This bath will help your body stay alkaline, and counter excess acidity on the cellular level. It’s also my personal formula to quickly but effectively counter jet lag, for those of you who are planning spring travels.
It’s very simple to do and the results are amazing. It will also help you sleep better, so this is a great bath to turn into a healing ritual — especially before bed.
Simply dissolve two cups of sea salt, rock or kosher salt with two cups of baking soda into a tub of water as hot as you can stand. Soak until the water is cool (about 20 minutes or so) and wait at least four hours before showering.
This spring for a change, aim to tune-up your lymph while cleansing your system of harmful toxins. Aromatherapy baths will support your body, mind, and spirit and wash away stress. Hello, spring!
Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS
Visionary health expert Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS, has always been a trendsetter. With millions of followers nationwide, she has the uncanny ability to pinpoint major health concerns and provide solutions years ahead of anybody else.
Highly respected as the grande dame of alternative health and award-winning author of 30 books, she single-handedly launched the weight loss/detox revolution in her New York Times bestseller The Fat Flush Plan. A Connecticut College and Teachers College, Columbia University graduate, Dr. Ann Louise was recognized as one of the top ten nutritionists in the country by Self magazine and was the recipient of the American Medical Writers Association award for excellence. She has been a popular columnist for First magazine since 2003.