The best thing about a cold shower is that no matter what your hang ups and worries were before that water hits you, they all seem to disappear once you’re in that cold stream. Every time I go for it, I feel stronger, calmer and more active. Being in the job of writing and editing and inexorably meeting deadlines, my work involves a lot of stress. So, end of day, a shot of cold shower does the balancing act – boosts my inner discipline and gives me the energy to move on.
Most people think otherwise though. They believe a hot water bath is a luxury. I always tried persuading them how stimulating cold showers can be, but disciples of hot water bath never seemed to be convinced, my mom being of them. But when I read an article last week on the evolution of cold water baths, I found some very interesting facts to share with my readers.
The article says even in ancient times, when people enjoyed the comfort of a hot bath, especially those staying close to hot streams, for most of human history, people bathed in cold water. In fact, even after the Ancient Greeks developed heating systems for their public baths, they continued bathing in cold water for the health and vitality. Even in cold countries, like in Finland in 1st century, Finnish folks would sweat it out in saunas and then jump into an ice cold lake or stream. Till today Scandinavians swear by ice hole swimming, that’s something like a pastime for them.
Many cultures incorporated a cold water shower dousing into their religious ceremonies. Some Native American tribes would alternate between sitting in a sweat lodge and jumping into an icy river or snow bank. Ancient Russians also took frequent plunges into ice cold rivers for health and spiritual cleansing. Japanese practitioners of Shinto, both in ancient and modern times, would stand under an icy waterfall as part of a ritual known as Misogi, which was believed to cleanse the spirit.
The turning point came in the 1820s, when a German farmer named Vincenz Priessnitz started touting a new medical treatment called “hydrotherapy,” which used cold water to cure everything from broken bones to erectile dysfunction. He turned his family’s homestead into a sanitarium, and patients flocked to it in the hope that his cold water cure could help them. Among his clientele were dukes, duchesses, counts, countesses, and a few princesses to boot. Priessnitz’s hydrotherapy soon spread to the rest of Europe and eventually to the United States.
Celebrities and other famous folks took to it, like, well, a duck to water and helped popularize the cold water cure with the masses. For example, Charles Darwin was a huge proponent of hydrotherapy. The first hydrotherapy facility opened up in the U.S in 1843, right when the sanitarium craze hit America. By the end of the 19th century, over 200 hydrotherapy resorts existed in the U.S., the most famous being the Battle Creek Sanitarium founded by famous ‘flakes’ man John Harvey Kellogg.
From James Bond to celebrities and many professional athletes currently take ice baths to help speed recovery from strained muscles, muscle pulls or tears, broken bones and other sports-related injuries. While medical technology has advanced rapidly and new, more powerful, drugs constantly hit the marketplace, it seems fair to say that hydrotherapy, or cold water baths or showers, will never completely disappear.
The piece was inspiring and made me a better cold shower believer now. Of course when you take a cold shower in the morning, it seems like the first battle of the day. There’s no second thought on that. But when you come out victorious, you are ready to face any challenge come what may the day has in store for you. Do not miss out on this experience!