Spa Therapy and the Rest of the World
The Russian banya and the Finnish sauna are used for hot vapor baths and evolved from portable sweat lodges used by nomadic tribes. They used the cold ice water and then the steam and vapor to connect spiritually and also for health and relaxation... and also became places of community ritual.
In the Middle East, "hammams" were Turkish baths closely resembled the Roman baths. Hebrews also bathed in congruence with their religion. These hammams used hot air rooms to cause perspiration and then splashed themselves with cold water, and then back to a warm room to receive a massage. These are still in use today in the Turkish community.
Japan is also known for its thermally active areas, which have created thousands of natural hot springs throughout the country. Hot spring bathing has been in use there for over 1,000 years. "Onsens" are natural, mineral soaked hot springs where people go to soak and relax. "Sentos" were created in communities that were not near a natural hot springs. In Japan, people wash and cleanse their bodies before entering the bath.
Native Americans used hot springs and sweat lodges, where water was poured onto hot stones to create steam. These were used in rituals and also for healing. The idea was that by creating perspiration, they could sweat out impurities of both body and mind and cleanse themselves.
The Decline of Hydrotherapy
After the Roman collapse, bath houses went into decay and the practice was lost. Then with the rise of Christianity, bathing was considered self indulgent and unhealthy and was forbidden. The use of heavy perfumes and cosmetics came into use to mask the smells of body odor, and the practices of good hygiene were lacking. This had a huge impact on the health and wellness practices, and shifted away from the use of water as a healing therapy. Islamic countries kept the practice of bathing alive and continued to use it for healing and health.
The Resurgence of Hydrotherapy
After the medieval era, thanks to St. Thomas Aquinas, the philosophies of Aristotle were reintroduced. Henry VIII also reinstated the use of baths, although the mystical properties of healing caused these bathing places to become places of pilgrimage for those looking for a miracle. The baths also became a gathering place for political dissidents, and so the English made the bathing houses more prominent in the everyday community.
In the 16th century, as part of the Renaissance, there was a renewed interest in medicine and bathing for health. All over Europe the baths started popping up and physicians started using science to analyze the minerals and chemical makeup of the natural springs to better recommend treatments for their patients. Daniel Fahrenheit invented the thermometer which was a major step forward for hydrotherapy. Dr. Sydenham also began to challenge the current medical practices and reintroduced the teachings of Hippocrates and the use of water to treat illness.
Many other doctors and philosophers followed suit and brought the medical community back to a place where it was recognized that bathing and hygiene was paramount to health and vitality. The use of seawater was also reintroduced as a healing treatment, and hydrotherapy was reborn.
Vincent Preissnitz, through experience with traumatic events in his life revived the ancient cold water healing treatments and went on to start a clinic where he performed the "Preissnitz Cure" - a regimen of wrapping the body in cold sheets, cold baths, fresh air, healthy diet and physical exercise. He experimented with many water healing techniques and was majorly influential in bringing the world's attention to hydrotherapy. His clinic, now called a SPA is still in operation today.
Father Sebastian Kneipp went on to use these teachings to cure himself of tuberculosis. He is known as the "Father of Hydrotherapy" and used it to treat many of his parishioners and published his book "My Water Cure" in which he coined the five fundamental principles of treatment:
1. Hydrotherapy: thermal and mechanical water applications and baths
2. Kinesiotherapy: movement, exercise and massage
3. Phytotherapy: natural herbal remedies, teas, oils and juices
4. Nutrition: a well balanced diet
5. Regulative Therapy: mental, emotional and spiritual balance in one's life
Father Kneipp's approach to health was truly holistic, and was integral in educating people about balancing work and relaxation, living in harmony with their bodies, and taking responsibility for their own health. Over 200 spas in Germany offer his version of hydrotherapy as a treatment. This is the model that is predominantly used in European spas and also some in American spas today.
Benedict Lust was inspired, after being cured by Kneipps treatment protocol to combine this with other natural remedies including homeopathy, psychology, and bony manipulation, and thus formed the foundation of the Naturopathic Medicine as it is known today.
Dr. John Bastyr, known as the "Father of Naturopathic Medicine" was also influenced by Kneipp's philosophies through his mother who was a student, and his father who was a pharmacist. He combined his understanding of science and naturopathy to establish the National College of Naturopathic Medicine where he focused on educating in modalities such as hydrotherapy, homeopathy, botanical medicine, nutrition and chiropractics.
Dr. Kellog (with the help of Ellen White) coined the term "sanitarium" which became a place where people would come to restore their bodies to good health. This was again a major step in naturopathy as a major form of healthcare.