Kneipp's wellness practices enjoy revival

( dpa )- Everyone thinks of something different when they hear the name Kneipp . Whether hydrotherapy, herbal tea, light foods or long walks come to mind, there are a lot of things attributed to the 19th century Bavarian priest Sebastian Kneipp , although initially, he advocated chiefly the utilization of water in cures.

And while newcomers used to be familiarized with the teachings of the "water doctor" when they went for a classic Kneipp spa treatment, now his findings generally play a strong role in wellness practices and preventative medicine.

" Kneipp is experiencing a small renaissance," said Christoph Menne of the German medical wellness association in Berlin. An apparent reason is many people are searching for sources. " Kneipp's water treatments are the basis for many other practices."

The practices also are downright simple. The former tradesman, who began studying theology at age 27, had serious lung disease. By immersing himself in the ice cold Danube near Dillingen , he healed himself and the experience led to a healing method based on warm and cold, said Professor Juergen Kleinschmidt of the University of Munich.

Kleinschmidt said these brief stimulative thermo-therapies caused the blood vessels to contract and expand and thus improve circulation. Another practice is alternating warm and cold water poured over the body.

About 120 different variations have been developed from pouring water over the thighs to pouring it over the face. It is done to stimulate the circulation and relax tight muscles.

Water exercises, including stepping in knee-high deep water, also helps the arteries in the legs contract. "That's good for people with vein problems because the valves in the veins get into gear," said Kleinschmidt .

The 160,000-member Kneipp association, still located where Kneipp worked, in Bad Woerishofen , has identified five elements that make Kneipp's methods different. In addition to the hydrotherapy, there is modest exercise, a wholesome diet, herbal medicine and the so-called order therapy, which is based on psychological balance.

" Kneipp said what every priest or general practitioner said: stay calm, go to bed early and so on," said Kleinschmidt .

Later the teachings were broken out into specialties such as the Kneipp swimming pool attendant and the Kneipp doctor. Today there are about 70 Kneipp spas in Germany, said Kleinschmidt .

After a sharp decline in spa attendance, they focus more on wellness, said Monika Siegl of the Kneipp institute in Bad Woerishofen . The first Kneipp hotel was certified in autumn 2007 as a facility offering medical wellness services. The hotel is called the Kneipp , a name protected by trademark.

"Above all we want to get families enthused," said Siegl .

The Kneipp association also is modernizing.

"Every association is, of course, independent, and meanwhile yoga and Nordic walking are among the activities offered," said spokeswoman Evamarie Subhi . New trends are always being integrated according to the motto: "What's healthy does good and fits in."

Kneipp's work with children also has intensified. There now are 134 Kneipp kindergartens in Germany. An example of a standard at these facilities is an herb garden, and the children are taught to consciously experience the seasons and to prepare healthy meals.

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