Actually Serious About Cold Showers BTW
There are many definitions of tapasya, which is a classical Sanskrit term that comes up often in yoga and yogic discourse. One good definition is toleration. Toleration of what? Toleration of life’s ups and downs: pleasure vs. pain, success vs. failure, heat vs. cold. When you practice Tapasya, it means you condition yourself to keep an even mind while passing through the ups and downs and changes in life, the fluctuations and difficulties.
That’s why we called our hot yoga system Tapasya Yoga. When you learn to keep a calm focus in class, even though the room is sweltering hot, that is a practice of tapasya. The benefits of that practice are myriad, including increased oxygen uptake in the lungs, reduction in cramping and other signs of oxygen deficiency, and in increase in overall muscular power which is on average about 7%. Just from enduring the heat.
There are other ways that you can practice tapasya, though. One simple, cheap, and effective tapasya practice is that of taking cold showers. It might sound ridiculous, but there are actually many, many health and psychological benefits to a good, cold shower.
Seriously, just Google “benefits of cold showers” – or read just on. As far as I read, there are a few major benefits to cold showers:
1) Immunological Boost
When you shiver, there is a large immune boost. Blood moves through the body, and white blood cells are circulated through the body. The glands also get a boost, which helps to balance your hormonal balance. Is this sounding like yoga yet? There is more. A cold shower can:
- Normalize your blood pressure
- Decrease chronic pain
- Detoxify your body
- Rejuvenate, heal, and tone the skin
- Improve kidney function
- Reduce swelling and edema
- Regulate temperature, fighting chronically cold hands and cold feet and excessive sweating
- Keep your hair healthy
- Improve hemorrhoids and varicose veins
Thanks to http://www.cold-showers.com/ for the list.
2) Improves Mood and Resilience and Help You Sleep
A lot of this has to do with your nervous system, and how it interacts with the brain. The huge amount of nerve stimulation that you get in a wet shower stimulates the brain’s “blue spot” where noradrenaline is produced, which is proven to help fight off depression.
Further, when the body is cool, the blood circulation slows down, and nervous activity is calmed. This helps you get a nice deep sleep, and can help tremendously against insomnia. To be clear it doesn’t make you sleepy, your circadian rhythm does that for you. But it helps you relax and refresh the body when it is time to sleep.
3) Cuts White Fat
So, there actually is a good kind of fat called brown fat, which you may not have heard of. It lives around the chest and shoulders, and cold showers help create brown fat, while at the same time burning off white fat.
"Once you take a cold shower, you are stimulating the production of brown fats. To produce sufficient heat for the body, brown fats (or cells) use up the glucose stored by the white fat. In addition this process helps to increase your body’s adiponectin levels. Adiponectin being a type of protein that regulates glucose levels and fatty acid breakdown. So, the higher brown fat and adiponectin levels are, the more weight you will lose and thefitter you will stay!" (http://www.noahlaith.com/benefits-cold-showers/)
You can’t argue with those benefits.
4) Teaches You To Breathe
It may sound silly, but this is actually one of the reasons old school yogis loved cold showers, or a dip in an icy stream. When your body hits the cold water, automatically, you take a nice, deep full breath. And that full lung expansion is necessary for mastering any of the complicated yogic pranayama practices. Most people, usually due to bad posture and poor muscular coordination, have very limited breathing capacity. A cold shower will jump start those old muscles and start to recondition your system for deep, strong breathing. Hooray for oxygen!
5) Removes Inflammation and Soreness
Have you heard of athletes taking ice baths after a game or work out? Cold temperatures create vasoconstriction (veins become smaller) and heat creates vasodilation (veins become larger) and when you change temperature, these processes alternate helping to push more blood through the body. This is great for taxed muscles, as well as any other part of the body which may be inflamed.
6) Psychological Resilience
This is another reason the old yogis loved tapasya practices. They make you emotionally stronger. How about this:
"Some scientists have claimed that the nervous system supporting thermoregulation in mammals laid the foundation for later systems of emotional arousal." (The Hour Between Dog and Wolf, John Coates)
So when you acclimate to different temperatures, you also learn to acclimate to more diverse life situations, emotions, depressions and excitements. Tapasya makes you more stable and dependable. What could be better than that in a stressed out stressful world?
So…. as the wintery months approach, Dr. Tapasya is here with a prescription to keep you fit, healthy and happy.
Hot Yoga + Cold Showers = Your Keys to the Kingdom of Good Health
See you in the hot room.