I’ve been leading Shamanic Yoga Retreats for many years, and plant baths are one of my favorite practices.
Since it’s impossible to know how blissful they are without taking one, I’ll tell you how you can prepare your own so that you can have the experience first hand. But first, you must understand what a plant bath is and, even more importantly, what it’s good for.
There are a few different types, but the general idea is to cook plants like herbs, flowers or cacti into water and then pour (or better yet, have someone pour) the water over your head.
Easy enough right? But why we do this, and the intention behind it, is where it gets fun.
Plant baths are taken for four reasons:
To differing degrees we are all contaminated. One who is perfectly clean is enlightened.
Or, put another way, at our core there exists a perfect diamond of enlightenment. But on the diamond, there are smudges that need to be polished away. The smudges come from the mind, they are our self-doubts, fears, and anxieties. They are our memories of the past and our plans for the future. They are the monkey mind that likes to jump from tree to tree instead of sitting quietly, focused, alert and aware.
Our spirit’s mission is to finish polishing the diamond, to fully realize its perfection. So, the Shamanic Path is one of cleansing.
Plant baths are a form of cleansing, they are a way to polish the diamond. They work by purifying the energetic body, which encompasses the physical body and extends outward by about a foot. Since our energetic body is constantly being bombarded by external forces, it is best to take plant baths once a week. During a cleanse or shamanic work, it is best to take baths daily in order to wash away the energetic toxins that the body is releasing.
To Move Energy.
Our energy can become stagnant or stuck in our body. This manifests physically as sore muscles, tight joints, headaches and other bodily pains.
Several activities help keep the energy flowing, like massage, yoga, Qi gong, meditation and, of course, plant baths.
The herbs we use have extracting properties that reach under the surface of the skin and help to pull out the stuck energy. To assist the plants, it is best to visualize the energy being released as we take our bath. It’s also wise to transmute the energy before releasing it.
In transmutation, we visualize the released energy becoming high vibrational white light, which is then released as an offering to Pachamama (Mother Universe). As we offer energy to Pachamama, she will return energy to us with her infinite love and kindness.
To Attract Spirits.
For a benevolent spirit to grace us with their presence is an incredible honor. But spirits are not so easy to attract—they have to be seduced into taking interest.
Many people walk the Shamanic path for many years before a spirit finds them desirable. Why so stubborn? It’s because the smudges on our diamonds are thick. We have been doing very little cleansing while accumulating much contamination. And not just for this life time, but for many generations.
Since humans left the Garden, we’ve not been living in harmony with the Natural World. For a thousand generations we’ve been eating, breathing, and breeding without awareness. Therefore, a lot of cleansing is needed before spirits start to take notice.
Taking a plant bath before ceremony is like putting on perfume before going on a date. If we want spirits to take interest in us, we have to entice them with our sweet smells. And the years of work are worth it, for a visit from a spirit can last a lifetime, so long as they want to stay by our side, so long as we keep smelling sweet.
To Become One.
The spiritual path is a gradual slope towards Oneness. A fully realized being has no ego, meaning there is no concept of “I am this” or “you are that,” for neither you nor I exist, we are One.
As we infuse our body with plants, both inside and out, we become more like them. Plants don’t think, they don’t reason, they don’t ponder the future or concern themselves with the past, they truly live in the moment. As we return to the natural world, we become more like the natural world, falling into a state of ‘no mind’, completely connected to the Oneness of All That Is.
As power infused plant water falls over our head, our thoughts vanish. For a brief moment, we are One. (For those familiar with Tantra, they will recognize this elevated state of being as a merging with Shiva. It’s beautiful that the same concept of Oneness and Enlightenment exists within both the Shamanic and Yogic worlds.)
So, are you ready to give it a try?
There are many types of plant baths and many traditions. In the Andes of Peru, baths are generally made with a base of rosemary and rue. Since we’re working on an energetic level, it is important to sit comfortably and breathe with awareness while preparing the bath since the energy we carry will transfer into the water.
Start by peeling a good handful of each herb, removing as much of the stem as possible. If you can’t find fresh herbs, dry is fine. In addition to the rosemary and rue, add other herbs and flowers that grow in your area, anything fragrant is great. To help the plants release their oils, use a mortar and pestle, or a big rock on a flat hard surface, and grind the herbs with a little bit of water (this step is not necessary for flowers).
Boil the herbs for about ten minutes in at least eight quarts of water.
When you’re done cooking the herbs, turn off the heat and add your flowers. Let the water cool to a comfortable bathing temperature.
Before you bathe, take some time to create a sacred space. Bathing outside, in nature, is really a treat. Lighting candles and incense are nice ways to create a beautiful healing environment.
To bathe, don’t strain out the herbs and flowers, pouring them over your head is the best part! Using a large scoop, pour the water over your body allowing any stagnant energy to be released.
When you’re nearing the end of the bath water, pick up the entire bucket and dump what’s left over your head.
This is a beautiful moment to yell out to the universe that which you are releasing, visualizing one last time the energy transmuting to light as it leaves the body to reunite with the life force of Mother Earth.
Allow your thoughts to melt away as you become one with the plants, one with the universe, one with All That Is.
And, most importantly, enjoy!
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: CJ Ananda Page
Apprentice Editor: Guenevere Neufeld / Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: via author