Is bathtub meditation as amazing as it sounds? I’ve never been good at meditating—my back hurts from sitting, my mind wanders constantly, and I’m sure I’m doing it all wrong. But I’m eager to experience the benefits of meditation that everyone talks about: less stress and greater focus.
The bathtub is an ideal place to meditate. The hot bath water slows the parasympathetic nervous system making it easier to breathe deeply. And if you’ve already got a daily bath habit, adding meditation makes it more likely the new habit will stick.
There are a lot of fantastic benefits you can get from meditating, but if you’ve never been able to develop a consistent practice, or you’re a beginner, bathtub meditation may be just what you need.
What is Bathtub Meditation?
For those new to meditation, it is the practice of being fully in the moment—or being fully aware of what’s happening in your mind. That’s why meditation helps us to become more mindful. Usually, a person meditates sitting or kneeling in a quiet room. Bathtub meditation involves practicing mindfulness in the bathtub, and it can be done sitting or lying down
It’s totally normal to have your mind jump from one thought to another to another, maybe hundreds of times within a few minutes. People in the mediation world call this crazy thought activity ‘monkey mind,’ as the way our brains operate is usually reminiscent of how a monkey swings from branch to branch. But what if we could train our minds to be more present? What if we controlled our thoughts rather than the other way around? This is the purpose of meditation. And research shows the benefits include decreased anxiety and increased well being.
Though many people like me want to meditate, not all of us are able to do it in the typical way—sitting on dry land. Bathtub meditation offers a great alternative. It can be a super way for beginners to start an effective meditation practice. Let’s explore why beginners and many others may be more likely to experience success by meditating in the bathtub.
Why Meditate in the Bath?
There are lots of great reasons to meditate in the bathtub. These range from escaping technology to pairing the bathtub with deep relaxation to help you make meditation a habit.
The bathroom is the least likely room to be full of devices that could ring, beep and buzz. This is important for a meditation practice, as technology can often disrupt the effort to focus solely on the present. Though advanced meditators can tune out external disturbances, a beginner mediator will do better in a quiet environment without any threats of technological interruptions.
Better Odds of Privacy
For many people, especially those with children, it can be hard to find a place where others respect your privacy. Often your last best hope is the bathroom. For bathtub mediation, you’ll want a good 5-20 minutes alone. And I’ve got to believe that if you’re naked in the bathroom, you’ve got a better chance at achieving alone time than, say, if you’re sitting in Lotus position in the playroom surrounded by Legos.
Lie Down if It’s More Comfortable
Many meditation teachers will say sitting like the Buddha is the optimal posture for meditation. Even if sitting for an extended time is usually not comfortable for you, try it in the bathtub. I find my muscles will relax enough in warm water to make it possible, But if it still doesn’t work for you, then for heaven’s sake, lie down!
Since meditating is not sleeping or zoning out, and because you need to be concerned with safety, the important thing is never to meditate lying down in the bathtub when you’re very tired. That said, lying down in a bathtub may be the only way you’ll get to practice meditation. You might want to place a really comfortable bath pillow under your head and bend your knees 90 degrees.
Enhanced Deep Breathing
One method of meditating is to focus on the breath. As you inhale and exhale slowly, you concentrate on how the breath feels going in and out of your body. As other thoughts intrude—and they will!—the goal is to catch your wandering mind and gently return focus to the breath. In the bathtub, the warm water slows down your parasympathetic nervous system and, in turn, this causes you to breathe more slowly and deeply. In other words, meditating in the bathtub really jump-starts the whole process. And if the bathtub is a place you often go for relaxation, the environmental cue of being in the tub also will help your body get into a state of stillness.
Did you know that bathroom plants can purify the air you’re inhaling? Here are the 23 Best Plants for Your Bathroom. Consider adding some to your bathroom decor, and know that while you’re breathing deeply, the air is clean and oxygenated.
Just like training in the gym, your mind is a muscle that you need to work on regularly. For this reason, a daily meditation practice is ideal. If you already take a daily bath, pairing your existing habit with the new behavior—meditation—makes it more likely to stick.
Best Types of Bathtub Meditation
There are a variety of types of bathtub meditation. They will all help you develop your mind muscle and become the master of your attention.
To meditate with a mantra, you simply repeat a word or phrase silently or aloud in synchronicity with your breath. The repetition helps keep you focused on your breath.
One of the most common mantras is “Om!” Inhale through your nose and as you exhale say, “Om!” Many people like to bring their hands together in prayer position during this mantra. The sound of om represents the union of mind, body and spirit.
You might also try repeating a positive affirmation silently as you inhale and again as you exhale. An example would be, “Love is in everything” (as you inhale), “Love is everything” (as you exhale).
The important thing is that the mantra has a positive meaning for you.
There are many meditation apps available today, such as buddhify, Headspace and Calm. If you have one of these apps, you might play a guided meditation where the narrator leads you on a journey to breathe and focus.
If you’re using an app for your bathtub meditation, here are a few things to keep in mind:
1) Pay attention to the length of the guided meditation. I find that for the bathtub, I prefer a guided meditation that is 10 minutes or less. Otherwise, I start to feel sweaty and uncomfortable.
2) Pay attention to the temperature of the water before you get in. You want to hit ‘play’ on the app and get right into a comfortable tub that doesn’t need any water adjustments. This way you can follow along with the voice from the beginning of the guided meditation without distraction.
Alternate Nostril Breathing
I find alternate nostril breathing one of the best ways to train my mind to be present. It’s a yogic breath that’s bit complicated and requires concentration, especially at first. But it’s because I’ve really got to focus on how I’m breathing that it works for me.
Here is how to do it:
Sit or lie down in your meditation position. You are going to seal one nostril at a time by pressing on the outside of each nostril so that you can only inhale or exhale out of one nostril at a time.
- With your right hand, extend all five fingers like you are waving hello. Now fold in the middle three fingers, so that only your pinkie and thumb are extended.
- Cover your right nostril with your right thumb. Inhale through your left nostril for a slow count of 4.
- When you reach 4, press your right pinkie against your left nostril and release the thumb from your right nostril. Exhale through your right nostril for a slow count of
- Leave your pinkie pressed against your left nostril and Inhale through the right nostril for a slow count of 4.
- Press your thumb against the right nostril and release the pinkie from your left nostril. Exhale for a slow count of 4.
Repeat at least 5 times.
Meditation is all about tuning into the present moment. Paying attention to your sensory experiences is a great way to do this. So another way to meditate in the bathtub is to try to notice the feel of the water as you slowly inhale and exhale. Notice how it tickles your arm, how the water caresses your belly. If you are using aromatherapy in the tub, you can focus on the finer details of the scent.
When you get out of the tub, be sure to put on something sensuous or cozy. (Here’s my all-time coziest bathrobe.) Light a candle. Keep the good karma flowing.
Meditating in the bathtub is one way to greatly enhance the resorative power of bathing. For other great ways to max your relax in the bath, check out 21 Relaxing Bath Ideas That Take Me-Time to the Next Level and How to Take the World’s Most Perfect Bath.
Can you meditate in the shower? The shower can be an ideal place to practice being fully in the present moment. Face the shower stream and experience the sensations of the water hitting your face. As you lather up, focus on the soap sliding up and down your limbs. Be present to sensation rather than succumbing to your monkey mind. When thoughts of the day ahead (or the day just passed) intrude, gently remind yourself to focus on the sensory experience of the moment.
What is a sacred bath? Across cultures and religions, going back centuries, bathing and relaxation have always been regarded as sacred. The sacred bath is a common theme of humanity in every corner of the globe and throughout history. The sacred bath was found in ancient Rome and Turkey, and is essential to the cultures of modern-day Japan, Finland and Russia. From the Catholic Baptism to the Jewish Mikveh and Muslim cleansing rituals, baths are viewed as sacred vehicles to facilitate purification, renewal and healing.
How can I use my bathroom lighting to create a relaxing ambiance? The secrets to achieve the best bathroom lighting is to layer your lighting. You’ll want recessed lights for uniform illumination. You’ll also want vanity lighting for specific tasks, such as applying makeup or brushing your teeth. And finally, you’ll want a statement fixture to make your bathroom glow. Check out The Bathtubber’s recommendations for the best bathroom light fixtures here.