Hay Bathing Is The Latest Weird Wellness Trend You Need To Try
Hay bathing has actually been around for centuries – an Austrian tradition dating back more than 200 years, farmers used to sleep in hay for convenience, but soon noticed the health benefits from doing so. The hay became a source of pain relief, supposedly treating muscle cramps, stiff necks, stiff joints and even obesity. Plus, farmers apparently found that, upon waking in their hay bale, they’d be bursting with energy. Soon, plenty of other locals wanted that ‘fresh out of the hay’ glow, and thus, hay bathing became a legitimate phenomenon.
Now, the old tradition is getting a second wind. According to trend predictor WGSN, hay baths are due to have a resurgence in 2018. The forecasting firm released a new report identifying key emerging trends in the wellness world, and hay bathing was up there in the top three alongside ‘energetic healing’ and marijuana massages.
Still confused? Here’s how they work: “Treatments use fermented alpine hay, combined with healing herbs such as arnica, heather and thyme, which are full of essential oils,” the report explained. As you recline in a big wooden tub, the hay is soaked in hot water of roughly 40°C. The spa-goer is then wrapped tightly in this steaming, wet grass for around 20 minutes – which is slightly more pleasant than the more gnarly hay baths of yesteryear, where the hay reached temperature of 60°C, the treatment lasted 40 minutes, and a stable hand would be present to swat the flies away and mop your brow when it all got a bit much.
After this, there’s a comedown period, in which you’re wrapped in soft linen sheets as your skin absorbs even more of the hay’s essential oils. And while we reckon that sounds far more relaxing than the old-style hay baths, there is just one thing we’d like to bring back from the treatments of yore… the wine. Traditional hay bathing would involve copious amounts of vino, but seeing as booze actually dehydrates you, it’s probably not the best idea to indulge in a post-bath tipple.
According to Modern Farmer, a hotel in Northern Italy is offering to cover you in fermented wet hay harvested from the meadows of Alpe di Siusi, all for the small price of €33 – something they’ve been offering since 1903. According to Hotel Heubad, they use only the ‘fattiest’ of hay for their treatments, combining 40 different types of grass and flowers to help ease muscle pain and improve circulation.
And if you’re wondering what a hay bath is really like – because let’s be honest, it sounds a bit prickly – British travel writer Adrian Bridge tried the Heubad bath in 2008 and confirmed all our fears about the treatment. He moaned that the fermented hay had a terrible odour, and the procedure itself was “excruciating” and “itchy”. He also suspected there might have been bugs in the hay – which isn’t ideal when there’s no post-treatment shower available.
So why is this strange tradition becoming so well-loved again today? Despite our tech-obsessed society, the wellness world seems to favour older practices. Trend expert and WGSN Beauty Editor Theresa Yee explains this is because we’re more likely to have confidence in something that’s been around for years: “Ancient rituals are celebrated more than ever — the benefits are well-known and have been around for thousands of years, so there is a greater element of trust."
If you fancy being buried alive in silage for the sake of tranquillity, sadly there aren’t any places in the UK offering the treatment at present – but don’t worry, we’re sure to catch on soon. Meanwhile, you can hop on a plane to Northern Italy for the OG hay bath. Turns out hay isn’t just for horses.
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