Water is both literally and symbolically the source of life. It’s the most abundant substance on the surface of the Earth, covering more than 70% of the planet. It constitutes a large proportion of all living things: about two-thirds of a human being’s body mass is made up of water. To ensure the efficient functioning of our metabolism and bodily systems, we need to drink it in sufficient quantities every day. Water is a universal solvent, allowing us to assimilate the minerals and vitamins that are vital for strength and health. Insufficient liquid intake even affects the development of bone tissue, ultimately weakening the skeletal framework, reducing its plasticity, and bringing on conditions such as osteoporosis.
The restorative powers of water have been recognized and acclaimed for millennia. Hippocrates, the father of Western medicine, emphasized the importance of drinking for health and had a high regard for water’s curative powers. The Greeks prescribed bathing in natural springs as a cure for disease and as a way of increasing vigor and vitality. They filled their town centers with springs and fountains, to give pleasure both to the eye and the ear. Their great medical sanctuaries dedicated to the god Asclepius were established around healing baths and fountains. The Romans went even further, seeking out natural springs wherever they ventured and erecting over them beautifully designed buildings so that the Roman Bath (like its historical successor the Turkish Bath) is associated with opulence and tranquility to this day.
Nowadays, water therapies of all kinds are widely used and increasingly popular throughout the world. Spas and hydrous are centers for health breaks and convalescence, used in the rehabilitation of a wide range of physical and psychological conditions. Activity in water helps the recovery of wasted and injured muscles; patients who are too weak to move an injured limb without aid may be able to perform a full range of movements in a hydrotherapy pool. Warm baths can help to restore mobility, treat digestive problems, relieve insomnia, and promote general muscular relaxation. Cold water is used to lower the body temperature, relieve muscular pains, boost poor circulation, treat skin conditions and reduce inflammations. Alongside therapies, there has an increasing emphasis on the recreational exercise conducted in water, such as the techniques of Ai Chi and Watsu. Whether associated with calmness and tranquility, or strength and vitality, water has powerful effects on the human mind and spirit. It’s well known that the sight and sound of the ocean, of a flowing river, or a cascading waterfall, elicit positive feelings. This is in part due to the actual physical properties of flowing water. At the seashore or by the side of a waterfall, there is an abundance of negative ions, which have been shown to have a beneficial effect on the mind and body. The molecules of the air we breathe carry electrical charges which affect the functioning of cells throughout our body. An excess of positive ions, such as is found in most cities, has a fatiguing and debilitating effect.
Even the sound of water – a running river or the lapping of waves – produces a measurable effect on our organism. Research has shown that when we listen to the sound of flowing or rushing water, wave patterns in our brain alter in a similar way to when we relax or meditate. Longer exposure to such sounds is used as a way of treating anxiety, tension, and depression.
Why analyze and treat in isolation all these benefits that water has to offer when water is so abundant? Learn to be alive to the sound, sight, and feel of water in all its natural, invigorating, and life-enhancing wholeness. Become aware of the water of the inner rhythms of your body. Listen in the silence to your heartbeat as you float motionless. Celebrate the rhythm of your limbs as you swim. Learn to trust the water, play with it, and appreciate its tremendous strength. Seek out the currents below the surface, rock gently in swelling waves, feel the water’s silky caress on your skin, and submerge yourself in its embrace. In these ways, you can discover for yourself the healing power of water.