Water, that great therapist

Water has often been seen only as something the body needs to function properly. We hear the same advice over and over again: “Drink 1.5 liters of quality water a day”. But isn’t limiting the value of water to simple hydration underestimating this great therapist?

Several years ago, I discovered the powerful benefits of hydrotherapy, a practice that encompasses all treatments based on the use of water and alternating hot and cold as a therapeutic medium. But where did this idea come from, and how can I benefit from it on a daily basis?

Once upon a time

Let me tell you the story of Sebastian Kneipp, a young student of the priesthood who was also interested in natural herbal medicine. At the age of 25, he contracted tuberculosis and saw his health deteriorate further and further. The year was 1846. Then, one day, he stumbled across a book by physician Johann Siegmund Hahn on the beneficial properties of cold water.

Impressed by what he read, he tried the experiment… Unable to find the heat in a sauna, he had the idea of running until he raised his body temperature to work up a good sweat, and jumped into the Danube, whose water was 5°C. He repeated these short baths over the following days, supplementing them with partial baths and affusions. He repeated these short baths over the following days, supplementing them with partial baths and affusions. After doing that three times a week for a couple of months, his practice took the better of his illness. At the age of 31, he was completely cured.

He then devoted a good part of his life to studying this approach in greater depth, in order to share it with as many people as possible. Doctors and pharmacists, on the other hand, took a critical view of his work. They strongly disliked the fact that Kneipp was able to help patients quickly and free of charge. They filed a complaint, but the court acquitted Kneipp, who grew in popularity and became known as the “Water Doctor”. Every year, people from all over the world would come to Hindelang/Bad Oberdorf, Bavaria, to take advantage of the many Kneipp hydrotherapy pools set up throughout the town.

Hot/cold… For whom, why?

The contrast between hot and cold has very tangible effects on the body. By dilating and contracting blood vessels, it reactivates the neurovegetative system: heart, liver, stomach. It also reactivates the hormonal and immune systems. In other words, and contrary to popular belief, if we raise our body temperature with a sauna session, a bath or a good jog, and then take a cold shower, plunge into almost icy water or take a snow bath, we won’t catch a cold, but instead, will boost our immunity. The only known contraindications are for people with heart problems, high blood pressure, low blood pressure, severe varicose veins or fever, pregnant women or people undergoing cancer treatment or less than three months from the end of treatment.

The basic principles

A hydrotherapy session begins with heat and perspiration. A steam bath lasts around 15 minutes, a hot bath 20 minutes and an infrared sauna up to 30 minutes. Then it’s on to the cold, with a shower, bath or roll in the snow. From a few seconds to a minute. How cold? Just “a little too cold for your taste”! Ideally, rather than toweling off, we’ll let ourselves air-dry and lie down to relax. Stored heat is released, allowing the body to regain its own warmth. This reactivates the entire circulation. Your complexion will be convincing proof of this.

The morning shower

To maintain general health, Father Kneipp suggested three sessions a week. Personlly, I’ve got into the habit of ending my hot morning shower with a cold one every morning. It may seem difficult at first, but you soon come to appreciate the effect.

Hydrotherapy in the heart of nature

With summer just around the corner, why not take advantage of the cool waters of lakes, rivers and even the river to reactivate circulation throughout the body? Come on, don’t be afraid of the cold. Take a deep breath and walk until you have water under your knees. Do the stork walk, pulling your leg all the way out of the water, toe down. Then wipe off the water with your hands, put on socks and shoes and do some foot gymnastics to feel the gentle warmth. Or, even simpler, why not take advantage of the morning dew to walk barefoot in the damp grass to boost both circulation and immunity?

Even at home!

If you don’t have access to a water point, fill your bathtub with cold water and do the stork walk on the spot. Or fill your sink with cold water and immerse your arms in it, starting with the hand and working up to the shoulder. A cold arm bath stimulates without exciting, and helps with physical or mental fatigue, headaches, or nervousness. It also boosts the immune system, stimulates the metabolism, and strengthens the heart muscle. Is there a more natural way to regain inner strength and calm?

Taming the cold

Are you afraid of the cold? Take it easy. After a hot bath, run a cold washcloth over your body and feel the benefits. Or finish your shower by lowering the temperature just one degree at a time. And believe me, the day will come when you won’t be able to do without it.

Experience cold water on your next trip

Des vacances mieux-être dans un centre de villégiature près de Magog

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