I used to hate the cold. Cold weather, cold showers – the worst. I have since come to appreciate the cold as a nice contrast to the hot. For all my TCM friends, no yin without yang, right?
Note: TCM stands for Traditional Chinese Medicine.
In this post, I want to introduce you to my secret morning weapon to help me feel alive and get my day started on a strong note every morning: contrast showers.
What Are Contrast Showers?
Put simply, contrast showers involve alternating hot and cold water.
I was first introduced to the practice in my first year of Naturopathic medical school in a class called Hydrotherapy. Hydrotherapy is the use of water to treat a disease or to maintain health.
We were all encouraged to try it for a week. How did that first week go? Uncomfortably, on the verge of torturous. But I couldn’t deny the benefits. I felt more energized, less congested, and super refreshed. Now, I do contrast showers every morning.
How It Works
Our bodies are composed of mostly water. Therefore, it is possible to use water, more specifically water temperature, to influence physiological effects in the body.
Hot water is relaxing, causing blood vessels to dilate, and removes wastes from body tissues. Cold is stimulating, causing superficial blood vessels to constrict and shunts blood to internal organs. Alternating hot and cold water causes the blood vessels to engage in a pump-like action (dilating, then constricting, dilating, then constricting), which improves elimination and decreases inflammation.
The temperature contrast involved in contrast showers is perfect for stimulating the nervous system, circulatory system and immune system by increasing lymphatic circulation.
Personally, I have come to look forward to the whole-body tingling sensation I experience when I switch from hot to cold water. It awakens all the physical senses and makes one feel alert and alive!
How It’s Done
To begin, start off with warm and cool water to get your body accustomed to the difference in temperatures. Over time, you will build a tolerance and be able to withstand hotter and colder temperatures. To maximize the effectiveness of the contrast shower, there should be as large a difference in temperature as possible between the hot and cold.
- Start with warm/hot water for 3 minutes.
- Now, switch to cool/cold water for 1 minute (as quickly as possible).
- Repeat the cycle 3-5 times.
- Make sure to always start with HOT and end with COLD water.
The principle you want to keep in mind is 3-to-1. You want the hot water to be 3 times longer than the cold water. So you can do 3 minutes of a hot shower followed by 1 minute of cold water (as suggested), or 6 minutes of hot followed by 2 minutes of cold or even 90 seconds of hot followed by 30 seconds of cold, etc.
Again, the temperature should be to your tolerance level. The best part is, this shower doesn’t require any extra time!
Before you completely turn down the idea, please give it a try! The benefits are many and include:
- Improved circulation
- Enhanced immunity
- Healthy skin and hair
- Decreased muscle soreness
- Decreased joint and muscle inflammation
- Increased fertility
- Increased energy
- Increased well-being
- AND FAT BURNING!
Contrast showers are simple and effective! Turn your mundane shower into a daily practice that leaves you feeling energized every morning!