One of the best kept antiaging secrets is how cold showers can keep your skin glowing and radiant looking.
The benefits of cold showers certainly don't stop there. There are health benefits such as increased peripheral circulation as well as improvement to imbalanced mental and emotional states. All of this makes cold water therapy one of the top factors of longevity. Many people cringe at the thought of subjecting themselves to cold water and will go out of their way to dismiss the benefits of such a practice (as well as any practice that pushes the limits of their comfort levels).
In our our well pampered culture we have heated water wherever we go. Don't get me wrong, I'm very grateful for such luxuries when they are actually needed, the only difference is that I don't let them control me (much in the same way that I don't watch excessive amounts of television just because I have the ability to). The vast majority of people in developed nations use hot showers every morning.
Cold showers are an ancient technique that promotes overall radiant health. Cold water was the only choice available before heated water existed if people wanted to clean themselves! In developing countries where hot water is not a luxury, they take cold showers or baths when they need to wash themselves. They think nothing of it.
This article uncovers the cold water secrets that you may not have even been aware of. When you look at the factors of longevity that super centenarians all share in common, cold showers aren't actually something you see as a common practice among them... However, if you can understand the benefits of adding together many small practices, even if they are a little bit obscure, you will see how antiaging secrets like cold showers can turn back the hands of time. It is important that you shower in pure water free of the pollutants and impurities that are present in all municipal treated water (click this link to see some great shower filters that can remove these).
The practice of cold showers was re-introduced to western culture through the Kundalini Yoga practices outlined by Yogi Bhajan.
Their name for the practice of taking cold showers is "Ishnaan" and is often done alongside waking at very early hours in the morning. Some people make the excuse that these are extreme spiritual and health practices that are not necessary. However, technically nothing in life is necessary... If you want to, you can stop doing everything you are doing and whither up and die. But if you're on the path of self mastery then this is an indispensable longevity technique. If you're capable of the small task of holding your body under cold water in the morning for a few minutes, then you are definitely going to be able to do the big tasks in life such as conduct yourself with humility day to day, close big business deals, raise your children with wholesome values, be extremely productive, win that race you're going to run a week from now, etc...
That brings me to this list I have put together of the pros and con(traindication)s of cold showers. But first I would like to outline the unsavory effects that hot showers have on your body and mind. Upon waking from a full nights sleep the majority of your blood has flowed into the deeper parts of your body such as the internal organs to help them regenerate. To be active, alert and productive during the day you need a good portion of this blood to flow back into the peripheral extremities of your body. Tea or coffee in the mornings provides this for some people but it has negative consequences after long term use of the caffeine (most notably adrenal fatigue from the constant damaging stimulation).
When hot water hits your skin your body has the feeling of still being wrapped in the warm blanket it had around it when it was in bed just moments ago. The blood stays in the deeper parts of your body giving you a tired and lethargic feeling. You may notice that even after a 15 minute hot shower, when you step out, parts of your body are still cold, even during the summer months! If you have really hot showers you may even find you have created or enhanced a feeling of drowsiness!
All that being said, hot showers (and baths) have their place. They are a wonderful therapy for muscle injuries, post workout recovery, cleaning actual dirt off your body, relaxation and even to help you become tired. Alternating between hot and cold showers is another technique you can use which I have outlined further down the page.
Cold showers do the opposite of hot showers.
When cold water hits your skin, capillaries near the surface dilate, which pulls blood out from the deeper parts of your body into the extremities to warm them up. After a certain amount of exposure to the cold shower they will contract and the blood flows back into the deeper parts of your body after having been cleansed. 10 minutes seems to be the rough amount of time before a cold shower actually begins to become stressful on your body. Of course, if you have exceptional health, you might be able to last much longer, but this is an ability that would have to be developed.
Blood rushing to the skin (which is a self defense mechanism) can be used to your advantage to quickly awaken and invigorate your body. With the rush of blood comes a flush of heat which makes your skin rosy pink. Staying under cold showers for too long results in this heat beginning to be lost (obviously). You won't have to worry however because when you take cold showers they tend to be twice as fast as when you took hot showers! It is my hope that these cold water secrets might just convince you to at least give this a try sometime and see the benefits for yourself.
Pros of cold showers:
~Strengthens the immune system (this happens when your cold showers are kept under approx. 10 minutes, that amount of time can vary with your body type.)
~Flushes toxins from the skin
~Increases blood circulation which helps flush out toxins everywhere in the body (This is especially beneficial for the muscles and surface of the skin.)
~Promotes growth and repair of the circulatory system by stimulating capillary beds often left to "stagnate" with blood
~Keeps the pores of you skin more or less closed during the shower (You don’t absorb as much of the water and any products you are putting on your skin, which is very important with all the garbage added to our water like chlorine and fluoride as well as any toxins in your soaps, etc. The human body absorbs water and personal care products more readily in a regular hot shower because the pores are opened wide from the heat.)
~Less steam is made in your cold showers because it is not hot (Therefore less chlorine is inhaled into the lungs through the steam.)
~Although this is counter intuitive, in the winter, cold showers are the best thing to keep you warm for the rest of the day (It's ideal to have a heater in your bathroom so that as soon as you step out of the shower you can quickly towel off and have warm air on your skin.)
~You save money on your energy bill
~You will have a shorter shower time
~Increases fertility in men (Cooler temperatures on the testicles raises sperm count, but of course too much cold water for too long would be counterproductive. Even if you don't intend to conceive a child, having high male fertility is a source of strength and longevity according to the ancient Taoists and traditional Chinese doctors.)
~Builds courage and will power (A.k.a. nerve force, which makes other tasks in life easier to conquer with the "soul mirror" exercise.)
~Hot showers continually wash natural oils from your skin (Your body will often compensate by either producing more oil or not enough. The oil made by your body will always be better than any topical moisturizer you may be shelling out lot’s of money for, so why wash it off every day in a hot shower? The oil made by your body is not dirty unless your diet and environment is.)
~They are one of the great antiaging secrets for keeping your skin tight, elastic and vibrant
~Has an anti-depressant effect on your mood
~Balances the autonomic nervous system (This makes you feel relaxed and peaceful, yet still alert, when you get out of the shower.)
~Helps you develop the ability to handle lower temperatures while maintaining your body heat (No more complaining about cold weather! As a born and raised Canadian, people complaining about cold weather is one of my biggest pet peeves. If you can't take the cold, get out of the freezer!)
~Cleanses your body and mind of negative emotions that are your own or picked up from others
~Contributes to your longevity potential
~Wakes you up in the morning!
Cons of cold showers (when it might be best to avoid them):
(In the case of a need to avoid cold showers for any health reasons as listed below, luke warm water can be used in its place to avoid the negative effects of a hot shower.)
~Women who are menstruating (Some women find it too much to handle during this time. Then again, it could help as well.)
~Women after the 7th month of pregnancy (This all depends on your reaction to the water. If you're not thrown into shock by the cold water, it might be OK.)
~Immediately after a man has ejaculated (His body is focused on making new sperm cells and semen at this time, so cold showers can be a bit too stressful.)
~Suffering from an eating disorder
~If you are underweight (This usually goes along with having a low body temperature and a general metabolic weakness which might prevent your body from generating enough heat to withstand the cold temperatures.)
~Immediately after a vigorous workout (Start hot and finish cold to avoid muscle cramping, it can happen!)
~Some people have experienced cold showers making depression worse (Although it has also been said that cold showers can help depression, it's best to use your own judgement.)
An alternative to using just cold showers all the time is to alternate between hot and cold several times during one shower.
Simply start with your shower hot then after about two minutes change to cold for two minutes. Switch back and forth a couple of times while staying at each temperature for at least two minutes to allow the blood to flush to or away from the skin. This is a great therapy after a work out to help recovery by pumping blood into and then out of the muscles (this can reduce lactic acid build up). If you have an injury however, it might be best to completely avoid cold showers until you've recovered (but this technique could be useful once the injury is no longer in a "severe" stage). Some people who have practiced alternating hot and cold showers have also experienced a tightening of their skin, which is why this technique made it to my list of antiaging secrets (link coming soon). It is important that you shower in pure water free of the pollutants and impurities that are present in all municipal treated water (click this link to see some great shower filters that can remove these).
All of these water secrets I have covered, including the ones in this article about the health benefits of drinking water daily, are quite significant. Part of these practices are to also learn to respect all water as a "living" source of life and not some inert chemical compound to be taken for granted. We are composed mostly of water (ideally 75%+) and I believe losing touch with this fact plays a part in many of the problems we are now experiencing with the worlds water, such as the disappearance of fresh water as well as large scale pollution of the worlds fresh and ocean water. Cold showers offer us a very visceral way of getting back in touch with this primal element that is among the most important factors of longevity.
Many cultures in the past have practiced cold showers and cold water hydrotherapy.
Various European countries utilized cold bathes or "cold showers" in springs and streams to effect various cures for minor ailments. It was even recognized and utilized by the medical community in places like Germany starting in 1829 when a German farmer named Vincent Priessnitz was becoming known for his "cold water cures". This led to the wide interest in cold water hydrotherapy as a cheap and simple technique that even people from the lower classes could perform. From this point on, various writings and works began popping up in the medical community on the subject of employing cold showers as a safe and effective therapy.
"Polar bear swims/plunges" are events held all over the westernized world where ocean or lake temperatures are very low or even freezing during the winter time. These are often meant to raise money for charitable organizations and may or may not include some sort of competitive swimming. The origins of this ice swimming practice is rooted in Russia, China and Scandinavian countries. The reason why these cultures might have engaged in these practices is likely both a combination of friendly competition (picture big burly drunk Vikings challenging each other to jump into a frozen lake) as well as a form of spiritual, mental and emotional cleansing.
Although I have never participated in a polar bear plunge myself, I did once cross the river behind my house to gain free access to the swimming "quarry" that most people paid to enter. I lived on the edge of the Grand River and at this point of crossing it was deep and narrow, allowing for the water to stay ridiculously cold, even in the middle of the summer. One day a friend and myself decided to swim across to get to the quarry. Without testing the water first, we jumped in with our clothes on. It was so unbelievably cold (and refreshing!) that I had trouble breathing and madly made a wild attempt to swim to the opposite shore. Quite a memory of joyous panic considering the current was also quite swift!
Feeling invigorated and alive during daily life is definitely one of the key factors of longevity. If you desire to unravel and explore antiaging secrets, the practice of daily cold showers is definitely something I recommend trying out... at least once. The hardest part about cold showers is the first minute. You'll be amazed at how quickly your body adapts to it. Any "pain" regarding this feat of raw courage is all mental and can be overcome. Once you do it a couple of times, it's easy. It will become a habit and you will then reap the benefits of this simple practice for the rest of your life!
Click to return from "Cold Showers" to the "Factors of Longevity" page.