Originally published in the Winter + Spring 2020 issue.
Called an outdoor oasis, Colorado is perhaps best known for its remarkable number of ski resorts, hiking trails and challenging 14er peaks and mountains. But equally unique is the state’s history of natural mineral and hot water springs, which have created a culture of their own. Thought to boost blood circulation, relieve both pain and stress and even promote a better night’s sleep, hot water may not be the cure-all, but who couldn’t use a relaxing and rejuvenating hour or afternoon soak in Mother Earth’s natural bath water?
Are there health benefits? To put it simply, yes. These mineral springs have made historic Colorado towns health destinations for more than 150 years; and where indigenous peoples and animals have experienced their curative properties for several thousand years. The springs contain such minerals as calcium, necessary for bone and tooth formation; magnesium, vital for nerve and muscle health; potassium, which produces an electrolyte that helps maintain a healthy blood pressure, as well as copper, fluoride, iron and zinc.
Hot water spas, as they are known for their hot soaking pools and natural hot rivers, now offer an array of water classes and treatments to enrich the experience. SunWater Spa in Manitou Springs gives health seekers the opportunity to soak in seven cedar tubs, filled with heated mineral water from neighboring Seven Minute Spring.
“Minerals are easily absorbed through the skin and into the digestive system,” says Mitzi Pasternak, lead aquatic therapist at SunWater. “Soaking in the water creates homeostasis in the body — the process of balancing within and without as minerals pass through the skin. [It] can also create a relaxing, stress-reducing benefit. The heat caused blood to expand to the body’s surface, flushing lymphatic fluid through the muscles and stimulating tiny organ cells to tell muscles to relax.”
Pasternak is also a Watsu Practitioner, which is a rhythmic and relaxing therapy, incorporating nurturing support, stretching and shiatsu techniques in water. Other water treatments conducted in the warm saline pools at SunWater include, Aqua Yoga and Cranial-Sacral, a gentle, nurturing, non-invasive therapy that supports your body’s nervous system and alignment.
Aqua yoga is a low-impact, flowing yoga practice that is suitable for everyone. Practicing in the water promotes stability, core strength, joint health and balance. Aqua yoga practitioner Jeanie Jungbauer has been personally practicing yoga since 2002, and acquired a full 200-hour yoga teaching certificate from Cambio Yoga in 2013. “Some of my students feel more confident in the water than on land. In the warm water you can stretch and move deeper, as your body is able to hold a pose better and longer, especially if you’re dealing with an injury,” Jungbauer explains. “You can be more flexible in the water — with effortless movement that strengthens your body.”
Manitou Springs is not the only area that offers soaking and wellness classes in the hot mineral springs. Glenwood Hot Springs Resort is the most visited hot springs destination in the state. Constructed entirely from rock and fed by the hot springs, these pools are nestled right into the ground rewarding you with a unique rustic connection to Mother Earth herself.
Each Rocky Mountain hot spring has its own unique blend of minerals and temperatures and Glenwood Hot Springs Resort is no different. Native Americans called it “Yampah,” which means Big Medicine. There are 15 minerals found in the water of the world’s largest hot springs pool. Glenwood Springs offers daily Swim Fit classes for overall toning and improved core strength in a non-impact environment.
Although Avalanche Ranch Hot Springs near Carbondale does not offer any wellness classes, the resort does boast three cascading pools that flow into one another, culminating in a three-foot waterfall into the largest pool; all designed around the natural landscape and rock formations of the dramatic Crystal River Valley.
Another way to garner the benefits of water is through flotation therapy which is thought to speed up recovery after sports activities, decrease anxiety and help recover from physical injuries. A tank, which is pitch black light and sound proof, is filled with 10 inches of water heated to the same temperature as the skin. The water contains enough dissolved Epsom salt to create a specific gravity.
DREAM & DREAMS FLOAT SPA is located in Avon, Colorado, and believes that flotation therapy has real health benefits that “can truly change your life.”
“The practice has been around for over 60 years and is sensory deprivation — no sound or light sound light, and the soaking in Epsom salts gives the body complete buoyancy,” explains Dreams Float Spa owner, Dimitar Minkow. “By not fighting gravity, your body has more resources; including slowing down your mind, which can help people with sleep disorders, as well as increasing your dopamine and endorphin levels.”
VIVE FLOAT STUDIO in Frisco and Denver specializes in Cryotherapy where the body is exposed to extremely cold temperatures for several minutes, along with Halotherapy, which is an alternative treatment that involves breathing salty air. Some claim that it can treat respiratory conditions, such as asthma, chronic bronchitis and allergies.
Photo courtesy of SunWater Spa.