There is something that is just so healing about water and I love being near, around or immersed in it ... in fact, water is one of our six best doctors ... (that is:- sunshine, air, exercise, rest, diet and of course...water).
It is a versatile element .... we can drink it, admire the beauty of it in great lakes , streams and oceans, swim and exercise in it, float in it, bathe in it... and apply it to different parts of our body. We can even add oils, clay and salts to it .....and each one of these modalities has countless physiological and psychological benefits.
So...after last weeks Aqua class post, I wanted to follow on with the water theme and tell you a few things I was reminded of at one of the lectures I attended recently on Hydrotherapy ...at the Naturopathic Iridology Symposium in London.
You may remember from a previous post that my primary training is in Physiotherapy....so when I came across Hydrotherapy (whilst training as a Naturopathic Iridologist about 10 years ago), I thought that I was pretty well versed in it. I automatically assumed that it was something I had done for a long time.... namely carrying out therapy exercises in some lovely warm water... many of you may have even done it...and perhaps this is what comes to your mind when you hear about hydrotherapy too?
However, I soon learned that Naturopathic hydrotherapy is more inclusive and can be used in many and varied ways.
Using water is about the simplest health aid there is... we have all used it at some point....there is the bag of ice on a bruise.... a hot soak in the bath after a long day.... a cold cloth to wipe a feverish brow, a refreshing paddle in a stream to ease tired feet and a warm water bottle on sore muscles.
Hydrotherapy, includes these everyday remedies, but It also incorporates a host of other powerful methods. I won't go into these practices today as its probably best to first seek advice from a Naturopath or a Naturopathic Iridologist to rule out any contraindications... and to learn how to carry them out correctly before trying them yourself. However, I do want to tell you a little of how it can benefit you.... and there is one challenge at the very end that you can try if you are up to it!
One of the premises of Hydrotherapy is that health and healing are proportional to the normal flow of healthy blood to all areas of the body, and with varying applications of water, blood can be directed to... or withdrawn from any part of the body. Temperature is therefore probably the most important aspect of the therapy and it usually involves hot and/or cold applications to parts of.... or the whole body. Once applied, the body has a protective (homeostatic reaction) to the temperature and vasoconstriction and/or vasodilation of the blood vessels occur.
Really, it is a process of thermal regulation or 'Thermotherapy" which can enhance the body's ability to heal. By improving the efficiency of the circulation, It can enhance blood quality, immunity and overall cellular nutrition. It effects oxygen absorption, carbon dioxide excretions, peripheral red and white blood cell counts and blood glucose levels. Treatments can even help promote detoxification, change tissue tone, and help bring about equilibrium in the nervous system.
Different therapeutic effects can be achieved depending on the temperature of the application, the length of treatment and also the part of the body that it is applied to.
Cold - below 18C
cool - 19-22C
Tepid - 23-31(non therapeutic)
Indifferent - 32-35 (skin temp)
Warm - 36-38C
Hot - 39-42C
very hot - 43-46C
A short cold application of water for example (of less than a minute) can have the effect of firstly constricting the blood flow and then increasing the circulation and metabolism, whereas longer applications of cold (more than a minute) reduce the flow of blood to the area by contracting the local blood vessels, and depressing circulation and metabolism. However if it's prolonged, there would then be a shunting of blood to the skin to protect it from the cold!
Short applications of heat (five minutes) can also have the effect of increasing circulation and metabolism... whereas a longer duration depresses circulation... and metabolism continues to increase.
Hot or cold treatments can be stand alone therapies but you can also combine them and alternate both hot and cold for short periods of time. This can lead to an improvement in tissue drainage and increases the oxygen supply to muscles, skin and organs.
Since the lecture a few weeks ago, I have started to use the technique of having a quick burst of cold water at the end of a warm shower again. I used to do it some time ago, but then stopped and got out of the habit. Its a bit of a shock to the system at first but it gets easier and it is surprising how you actually feel warmer after doing it! I have added the method I have been using below..... It's a little gentler introduction than standing under a deluge of cold water...so if you are feeling brave and up for it you may want to give this particular one a go!
... divert the shower head away from your body, set the thermostat to cold, take a deep breath and then:
direct the jet of cold water down the outside of your right leg, from the right knee to the right foot, then slowly up the inside of the right leg, up to the groin. Now, in a continuous movement proceed up the right side of the trunk, under the right armpit, over the top of the right shoulder, down the outside of the right arm to hand, then up the inside of the arm to the armpit. Now a figure eight around the chest then down the left side of trunk to left foot, then up the inside of the left leg to the groin, continue up the left trunk to shoulder, then directly down the outside of the left arm to the back of the hand, proceed up over the palm and inner arm to armpit, then figure eight around chest and finally, play the water down the backbone for a couple of seconds.
This whole protocol should take only twenty five seconds, but could add years to your life. (Positive health.com)
It may sound horrifying to contemplate a cold burst of water and it will be uncomfortable for a while... (believe me!) you might even yell or shout and wonder why on earth you are doing it. The hardest part is to just get under the cold water... you think its going to be far worse than it actually is. Just do it! Remember to breath... and it will all be over before you know it! You never know you might actually like it.... and even worse/better still you might get addicted to it. I certainly feel more awake, alert and energized by the time I have finished! Why not have a go and see if you do too?
As always use judgement and listen to your body and if in doubt seek advice first.
If you want to read about more of the methods and effects of Naturopathic hydrotherapy you can find some interesting articles here and here and can find a book here