How to Do a Hanshinyoku (Half Body Soak) Bath
Soaking every day in the ofuro, or bathtub, is an important part of the Japanese day. Indeed, a majority of Japanese people believe that the bath is as important as eating. Many busy young women often go without breakfast, but they would never skip their evening bath.
Generally, one thinks of immersing their whole body, except the head, when soaking in a bath. In the past few years, however, it has become popular, especially among women, to do a "hanshinyoku"—literally, "half body soak." It has become increasingly popular because hanshinyoku is believed to be helpful for dieting and detox.
If you are wondering how to pronounce hanshinyoku, it sounds something like "han-sheen-yo-coo," except shorten the sound of every syllable. If the pronunciation of "han" (as in Han Solo) usually sounds like "haaan," try to make that somewhere between "haaan" and "hun."
So, How Do You Do This Hanshinyoku?
Hanshinyoku is soaking only the bottom half (below chest) of your body in the bathtub.
- In Japan, they say to heat the water to just above your body temperature (they call this lukewarm) to about 100–104 degrees Fahrenheit. That is way too hot for me (the Japanese love really hot baths), so I adjust the water so that it is a little warmer than I would like a shower, but not so hot that the water burns my skin.
- Soak in the bath for at least 20 to 30 minutes.
- Make sure to drink plenty of water, both before and after the hanshinyoku. I usually bring my water bottle in with me, and I make sure to sip from it during my soak.
- While you are keeping the bottom half of your body immersed in the water, it is important to keep the top half dry. Do not put your hands or arms in the water, as it will diminish the positive effects of hanshinyoku. If you feel a little chilly, try putting a dry towel over your shoulders.
Another wonderful aspect of soaking in the tub is being able to use bath salts, oils, and bubble baths. If you have a ton of bath items received as gifts over the years and never had the time to use them, now is your chance!
Choose bath salts and oils which you will enjoy and will help you feel good. Here is a partial list of the uses of herbs commonly found in bath salts and oils found at drug stores and bath goods stores:
- Stress: Chamomile, Lavender, Lemon, Orange, Vanilla
- Anxiety/Fear: Cedarwood, Jasmine, Lavender, Rose, Sandalwood
- Respiratory Issues and Decongesting: Eucalyptus, Cedarwood, Jasmine, Marjoram, Rose, Tea Tree
- Self-Esteem: Cypress, Grapefruit, Jasmine, Orange, Rosemary
- Sadness/Grief: Grapefruit, Jasmine, Lavender, Lemon, Orange, Rose, Sandalwood
- Fatigue: Basil, Ginger, Grapefruit, Jasmine, Lemon, Peppermint, Rosemary, Sandalwood
- Agitation: Lavender, Mandarin, Sandalwood
- Memory Boost: Basil, Cypress, Lemon, Peppermint, Rosemary
My Favorite Scents
- Lavender and chamomile for calm and peace.
- Eucalyptus for congestion.
- Peppermint for tension headaches.
What Are the Benefits?
A Safer Soak
Immersing only the bottom half of your body in water lowers the burden on your heart and lungs compared to full-body immersion. This means that elderly people or people who are ill or have other issues with their heart or lungs can soak in a bath without worrying about the adverse effects.
If you are someone who feels "always cold," hanshinyoku actually benefits you more than fully immersing your body, as the warm water on your lower body slowly warms your upper body. Many people report that after practicing hanshinyoku on a regular basis, they feel more relaxed and have fewer problems with always feeling cold.
In Japan, it is said that hanshinyoku is the best method to improve circulation, and therefore alleviate many health issues. Hanshinyoku is less taxing on the body than, for example, sitting in a hot sauna, and uses a more natural (less forced) way of sweating to improve your circulation.
One of the main benefits of hanshinyoku is that you sweat. Sweating is beneficial for dieting and also as detox for your body. If you are someone who has a difficult time working up a sweat, even when exercising, routinely enjoying hanshinyoku can improve your ability to sweat more effectively.
Alternatively if, like myself, you sweat very easily, routinely enjoying hanshinyoku helps to detox you from the fat and toxins built up in your body, and you may find that you start sweating less quickly.
In short, hanshinyoku is a wonderful regulator for your body.
What to Do With Your Time in the Tub
Wondering what to do with your 30 minutes in the tub? Try one of the following:
- Catch up on that book or magazine you've been meaning to read.
- Practice meditating (that's what I do!).
- Put on your favorite music and sing along.
- Or just listen to some beautiful music.
- Give yourself a facial.
- File your nails.
I often start trimming or filing my nails, and find myself daydreaming!
- Soak the bottom half of your body from below your chest.
- Keep the water to a very warm but comfortable temperature.
- Keep the top half of your body out of the water, but cover with a towel if chilly.
- Soak for at least 20 to 30 minutes.
- Use bath salts and oils that you like and will help you feel good.
- Drink plenty of water before, during, and after.
- Relax and enjoy.
How often do you soak in the tub?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.