Sebastian Kneipp, a german priest and naturopath of the 19th century, invented his concept of Hydrotherapy to cure severe health conditions by using cold and hot water applications.
Inspired by the ancient studies about Hydrotherapy, he started to immerse himself to cold water applications, several times a day. In his beliefs, the brief exposure to cold water seemed to boost the immune system.
"Nature has provided us generously with everything we need to remain in good health." Sebastian Kneipp
Kneipp believed in wellness for the body, mind and soul. He was one of the first believers in holistic approaches to cure illnesses, but also maintain good health. As long as 100 years ago, he recognized the need of prevention and self-care, as well as our responsibility for own health. This approach is even more important in a more and more hectic and stressful society.
Most people are far more stressed, suffer from a lack of nutrition, poor posture, a lack of exercise as well as depression and anxiety.
The five pillars
The 5 pillars are the holistic philosophy that were developed in the 1800's by Kneipp as a basis of his "Kneipp-Kur". The combination of the elements where used to develop Hydrotherapy treatments, alongside with herbs and medical plants to increase health and wellbeing.
1. Water - "If water is an excellent agent for the healthy person to maintain his health." S. Kneipp
Kneipps Hydrotherapy, known as "Kneipp- Kur" is based on the strengthening of the bodies self-regulating forces through hot and cold stimulus.
2. Plants - "Every plant has his own individual effect." S. Kneipp
The healing powers of herbs and medical plants has been known for centuries. Kneipp's therapies relied on high concentrations of natural plant extracts in products and remedies to maintain health and wellbeing.
3. Exercise - "Inactivity weakens, exercise strengthens, overexeration damages." S. Kneipp
Incorporate exercise into your everyday life to revitalize and strengthen the bodies natural defences.
4. Nutrition - "If you notice that you have eaten, you have already eaten too much." S.Kneipp
A balanced diet is the foundation of a healthy and active life. Eating consciously, a high quality and mixed diet with plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables, grain and dairy products is recommended.
5. Balance - "Not until I incorporated the soul did I find success." S.Kneipp
A balanced lifestyle is the basis for a healthy, active and satisfying life. It is the interaction of water, plants, exercise and nutrition that contributes to your health and lends to a balanced body and mind.
Cold water is applied to the body in a certain pattern for some seconds up to one minute. The temperature stimulus triggers positive reactions of the body via the skin- the temporary narrowing of blood vessels followed by vascular expansion promotes circulation throughout the body.
It strengthens the immune system defense, increases circulation and stimulates the nervous system. Warm and cold water is used as a contrast application that is more gentle and suitable for beginners and untrained people, as well as people with heart conditions.
Cold water application - basic rules
The purpose is to create a reaction of tissue, blood vessels and muscles.
Barefoot walking in the dew: Go until feet get cold, could be seconds to minutes or even longer.
Applications should not be performed immediately before or after a meal (unless you want to improve digestion).
Do not smoke immediately before or after application as it can completely neutralize the effect.
The intensity of stimulus must always be individually adjusted. If you are unable to tolerate the temperature, simply reduce treatment area, not the temperature.
Always make sure to warm up the body prior to ANY cold application.
After cold water applications, the body should not be dried off completely, only wiped off with hands, so that the cooling effect of evaporation intensifies the stimulus.
Make sure to warm up the body after cold applications. This can be accomplished with clothing, blankets, or mild exercise. If you can walk, WALK!
Stand in the shower and adjust water to a cold, but bearable temperature. Start to apply cold water from the right body side (right foot) working your way up to the arm in a circular motion, down to the left foot and slowly up to the left arm, covering the whole body again. You can apply water only once or 1-2 minutes in this pattern.
Contraindications (avoid if you have any of the following conditions):
Impaired or compromised circulation – diabetes, peripheral artery disease
Previous frostbite or other hypersensitivity to cold such as Raynaud’s disease or Lupus
Poor kidney function
Hypothyroidism – causes further reduction in basal metabolic rate
Advanced Cardiovascular disease because of increase in systolic blood pressure
Slows wound healing by slowing cell metabolism
Open wounds, rashes
Hypertension – may temporarily increase blood pressure
Very young or very old – may have impaired regulatory systems and limited communication
Cold allergy or sensitivity
Hot and cold water application
1. Two large containers (at least 4 to 6 inches deep)
2. Hot and cold water
3. Canning or candy thermometer
1. Prepare the water and fill one container about two-thirds full with hot water (35-38 degree celsius) Fill the other container about two-thirds full with cold water
2. Test the temperatures with the thermometer.
3. Put both hands or feet completely into the hot water and then the cold water.
4. Hot 3 to 4 minutes --> Cold 1 minute (for at least 15- 30 minutes).
5. Start the contrast bath in hot water and finish in cold water.
6. Towel dry.