Why foot soaks (foot baths) are good for you?
Don’t know where to start?
Don’t know why you should start?
Here are some answers to get you started from:
- WHY you should do hot foot soaks
- WHAT equipment you’ll need
- HOW to do a foot soak
- The BENEFITs of hot foot soaks
- TIPs and TRICKs of hot foot soaks
This post started from an extended question around another post on “What does it mean to have cold hands and feet? How to replenish qi and yang“:
Well, foot soaks or foot baths are one of my such lifestyle techniques that I use to improve my overall circulation in the body! This is used in combination with a series of other techniques that are common in Traditional Chinese Medicine! Keep reading to explore more!
Why are hot foot soaks so good for you?
From a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective, doing regular foot soaks will:
- Stimulate the flow in the body, allowing your Qi and blood to circulate better. From a science perspective, heat expands things, so exposure to a heated environment will allow the skin, the nerves, the blood vessels, the lymph nodes, and the muscles to soften, loosen and expand somewhat, which will allow the blood and other liquids to flow more easily through the body.
- Reduce blood pressure. According to multiple studies conducted (see additional sources below), even one 20 minutes foot soak in hot water will reduce blood pressure levels within the body. Imagine the on-going benefits of this if you can do this repeatedly!
- Detoxify your body through the opening of your pores and sweating it out (literally!). As the hot water warms up your feet, it will begin to circulate warmer blood around your body to the point where you will feel warmth in your chest first and then eventually your forehead. You will notice yourself sweating, which is a good thing! This helps drive out toxins and clear our lymph nodes.
- Deliver more nutrients and oxygen to parts of the body that are often colder, such as hands, feet, and neck. Your body and organs need nutrients and oxygen in order to function, so enabling these to get there faster will allow your organs to function optimally. This includes delivering more oxygen to key organs such as the heart and brain, which will also allow you to think more clearly.
- Help calm the mind. This is in connection with how hot foot soaks allow for more blood to pass through the brain over the same period of time, which means an increased flow of oxygen. When paired with a steady, regular breath in and breath out (almost meditatively), this will help create clarity and calm in the brain and mind. Often, doing a foot soak is a great moment to allow for some down time if you can do it in a private or quiet space. I recommend being intentional about this to allow time from our busy lives to benefit both the mind and body simultaneously. 💗💗💗
How to do a foot soak
The most basic is to simply soak your feet in warm to hot water. What my own Chinese doctor has suggested is to soak it until you break a sweat from your forehead. At this point, you’ll know that the warm blood has worked it’s way up throughout your body enough to literally – break a sweat!
I was curious about testing time, so I’ve structured my foot soaks quite scientifically, but you don’t have to. You can just soak until you feel that sweat and finish up.
What you’ll need:
- A consistent source of hot (or warm) water
- A bucket or foot bag to soak in (I’m using this product that my mom got for me!)
- A comfortable place to sit
- Some water (or drinks) to stay hydrated
- A book or something to occupy your time (meditating is also a great thing to do during this moment)
- A towel (to dry off with afterwards)
- A change of clothes or sweater (as you’re sweating, you’ll want to cool off gently)
If you’re testing time, add in:
- A timer
Some tips and tricks for doing hot foot soaks
- I usually start with hotter water first and then add cooler water to adjust. This is because you’d be surprised how hot you can take, but make sure you can truly soak in over a period of time. It does cool over time though. And be sure not to burn yourself!
- You want to soak until you feel the heat first in your chest (you’ll definitely perspire from your chest first) and then eventually from your forehead and head. This means the warmed blood from your feet is eventually making its way up to your head, which is what you want!
- You can roughly test how long this will take you to break a sweat. This is a good gauge to tell overtime whether your circulation is improving or not. You can follow this video on “How to check if you’re improving your blood circulation”
- I’m using a deeper foot bag (vs a lower foot bucket which I refill as it cools). This saves both water and energy as it is heat proof (it retains the heat within itself) and covers more surface area of the body to include up to my calves.
- You can add Chinese herbs such as ginger or Astralagus root for added benefits. Some people also use various salts. Just be sure to thoroughly clean your bag or bucket afterwards.
- I prefer to soak into the evening as it helps me wind down and relax. Part of this is to treat it like a meditative and breathwork session as well. Really lean into the moment to pause and focus on breath as you soak, this will help calm the body, mind, and allow you to sleep better at night.
Here are 5 lifestyle choices to help improve blood circulation and improve yang (and Qi), especially as we age!
Doing hot foot soaks is definitely one of my Chinese doctor’s suggestions as well something I’ve started doing more regularly!
- Yang, Xiao et al. “Maternal postnatal confinement practices and postpartum depression in Chinese populations: A systematic review.” PloS one vol. 18,10 e0293667. 30 Oct. 2023, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0293667
- Vyas, Samruddhi Chintaman et al. “Effect of hot arm and foot bath on heart rate variability and blood pressure in healthy volunteers.” Journal of complementary & integrative medicine vol. 17,1 /j/jcim.2019.17.issue-1/jcim-2018-0181/jcim-2018-0181.xml. 15 Aug. 2019, doi:10.1515/jcim-2018-0181
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