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Massage Today
March, 2003, Vol. 03, Issue 03

Where's the Water?

By John Fanuzzi

As we shift our focus from the specifics of building a successful spa to this next series, called "Where's the Water?" I can't help thinking back to my first experience with the word "spa." I was about 20 years old (about 1970); a friend invited me as a guest to work out on the weight machines and soak in the hot tub at a place called the "European Health Spa." I was impressed with the entire operation, especially the hot tub.

I noticed I did not have any of the postworkout muscle soreness/fatigue that would normally occur if I was out of shape and started lifting weights after months of no exercise. I felt absolutely great, so I signed up with the spa as a member and attended regularly. I remember days when it was ice cold outside, but after going back and forth between the hot water (109 F) and the cold plunge (34 F), I felt no sensation of it being cold outside. I felt completely invigorated. That tingling feeling is something you can only get with alternating hot and cold water.

I live in the Paradise Valley in Montana, where natural hot water is abundant. There are at least five hot springs within an hour, including Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone Park. The Native American Indians considered the hot waters sacred ground. They have been around for hundreds of years except the Indians didn't use the word "spa." (The word is derived from "Spau," the name of a small village in Belgium known for its mineral hot springs.) The Romans had their own terminology for what they called "taking the waters." The word "Kur" is commonly known in Europe, derived from "kur" (or cure) towns, where the hot springs served as vacation/regeneration places. Chico Hot Springs, which about five minutes from my home, and Corwin Springs, about 20 miles south, were used as hospitals at the early 1900s, before modern medicine came on the scene.

In Germany in the mid 1800s, Bavarian priest Sebastian Kneipp suffered from pulmonary tuberculosis. He discovered a book by Johann Siegmund Hahn (1696-1773) entitled Instructions on the Wonderful Curative Powers of Fresh Water. That book saved his life. Kneipp immersed himself in the cold waters of the Danube regularly, which lead not only to his healing, but also his refinement of the science of hot/cold/warm water treatments. He became the world-renowned "Water Doctor" and authored a book titled My Water Cure. (I plan on discussing this book extensively in an upcoming article.)

Let's get back to the 21st century. We have created this fantastic "spa" industry, boasting revenues of roughly $10 billion per year; yet only a few spas offer the therapeutic hot/cold water treatments (or wet treatments of any kind). The U.S. has ignited the spa buzz worldwide, and in a big way. Don't you think we owe it to ourselves to go back to the simple curative powers of water, if we are to properly represent the traditional SPA meaning? After all, water treatments are still used by the medical industry in Europe.

So, where's the water? Tune in next month to find out.

Click here for previous articles by John Fanuzzi.


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