There is a lot to say for and about the Bavarian priest Sebastian Kneipp (1821 – 1897), his water therapy and his five pillars of health. If you have not heard of him yet, have a look at his Wikipedia entry just for a general introduction. Growing up hiking in the German hill country and mountains, coming upon a Kneipp-inspired wading-pool was so common that I knew his name and what to associate with him long before I even knew that Kneipp was a name to begin with. Kneipp was just a synonym for very refreshing breaks on hot summer days: To do a Kneipp exercise, all you had to do was take off your hiking boots and socks, roll up your pant legs, step into a pool of sorts and walk around in cold, knee-deep water a bit. Wonderful!
But since it is not the kind of weather outside at the moment to fill the wash tub and wade around in it (unless you live a good bit further south than we do), I would like to share a rule I learned from Pfarrer Kneipp much later, although I have been following it unknowingly for most of my life:
Cold for the outside
Warm for the inside
Cold for the outside: The idea is that when you shower or wash, it is more beneficial to your health to shower cool rather than hot, and to finish every shower with a cold splash, so to speak: Stick your legs under the cold shower, left foot first and then up, then your arms, left hand first and then up, then your front, then your back, lastly your face, all just for a moment. If you try it, you’ll find how much nicer it is to step out of the shower and not shiver in the cold air because the air won’t actually feel cold. The same counts for washing your face and hands: Use cold water. To clean your hands (so very important at this time of year), it is more efficient to wash with cold water and rub your hands real good than to use warm water.
Warm for the inside: No beverage you drink should be colder than room-temperature. It is a shock to your system to drink very cold beverages, causing stress and supporting inflammation.
By and large, this little rule is just one expression of Kneipp’s general belief that humans should live in accord with nature. I quite agree. Living the way we were designed to live makes it easy to stay happy and healthy. Give it a try.
The featured image shows a drawing of Pfarrer Kneipp giving a lecture in Bad Wörishofen in 1895.
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