Kneipp Hydrotherapy

On my last full day in Bavaria, Ursula, Tom, and I went on another wonderful hike.  This one was not up in the snow. We did a lot of walking around along paths meandering through fields.   I have these last Bavarian photographs to share with you from the hike, but I will also write about what this area is well known for: Healing with Water!

Sebastian Kneipp was a Bavarian Catholic priest who lived in Bavaria from 1821-1897.  He was one of the founders of Naturopathic Medicine and developed the idea of walking barefoot along designated Barefoot Paths (about a half mile long, right in Hindelang/Bad Oberdorf) for improving the immune system.  He is most commonly associated with the ‘Kneipp Cure’ form of hydrotherapy, a system of healing involving the application of water through various methods, temperatures, and pressures.

Barefoot Path: Kneipp believed that walking barefoot promoted excellent health, improved immune system, and a way to prevent allergies.

Barefoot Path: Kneipp believed that walking barefoot promotes excellent health, an improved immune system, and provides relief for allergies.  These paths are excellent for “Dew Walking”.

People from all over the world come to Bad Oberdorf and Hindelang to get hydrotherapy treatments and to walk in the foot pools/baths to improve their health.  The water in these pools comes from natural spring mineral water.

One of the two

One of the two Kneipp Hydrotherapy Foot Pools

Father Sebastian Kneipp was celebrated in his day for easing such conditions as poor circulation, heart problems and allergies.  He wrote  My Water Cure and was influential in the establishment of clinics and spas throughout Europe.

The second Foot Bath Therapy Pool

The second Foot Bath Therapy Pool (the two look very similar)

The following is based on Kneipp’s ideas on Healing with Water:

Remarkably, simple temperature changes can cause the body to build more disease-fighting cells. Kneipp’s hydrotherapy techniques use temperature changes and more, such as brushing, ice and water pressure, to influence our body’s systems.

Below is a photo of Ursula and me doing the “Stork Walk” in the foot pool.  The water from the nearby spring is always naturally ice-cold.   Kneipp had the science of healing with water all figured out:  The water only needs to reach below the knee.  You must lift your legs up high like a stork as you walk.  You walk clockwise three times around the pool.  When you get out of the pool, you are supposed to let your feet and legs air dry (rather than using a towel to dry off).  As soon as you get out of the pool, you continue to walk on the grass outside of the pool, completing two more rounds of walking.

The best part about these cold spring water foot baths is that they are FREE!

Ursula and Fran "stork walking" in the freezing Kneipp Foot Bath, also known as Kneipp Hydrotherapy.

Ursula and Fran “stork walking” in the freezing Kneipp Foot Bath, also known as Kneipp Hydrotherapy.

When I first got in, I thought the blood in my legs had frozen.  It was like an “ice-cream headache” in my legs.  The water was so cold that a panic set in. I quickly completed one round and told Ursula I had to get out.  She said she was going to continue and that I should keep going for the full three rounds, that the water doesn’t feel so cold after the first round.  I got out, but then I regretted being such a wimp, so I got back in and completed the three rounds.  Ursula was right!  The second and third rounds were easy.  The therapy felt great, especially because this was at the end of our day-hike and my feet were tired.  The Kneipp foot bath was stimulating and I was energized the rest of the evening.    Ideally, this should be done daily.

There are spa and healing centers here in the valley and mountains offering various types of Kneipp Water Therapy. In Germany, insurance companies cover the cost of Kneipp treatments.  People come from all over the world to fight allergies by taking part in the Kneipp treatments.  In addition, most of the hotels in this area use fragrance-free products, promote allergy-free environments, and have special rating systems to demonstrate how clean their environment is.

Here is more information I found about Father Kneipp and his healing philosophies:

  • Father Kneipp advocated eating whole food that is “simple, pure, wholesome and not too plentiful.”
  • Some of Kneipp’s more esoteric treatments include: (1) Dew Walking – Walking barefoot on dew-moistened grass to promote circulation and strengthen the immune system.  (2) Water Treading – “Stork”-walking in a body of water filled below the knee, such as large basin; bathtub; fountain; lake; or ocean to strengthen veins, induce sleep and stimulate metabolism. (3) Snow Walking – Walking barefoot in snow from a few seconds up to three minutes to stimulate the system and promote circulation.

I think Father Kneipp was brilliant!  I am a true believer in the benefits of Kneipp’s Water Treading.  Several times, I have experienced firsthand how great I felt after doing Kneipp’s Water Treading.  Below are scientific findings on the beneficial effects of Kneipp Hydrotherapy

  • Local Reaction – Similar to reactions caused by cold compresses used for acute trauma or inflammation, or hot packs/hay sacks used for local muscular hypertension.
  • Segmental Response – Internal organs can be influenced by an automatic reflex from the skin, called the “cuti-visceral reflex.”
  • Consensual Response – Parts of the body not treated directly can react in the same way as the part being treated. Automatic Response.
  • General Condition – Influence on the automatic nervous system; improves general state of well-being.
  • Immune System Response – Alternating treatments and strengthening exercises “toughen up” and train the body’s immune system.
  • Psychological Response – Temperature and aroma stimuli have a direct influence on the central nervous system and can change the mental state.
  • Benefits of Kneipp hydrotherapy include: relaxation and general sense of well-being; muscle relaxation; increased excretion through the skin; stimulation of metabolism; stabilization of body warmth; regulation of blood pressure; activation of the immune system; and ameliorated circulation of the skin.

Lifestyle and health education are the most important part of Kneipp’s doctrine. He believed in self-responsibility as a cornerstone of health.

And more photos from my last day in the Bavarian Alps:

A beautiful chapel beckons us to come in, light a candle and say a prayer of gratitude.

A beautiful chapel beckons us to come in, light a candle, and say a prayer of gratitude.  Here, in Catholic Bavaria, chapels are everywhere.

Here is another chapel.

Another chapel in Bad Oberdorf: Lourdes Chapel (Lourdes Kapelle).  This chapel is over 100 years old, built in 1895.   Ursula remembers celebrating its centennial.

Tulips near the Kneipp Foot Bath Therapy Pool.

Tulips near the Kneipp Foot Bath Therapy Pool

More tulips!

More tulips!

Pansies!

Pansies!

orange and white kitty!  The cats here are very healthy and loving.

Pretty orange and white kitty! The cats here are very healthy and loving.

Adorable little girl making imaginary mud pies as her mother did some yard work.

Adorable little girl making imaginary pies while her mother does some yard work.

lll

I am including this not-so-great photo because this herb is edible and delicious.  It is called Baerlauch, or Bear’s Garlic, and grows wild along rivers and just about in every meadow.  It is a broad leaf garlic-related plant, sometimes known as “wood garlic” or “bear leek”.  Ursula found the translation as “ramp” in English.  It is a wild relative to chives and tastes very similar to chives, but more garlicky.  People make a pesto from it, which is delicious and makes you reek of garlic for days. Scientific name:  Allium Ursinum

The hike before the foot bath!

The hike before the foot bath!

We took the cable cars up to a lovely lunch spot with a view of the valley and mountains.

We took the cable cars up to a lovely lunch spot with a view of the valley and mountains.

And last but not least, a dog posting. The lower sign translates to, "I watch over this house."  I love that it is a sketch of the actual dog who lives here.

And last but not least, a dog posting. The lower sign translates to, “I watch over this house.”

 

 

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