Bathtub Yoga

The Bathtub Yoga & Relaxation Book
If your idea of bathing is a three-minute shower, yoga is a four-letter word and meditation means counting to 10 before speaking, it's tub time.

It's a time for today's multi-taskers to combine a relaxing soak with yoga, stretching, breathing and meditation. Fill 'er up with steaming water, light some candles, shrug off your worries as you shed your clothes and step into a world of relaxation.

It's a breeze with "The Bathtub Yoga & Relaxation Book" (Healthy Living Publications, $19.95 paperback). Marjorie Jaffe, whose fitness studio was popular long before the fitness craze, and collaborator Barbara Isenberg ease the reader through all the right moves.

Instructions and illustrations offer serenity with yoga breathing practices, water yoga and stretches and meditations and aromatherapy. If you don't have a bath pillow, roll up a bath towel, seal it in a plastic bag and place it behind your neck as you lie back.

Practice quiet breathing for a few moments. "Close your eyes and focus on breath moving in and out. Breathe slowly and stay in a steady rhythm. Listen to the sound your breath makes," the authors advise. Now move on to any or all of five breathing methods.

Follow the breathing exercises with water yoga and stretches designed "to balance and energize your body. You'll move in a comfortable way that promotes fluid feeling from head to toe."

The authors altered the seven chakras, or the body's energy centers, to reflect the environment, naming them after sea creatures.

For example, the "squid" is the 6th chakra, or third eye, which encourages you to focus on the squid's sharp eye:

  • Lie back, legs outstretched. Keep your mouth closed and practice a humming sound.
  • Inhale through both nostrils and visualize the third eye on your forehead, directly between your eyebrows. With your mouth closed, exhale slowly, making a humming sound, and feel your eyebrows relax.
  • Keep humming until there's no breath left and you feel the third eye space broaden and relax.

    Stretching in the bath is an easy way to increase circulation, warm up muscles and learn to balance tension with relaxation to help you remain strong, flexible and pain-free. There are 10 stretches illustrated, from head (neck lengthener) to foot (toe mobility).

    You can use some of them, such as the "finger stretch," post-bath. It's simple but effective. In the tub:

  • Lie back with both legs stretched straight out.
  • Stretch both arms forward. Grasp the fingertips of one hand with the other hand. Gently pull your fingers closer to your body, then press your fingers and hand down. Repeat with the other hand.

    Now for meditation. "Mental focusing," the authors say, "teaches you how to identify with the spaces between your thoughts rather than only the thoughts themselves. As you meditate, be aware of how the breathing helps. The pause at the end of each exhalation is the 'space' - the 'letting go' of tension."

    Some of the five meditations are accompanied by affirmations. Once you have established your comfort level, you can create your own.

    Start with the "gentle meditation:"

  • Lie comfortably and take a deep breath. Mentally scan your body to make sure that every part of you feels physically relaxed.
  • As you breathe, imagine that you're in the most beautiful place in nature.
  • Now imagine the qualities of your landscape - the air, the waves of the ocean, or the petals of the flowers - are like a fine mist showering your whole body with every inhalation.
  • "With each exhalation, this energy feeds into every cell of your being, loving, nurturing and embracing you," the authors say. "Breathe in this energy as long as you can."

    Finally, step out of the tub, wrap up in a thick terry robe and climb into bed with an herbal tea and a good book.
    By Karol Stonger