Recently, I took off on a whim to enjoy a warm afternoon near a stream in the Ozarks. My mood and body unwinded as I traveled over the hills. Once there, I settled in a chair with a good book and took in the warmth. The best part was wading through the cold stream for a few minutes at time. As a storm rolled in, I pulled some thick wool socks over my feet and traveled home. My feet felt incredibly warm and good. I realized that I had not only treated myself to an afternoon in nature, but to an old hydrotherapy treatment.
The roots of naturopathic medicine go back to the European Water Cure movement (or hydrotherapy). In my naturopathic education, hydrotherapy was the first modality we were taught. This movement is very unlike the spa experience that we think of today in the United States with hot tubs and warm baths. Instead, cold water was used to warm up the body and restore health.
Say what--cold water?! Yes, cold water. When you sit in hot water, your blood vessels vasodilate and take blood closer to the surface of the body. However when you expose the body to cold water, blood vessels vasoconstrict bringing blood back to your core or to where the body is cold. The doctors from this movement strongly believed that stagnant blood was a precursor to illness. The cold water helps promote healthy circulation to restore health.
One hydrotherapy technique used in the Water Cure movement was called "water treading." This is where you walk in cold water up to your knees. It is extremely important that you are warm before you begin, (and that you are careful not to slip and fall.) Water treading can be a great technique to improve circulation and blood flow to the feet, as I experienced.
As the weather warms, treat yourself to a day out among nature and perhaps to some old fashioned hydrotherapy. It can do wonders for your spirit and may also help your health.