Taking a Plunge ‘Viking’ Style – Part I

“I am sure there are things that can’t be cured by a good bath but I can’t think of one.”

― Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar  

In my case , I experienced two completely different ones than the ones I usually have in the privacy of my own Boudoir (You know the one with scented candles, bath salts and a rubber pink ducky surrounded by holistic Rose Quartz crystals).  

No these two particular baths were either really cold or really warm and they were both a shock (in a good way) to the system.

  1st Bath :It all began when I visited the south of Sweden  for a summer getaway and was told that if one should really blend in ,one should not just jump in the baltic sea like a vagabond ! But have the ritual to walk there or cycle to the coast with a bathrobe.  Yes the same one you put after getting out of the shower , and yes perhaps the ones that you would want to steal from the Four Seasons since they are just a cocoon of softness.   And thats exactly what i did….

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  With a big 60’s hat , red lipstick to point out the difference between ‘ just coming out of the shower’ and that I am ‘in public’, and yes the pair of Fendi glasses did help too! Thankfully, I didn’t encounter the skinny dipping custom that scandinavians are renowned for.

Everyone was normally prudish and wore a bathing suit. And everyone including men, women, children,grandmas and grandpas (except for the out of towners that were frowned upon and dogs) had their bathrobes.I felt part of a tribe and started back talking my ‘Hej! Hej!’ until the ultimate dip in the water.

There was only one ladder leading to the depth of the sea and a little girl was behind me skipping impatiently .The water was ice cold!!! when I say ice.I mean the ice cream in your freezer is perhaps warmer.But to the swedes it was a warm 13 degrees.Every part of my body cringed , I felt i shrank in height, width and perhaps internal organs and this is from just dipping my feet.

Cold ‘dips’ is still very much in the traditions of several nations today: Finland, Russia, Thailand, Korea, Japan and many others.Indeed, a cold shower for good health was ad hoc since ancient times. Viking wedding ceremonies included the Bride’s visit to a bath-house (the Scandinavian equivalent of the  modern Finnish sauna) where heated stones were sprinkled with water to produce steam.The symbolism of the steam bath included both the “washing away” of the bride’s maiden status, and a purification to prepare her for the religious ritual that would follow the next day.The final step of the steam-bath , would be a plunge into cool waters to close the pores and complete the cleansing by having herbs, flowers or oils added to it. Turkish baths have had always a ‘Cold’ room after a good session of steam and scrubbing. 007 ‘s ritual of starting out with hot water and ending it with a brisk and invigorating icy, cold splash was inspired by Fleming’s ‘Scottish Showers’. 15th century beauty Diane de Poitiers, a favourite of Henry II of France, safeguarded her complexion in a discipline that she maintained throughout her life, by rising at 3am she had a bath of cold water and then went on a long horse ride.It apparently worked! Since she became a model from which the Renaissance took its laws of beauty.

The high water mark for this type of bathing, however, didn’t occur until the 1920s when an Austrian farmer, Vincenz Priessnitz, developed and marketed a new medical treatment he called hydrotherapy : The Cold water cure Priessnitz sold the concept of using cold water to cure everything from broken bones to erectile dysfunction (and many other ailments, as well) and achieved almost instant success. In fact, he had to convert his farm to a “sanitarium” and, virtually overnight, the rich and famous of the time became avid fans and clients. As the 20th century moved along, the popularity of hydrotherapy began to decline, more so when the medical profession began to rely on drugs to treat illnesses.However, the use of hydrotherapy as a viable medical treatment has never truly stopped.

Researchers have proven that cold shower rituals are :

1- A great boost to the stressed athletes

2- relieves depression

3- keeps skin and hair healthy

4-the body rejuvenated

5-boosts circulation

6-strengthens your immunity

7-improves insomnia

and last but not least , as a swedish team recently demonstrated , increases your level of ‘Brown fat‘ which generates heat by burning calories and can be a considerable tool  for weight loss as well as a trigger for a healthy metabolism, among other things.

Everybody starred as I stood still at the edge of the ladder, I was definitely a newbie in these waters, the little girl behind me couldn’t wait any longer and told me in perfect english ‘ Once you are in the water you will be warm’. Well, there is my  ‘belonging to the tribe’ cover blown! or perhaps it was my piercing sounds as i entered the water that blew it or that I am a brunette. Either way it had to be done! It was a whip to the flesh that turned the colour of my skin to a purplish red … Not very sexy…. but I felt energised , and after a while, yes a little warmer. If Diane de Poitiers can do it so can I, perhaps not that early in the day, but still…

How to take a Cold Bath/Shower Viking style?

Keep it in the mornings, the effect will last for hours I promise , I found my own way of tricking my body into it by starting warm then going colder and colder …I also tend to go in and out of the water four to five times, constantly massaging my body with soap following it with almond oil (oil is more easily absorbed by the skin when it is mixed with water) until the water no longer feels cold. Give it a go and comment on your experience ….and if you are already doing it what is your trick?

Bisous x

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