In recent years, forms of hydrotherapy such as cryotherapy, literally meaning “cold therapy,” have become wildly popular and gained traction. However, many people are unaware that cold therapy is actually an ancient yogic technology and yogis have been reaping its benefits well before the existence of modern-day cryotherapy. So what attracted yogis to this technology and why should you know about it?
What is hydrotherapy?
Hydrotherapy uses the properties of water to promote health, prevent, and heal disease. Ishaan, or cold water therapy, is an ancient, basic yogic technology practiced routinely by both yogis and lay people. All it requires is cold water and breath. Other forms of Hydrotherapy include cryotherapy, mineral baths, underwater massage, cold showers, saunas, and whirlpools.
What are the benefits of cold therapy? Is it only useful for athletes?
Cold therapy boasts numerous benefits and advantages. Regularly practicing cold therapy will: aid in anti-inflammation, open capillaries, flush out internal organs/toxins in the body, upgrade glandular secretion, benefit the electromagnetic field, improve mood and cognition, and strengthen immunity. Immunity research has shown that winter swimmers have a greater number of white blood cells including cancer-killing cells (Lymphocytes). Research has also shown that cold therapy increases the number of mitochondria in the muscle tissue and increases speed and performance among trained runners.
There is a common misconception that cryotherapy/ cold therapy is a tool for athletes or ‘gym rats,’ and this could not be further from the truth. Yes, cold therapy is a useful tool for athletes to increase respiratory function, endurance, overall cardiovascular health, and aid in muscle recovery. However, it is also for everybody and every body and brain will reap benefits from cold therapy- not just athletic ones!
When is cold therapy Used?
Cold therapy can be used whenever! Some prefer to take a cold shower in the morning to awaken their body and activate the sympathetic nervous system. Others enjoy a cold ice bath after a workout to aid in muscle recovery. Cold showers and ice baths share many benefits, as the body undergoes similar processes during both practices. One may align more with you depending on your lifestyle, activities, and goals.
What types of diseases and illnesses is cold therapy good for treating?
Cold therapy is a great treatment for mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression, as well as auto-immune disorders and diabetes. Cold exposure activates levels of beta-endorphins in blood and norepinephrine in the brain. The cold exposure triggers electrical impulses from firing peripheral nerve endings that result in pain relief and give off an uplifted, charged, and anti-depressive effect. Overtime, these effects have a larger impact and are thus longer lasting. This makes cold therapy an alternative to commonly prescribed norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors used for depression treatment. While it is important to think about and discuss healing effects of treatments and practices, it is just as if not more important to focus on the preventative effects of incorporating practices such as cold therapy.
*Pro tip- If you are a woman, allowing cold water to run over your breasts in the shower helps prevent against breast cancer.
Can I practice cold therapy at home?
Yes! No expensive subscription is needed to tap into this ancient technology. All you need is cold water. Though three minutes is considered the ideal length of time for a cold shower, start by practicing for as much as you can or desire to, and make an effort to practice every day or whenever you can. Overtime, it will become much easier. You have the rest of your life to practice cold therapy, so don’t rush into discomfort if it turns you away! Focus on your breathing and the positive contribution to your health during your practice, both will help calm and relax you. You can also start by trying a Swiss shower (alternate hot + cold water) or simply turn the water cold at the end of your typical warm shower for as long as you can.
Can cold therapy be used for weight loss?
It’s important to focus on and highlight the benefits of cold therapy that lead to weight loss rather than on the weight loss itself. Weight loss is complex and in today’s society many often forget that weight and appearance is a reflection of our thoughts and habits. As above, so below. That being said, the positive effects of cold therapy: anti-inflammation, increased athletic performance, detoxification, improved cognition, and metabolic increase are all factors that can contribute to weight loss.
Focus on maintaining a healthy, balanced lifestyle, taking good care of yourself, and feeling good through practices like cold therapy. Naturally, without conscious awareness, you will reflect a higher, more magnetic or attractive essence and encompass higher vibrations. Do not fall into the weight loss mindset, that’s exactly how you’ll lose time, money, happiness, health, and wellbeing. Pour your focus into actions, habits, and practices, rather than on outcomes. At the end of the day, most weight loss companies simply exploit insecurity and fears for profit. It’s an equation as simple as calories in versus calories out.