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Blog: On Health. On Writing. On Life. On Everything.

Spa - Sanitas Per Aquam

November 24, 2010

Tags: water, order, food, alarm, Augustus (63 BC – 14 AD), bath, California, cold bath, cold shower, Earth, exhale, Greeks, hot tub, inhale, Latin, liver abcess, Musa, pores, relax, Romans, Rome, Spa - Sanitas Per Aquam, sitzbath, spa, Teutonics, thermes, vassals, vital, victuals, vigor, vittles, weather – cold

Did you know that the word “spa” is an artificial word and derives from the Latin expression “sanitas per aquam” (health through water)? I didn’t – in spite of six years of school Latin. I learned it only recently.

Should have known – the Romans were big with baths. Not only with hot bath, the Roman “thermes”. Which of course had come down from the Greeks. The first spa, so to speak, was the little town of “Thermes”on Greek soil that had naturally occurring hot springs. But after Emperor Augustus (63 BC – 14 AD) was healed from liver abcess by his personal physician Antonius Musa, cold baths became all the rage in ancient Rome – and among their vassals in the then-known world. The Teutonics belonged there too, after they were conquered.

Health through water – that applies to individual health, as to the health of our Planet Earth. Without enough clean, fresh water mankind would not survive. Some bacteria and other low life probably would – and would restart the whole process of evolution again.

Water is vital (another Latin word, derived from “vita” – life) for us - preferably cold from the outside, warm from the inside. This morning I did a cold sitzbath, and now feel invigorated and ready for the day. “Invigorate” comes from “vigor” - strength.
To stay with the Latin words: Victuals (pronounced “vittles”) are sustenance we need – from “victualia” meaning “provisions” – healthy, fresh foods.

Enough of words – show me the deeds! Back to cold water!

Now that the weather turned colder, it is harder to stick with your cold shower or cold sitzbath – did you notice? (Ha!)

Here is one tip: Exhale!

Years ago, I found that exhaling when stepping into the cold flow helped me to stay there. I never knew why. Meanwhile, I figured it out.

Exhaling is the relaxing mode, inhaling is the alarm mode. Try it! When we startle, we suck in our breath. We say “Don’t hold your breath!” when you can relax again. So, deliberately and slowly exhaling tells your body that everything is all right and nothing is to fear from the cold water.

And coming back to the California hot tub from the other day: That bothered me the most – that there wasn’t a cold tub to jump in afterward. Because, as we say in German, you have to “close your pores.”

First Impressions of America

November 12, 2010

Tags: water, America, Boston, Europe, First Impressions of America, Haight Ashbury, hot tub, nakedness, nudity, Romans, Rome, sauna, San Francisco, Saturday night, women’s spa

This old story – nearly thirty years old - story has two parts. This is Part One:

My first visit ever to America, was with a boyfriend, in the very early eighties. He took me to friends in the Haight Ashbury area of San Francisco. They were a nice couple, with two little girls.

While we were politely chatting in the living room, over a tea, they asked the usual questions of a newcomer: How was your trip? How do you like America? How do you like San Francisco?

Then the husband asked: Do you want to try a hot tub?

Now, I didn’t even know what a hot tub was. I looked to my friend. He nodded. Sure, I said.

That very moment, the three of them got up and started stripping – right there in the living room. If in Rome, do as the Romans! So I undressed, too. We went out on the porch where I got to see my first hot tub, and got to sit in one, continuing our polite coversation.

As a European, of course, I was no stranger to public nakedness. But in the living room of people I had just met half an hour ago??

Part Two: About two years later, I visited Boston for the first time, interviewing for a job. Tired after a stressful day of traversing the city and encountering hospitals and Chiefs of Medicine, I wanted to take a sauna in the evening. At that time, I was boarding with a friend, but she was away for the weekend. So I tried on my own to find a reviving sauna. First thing I learned that there were no public saunas in Boston. I was desperate – in Germany, it was so much of the culture to go once a week and relax in dry heat. Nada here.

I called around. On a Saturday evening nearly nobody answered. Somebody suggested going to a women’s spa. I found one that had a sauna, but I needed to be a member. After a lot of cajoling and explaining my visiting status, I finally succeeded in convincing them to let me use their sauna once, for a fee.

On that Saturday night, the women’s health club was deserted (I learned later that on Saturday nights EVERYBODY here has a date). I had the whirlpool all for myself. By now, I had experience with hot tubs, of course, and happily dunked there first. A lone woman came by, looked down at me and said: My, are you white!

Now I am a redhead with very white skin, that’s true – but to comment on that I don’t tan like other people? I said nothing, not sure I really had heard what I had heard.

I retired into the empty sauna, feeling right a home – in spite that American saunas are not as hot as ours. But at least I had arrived where I wanted to be this Saturday evening.

The door opened and a very bulky woman moved in. I wiggled to the side and made room for her. Her breathing made funny noises and she gave me some sideward glances. Then she spoke up: I am not offended by your sight.

Number one, I found it a strange English sentence. Number two: What was so remarkable about me that everybody had to comment on me? I said nothing – especially did I say nothing about what she looked like to me.

Again she said: I am not offended by your sight. This time I looked her full in the face, asking what she meant??

She must have gotten that I was utterly baffled, and that I had an accent. Delicately, she pointed out that, in America, you wear a bathing suit in the sauna.

Yes, the huge woman was wearing a tiny-teeny bikini. And here I was, embarrassed and white-skinned, sitting naked in a public sauna! The little guest towel I had brought from my friend’s house, did not even wrap around me.

And wait a second, I wanted to scream. If there’s no nudity allowed in America - what was that in San Francisco then??
Aspen eyes, by Peggy Peters

Iguazu Falls, by Xin Liu

Alexa Fleckenstein M.D. 2012, by Lolita Parker jr.

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