So I’ve recently posted on dry brushing–a health and beauty secret that I’ve used for two decades to help keep my skin soft and pliable. It also keeps my sensory system stimulated, and the blood and lymph flow circulating freely through their respective vessels, which in turn promotes a beautiful complexion.
But there’s a second practice to go along with dry brushing, and that’s the Scottish shower (Ss). The Ss is a practice of alternating hot and cold water while taking a shower. At a bare minimum, it’s finishing a shower with a blast of cold water. I’ve also been practicing this technique for many years, and the benefits are enormous.
The principle behind Scottish showers is that heat causes the blood vessels to move toward the surface in a process called vasodilation. The body does this to increase circulation, release heat, and promote healing. Cold, on the other hand, causes vasoconstriction–a narrowing of the blood vessels due to contraction of smooth muscle. The vessels also contract inward, deeper toward the organs of the body, preserving heat, reducing blood flow and decreasing blood pressure. Taken in alternating rounds, the hot then cold water blasts will induce a sort-of pumping action by the circulatory system, leading to a number of physiological benefits.
Scottish showers promote optimal temperature regulation by modifying the sensory functions of hypothalamic thermoregulatory centres to increase heat release during hot weather, and lowering heat loss during cold.
They also stimulate the neuroendocrine and immune systems. Studies have shown that the regular practice of taking cold showers increased white blood cells and the production of the body’s natural blood thinning enzymes, improving micro circulation. It also stimulated the production of testosterone in men, and boosted women’s production of estrogen.
Taking cold showers has also been shown to increase the body’s anti-oxidant capabilities, with a rise in glutathione and a reduction of uric acid. Low glutathione is involved in many illnesses including cardiovascular conditions, pulmonary diseases, diabetes, inflammatory bowel diseases, cancer, osteoporosis, aging, and toxic pesticide exposure.
Cold water immersion reduces recovery time in athletes, enhances repeat performance, and reduces exercise induced muscle damage. It also raises thresholds of pain tolerance, reduces muscle spasm, and improves subjective well-being. It has even been shown to improve mood in depressed people.
Next, how do you take a Scottish shower? You begin by making the water as hot as you can handle. Let the water run over every part of your body including the scalp (good for promoting healthy hair and scalp). Then turn the water temperature down to the coldest you can take (you’ll be able to take more as you get used to the practice). Let the water run over your entire body (this is the tough part, but you can let out a yelp; I do) for about half a minute or so, then back to hot again, and repeat in cycles, always finishing with cold.
You can do this for anywhere from one to seven cycles. I do three cycles every shower.
I’m telling you that this will quite possibly be the most invigorating practice you’ll ever take part in. Along with the benefits I’ve listed above, you will feel the sensory stimulatory effects for up to several hours afterward, see improvements to your skin tone and complexion, and men will discover an increase in sexual endurance, all from the regular practice of taking cold showers.
Scottish showers is a simple yet powerful practice, and worth the discipline. From neurological to immune to aesthetics, nearly every system is benefited from alternating hot and cold showers. Practiced along with dry brushing and your body will respond with renewed youth and vigor. Take it from me, these two timeless health and beauty practices work.