The Sea -- A Story of Love, Adventure and Healing
It's here again -- time for annual New Year's resolutions. Most of us use this opportunity to try to make BIG changes -- like quitting a bad habit or initiating a positive behavioral pattern. As a naturopathic physician, my resolutions have always been health related. No major promises this year which stress me out in my attempts to comply. In 2002, I just intend to take greater advantage of a health-promoting opportunity in plentiful supply in our island environment -- the Pacific Ocean.
The physical and spiritual appeal of water has attracted the infirm and weary throughout history. There is even a special word for the use of seawater in health restoration and maintenance -- "thalassotherapy," which was first written about by Hippocrates. Thalassotherapy comes from the Greek "thalassa" meaning water and "therapia" meaning to heal. The Greeks soaked in sea water hot tubs and heated seaweed baths, drank and inhaled sea water for health, got sea water massages, had sea green facials and body wraps, and used sea water pools for hydrotherapy and elimination of toxins from the body. In modern upscale spas and resorts the sea is used to reduce tension and stress, detoxify the skin and improve circulation, speed weight loss and cellulite control, and even ease menopausal discomforts.
The ocean is therapeutic and a boundless reservoir of health. It contains all the vital elements: vitamins, mineral salts, trace elements, amino acids and living microorganisms which secrete antibiotic, bacteriostatic and hormonal substances with biological balancing effects. These substances are easily assimilated by our bodies during sea bathing. An interesting fact is that seawater has a similar composition as our blood plasma.
You don't have to get wet to have the ocean work its healing magic. The gas molecules in the ocean mist create a genuine spray rich in iodine, which helps regulate the thyroid gland. The spray is also loaded with negative ions. Negatives ions strengthen the body's immunological defense mechanisms. This mist of extremely small molecules enters the body through the respiratory system, where they attach to the walls of the lungs for distribution throughout the body.
Direct contact with ocean water is even more therapeutic. Bathing in seawater acts directly on chronic disorders, helping one overcome ailments, aches and pains. Cool seawater calms down overwrought nerves, tranquilizing the whole body. It also tones up the body, making it more resilient. Warm seawater, during our summer months, improves the circulation and relaxes muscles.
Seawater baths open the pores and help eliminate toxins from the body. Swimming and wading brings our bodies in contact with the sea's pulsating and massaging waves, its rare minerals, and dissolved gases.
Although few realize, our skin is our largest organ and absorbs chemicals just as readily as it excretes through sweat. The magnesium content of seawater is significant enough to have a nutritional and calming effect on our nerves, which explains why sea bathing is so relaxing. Potassium in seawater enters the skin and encourages good urinary flow. Seawater contains all the 89 known elements present in our bodies, including osmium, gold, vanadium, zinc, and iodine.
The skin is the exchange barrier through which these substances pass into the blood stream from the surrounding environment. During swimming, the negative ions move through the epidermis into the dermis, where they are taken up by the capillaries and distributed by the blood to various organs. Calcium ions are carried to the bones while the potassium ions are directed towards the muscles.
The therapeutic effects of the ocean go far beyond mere physical benefits. The sea makes us dream. It promotes a feeling of liberation and wanderlust. To sailors, there is no feeling so liberating as the ocean breeze filling the sails. Our evolutionary roots are in the sea and we are drawn to it in an almost mystical manner.
We stand hypnotically on the seashore or on cliffs and look at the ocean for extended periods of time. The sound of the ocean flowing and crashing against rocks fills us with wonder and promotes a profound sense of calmness. The sea has the power can relax us, relive our stress and pain, renew us and soothe our souls.
The sea provides a healing magic that goes beyond drugs and prescriptions. It forces us to become involved with it. The ocean draws on the strength of plants from the Earth, the water that is a part of all life and the mineral salts from which our bodies are created.
From a metaphysical perspective, water is associated with creativity and our feelings and is the seat of our unconscious patterns. It has to do with emotions that we have suppressed and buried. Being close to the ocean deepens our contemplation and helps us bring these patterns and feelings to the surface so we may recognize and deal with them.
In color therapy, ocean blue is used to balance or enhance freedom of expression verbally and artistically, integrity, honesty, loyalty, reliability, gentleness, kindness, commitment and endurance.
With some exceptions, the ocean surrounding the Big Island is clean. With infinite patience, it waits to serve us. So my resolution for 2002 is an achievable one, especially since I live in Honokaa, close to Waipio and a short drive to the outstanding North Kohala beaches. I am going to try to get close to the ocean once a week, even if it is only for a 10-minute walk. Perhaps I will see you there.