I have often wondered at the insanity of some of our Northern (and European) friends who will bask in the moist warmth of a sauna and then, stoically, walk across the ice and plunge into the water where a hole has been cut through the ice. You’d think that the craziness would stop there…lesson learned but, NO!! They will do this repeatedly. Time and time again. As a student of life I began to wonder, “What would drive a person to such madness?”
ONE WORD!!! Hydrotherapy (hydro=water + therapy). Hydrotherapy is basically the therapeutic use of water, steam and ice for treatment of injuries, illness or prevention. It can be used for the entire body (baths, steam rooms) or parts of the body (sitz baths, compresses, foot/hand baths, etc.) Water therapy has 3 general categories:
1)HOT WATER: 98 degrees (F)and above. Hot water stimulates the immune system, increases circulation which helps relieve the body of toxins. Soothing to the nerves, hot water, relaxes and calms the body. “The hot immersion bath is probably most useful for producing powerful eliminative effects primarily through increased sweating.” (The Herbal Medicine Makers Handbook, Green, 261)
2) COLD WATER: Below 65 degrees (F). Cold water causes a reflex and constricts the blood vessels which helps to reduce inflammation and fever. “Cold water is a physiological tonic that awakens the quintessential nervous activity without putting a burdon on any vital organs and without hampering the activity of any bodily function…the skin, with its vast network of sensory, motor, sympathetic, vasomotor, and thermic nerves, arouse every center, every sympathetic ganglion, every sensory and motor filament in the entire body to heightened life and activity. Every blood vessel and cell in the entire body is awakened and quickened with vital impulse.” (The Herbal Medicine Makers Handbook, Green, 255)
3)ALTERNATING HOT AND COLD: Alternating water temperature has been found to stimulated organ function by increased circulation, alleviate upper-respiratory infections and, in my opinion, enjoy the benefits of both cold and hot water.
From here I am assuming that most of us enjoy hot showers regularly but that the majority of us avoid cold. Whenever I am playing with an idea I research it…sometimes to death. First, I found several lists of pros for cold showers. Second, I searched contraindications. Third, I compiled ways to do this successfully. Fourth, tips others have found.
Pros for Alternating Hot and Cold showers:
*Makes hair healthy and shiny
*Better looking skin (with a glow)
*Reduces the appearance of eye circles
*Reduces grey hair
*Keeps skin soft (natural body oils)
*Flushes toxins from the skin
*Cold showers are one of the great antiaging secrets for keeping your skin tight, elastic and vibrant
INTERNALLY: (get ready for this…)
* Brings blood to the capillaries, therefore increasing circulation throughout the body.
* Cleans the circulatory system.
* Reduces blood pressure on internal organs.
* Provides flushing for the organs and provides a new supply of blood.
* Strengthens the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems.
* Contracts the muscles to eliminate toxins and poisonous wastes.
* Strengthens the mucous membranes, which help resist hay fever, allergies, colds, coughs.
*wakes the body and mind creating energy for the day.
*strengthens immune system
*Less steam is made in your cold showers because it is not hot (Therefore less chlorine is inhaled into the lungs through the steam.)
*Increases fertility in men
*Has an anti-depressant effect on your mood
*Balances the autonomic nervous system (This makes you feel relaxed and peaceful, yet still alert, when you get out of the shower.)
*Helps you develop the ability to handle lower temperatures while maintaining your body heat (No more complaining about cold weather!
*Cleanses your body and mind of negative emotions that are your own or picked up from others
*Enhance immunity against infections and cancer
*Give your glands (thyroid, adrenals, ovaries/testes) a boost, improving hormonal activity
*Crank up your metabolism to fight type 2 diabetes, obesity, gout, rheumatic diseases, depression, and more
*Normalize your blood pressure
*Decrease chronic pain
*Deepens your breathing
*Help with insomnia
*Improve kidney function
*Reduce swelling and edema
*Regulate temperature, fighting chronically cold hands and cold feet and excessive sweating
*Improve hemorrhoids and varicose veins
Wow!!! So if that’s not enough here are a few more:
~Although this is counter intuitive, in the winter, cold showers are the best thing to keep you warm for the rest of the day (It's ideal to have a heater in your bathroom so that as soon as you step out of the shower you can quickly towel off and have warm air on your skin.)
~You save money on your energy bill
~You will have a shorter shower time
~Builds courage and will power (A.k.a. nerve force, which makes other tasks in life easier to conquer with the "soul mirror" exercise.)
~Contributes to your longevity potential
I am not suggesting that this is a “cure all” but with a list like this it’s worth a try. There are some Contraindications.
*Cold showers should not be taken during a women's time of menstruation. A woman needs extra rest and gentleness during her menses. Taking a cold shower is too much for the reproductive system during menstruation. A lukewarm shower is recommended. Generally speaking, hot showers are not good as they tend to depress the various physiological systems of the body.
*Heart disease. If my normal, healthy heart felt like it was about to explode, imagine how a diseased heart will feel.
*High blood pressure. The contraction in your blood vessels caused by cold water could cause a stroke. Apparently.
*Overheated or feverish. Your blood vessels need to dilate in order to release heat. Cold water causes them to constrict.
*Women after the 7th month of pregnancy (This all depends on your reaction to the water. If you're not thrown into shock by the cold water, it might be OK.)
*Immediately after a man has ejaculated (His body is focused on making new sperm cells and semen at this time, so cold showers can be a bit too stressful.)
*Suffering from an eating disorder
*Immediately after a vigorous workout (Start hot and finish cold to avoid muscle cramping, it can happen!)
*If you are underweight
*Some people have experienced cold showers making depression worse (Although it has also been said that cold showers can help depression, it's best to use your own judgment.)
The Majority of the lists I have gathered from books, websites and other sources. I do not claim that ALL of these are my findings but a compilation of many sources and personal experience. So, without further ADO Her is My regiment:
1)I do an ALL over body brush
2)get into a nice warm shower
Condition but DON’T rinse
3)Stand under the water and slowly turn the cold water on until it’s as cold as I can handle.
4)Shave again (inevitably I have gotten goose bumps)
5)wash my body and rinse (my hair too…it makes hair nice and shiny)
6)turn the hot water on just to barely warm to take the edge off.
7)Dry off and wrap in my fluffy robe.
8)oil my body with my personal essential oil blend.
There you have it. Many reasons why you should try it, a list of benefits/contraindications and a tried and true way to experience the wonders of an insane BUT effective form of hydrotherapy.