For many people, there is nothing more satisfying than stepping into a luxurious, hot bath to melt away the day’s stress and tension. Instinctively, humans know that submersing the body in hot water enhances our sense of well-being. Yet the question remains, are there any real health benefits to soaking? Scientists who study balneology, or the treatment of disease through bathing, certainly think so. The time-honored practice of soaking is widely accepted in both Europe and Asia as a credible treatment option for stress reduction and for certain chronic health conditions. Given the current, widespread pandemic-related stress, perhaps we should consider realigning ourselves with the ancient wisdom of the hot soak as an act of radical self-care.
While soaking in a hot bath can be therapeutic, soaking in a natural hot spring pool can be even more so. Our outermost layer of skin, our epidermis, is beautifully designed to reap the benefits of soaking in a hot spring. Our skin is hardy and protective, yet also porous and permeable. This epidermal permeability allows the body to readily absorb the naturally occurring minerals in hot springs. Scientists refer to this as “transdermal absorption.”
Soaking is one way we can replenish the essential minerals that are becoming more difficult to obtain from our food supply. (The cause is the depleted mineral content in the soil, a result of the increasing demands on our modern agricultural systems.) Additionally, the heat and high mineral content in the mineral springs water can provide a sense of buoyancy, which has been shown to relieve some pain associated with overworked joints and muscles. The relatively high temperature of the water associated with mineral baths also increases blood flow, which in turn improves circulation and speeds up metabolism.
Santa Feans are incredibly fortunate to have an abundance of soaking options in several accessible locations. Ojo Caliente and Ojo Santa Fe are two such gems. Ojo Santa Fe Resort Spa, fifteen minutes from downtown, features gently heated, natural artesian spring-fed Repose Pools that are open year-round. Or try soaking in a private outdoor tub filled with calming, detoxifying magnesium-based water that helps relieve stress and body aches. Ojo Santa Fe’s sister spa, Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort & Spa, is only an hour’s drive north of Santa Fe. Ojo Caliente offers a variety of soaking options. The Lithia Spring is reported to aid in digestion and depression, while the Iron Spring is good for the blood and immune system. The Soda Spring is believed to support digestion, while the Arsenic Spring is said to relieve arthritic pain, stomach ulcers and improve various skin conditions. The Mud Pool is definitely worth experiencing, if only to feel like a kid slathering on mud in the backyard. This particular mud contains a special blend of clay that promotes the release of toxins and cleanses the body of impurities brought on by the environmental rigors of modern life.
Access to soaking in the City Different is unparalleled when compared to many other cities of a similar size. Not only do we have the magical healing waters to enjoy at both Ojo properties, but we have additional unique opportunities for soaking in the Japanese onsen-style tubs at Ten Thousand Waves, a spa nestled in the piñon trees above Santa Fe. The therapeutic benefits of these onsen-inspired tubs are equal in their power to reduce stress and improve health — especially if you work up the nerve to jump in the nearby cold plunge adjacent to every soaking tub. The rapid change in temperature that occurs when moving from a hot soak to a cold plunge is a fabulous way to increase circulation and is also beneficial for repairing sore or damaged muscles. Hot tub water is maintained at 104 to 106 degrees, but can be reduced if children are participating.
Perhaps now more than ever, soaking is just what we need as an antidote to stress. Santa Fe and Northern New Mexico may be in high desert terrain, but fortunately for us, they provide a multitude of opportunities to relax via a luxurious soak.
While the therapeutic benefits of soaking are many, it is always important to consult your physician before taking the plunge in hot and/or extremely cold water if you have any kind of health condition or if you are pregnant.
Molly Brennand is a native Santa Fean and self-professed nutrition nerd. When she is not reading about how the methylation cycle impacts digestion and brain function, she enjoys cooking, dancing, reading historical fiction, gardening and playing “Taco vs. Burrito” for hours on end with her husband and nine-year-old son.