Healing at the Hot Spring
Pagosa Country is a place for recreation all year around. From summer hiking to winter skiing the area has the full spectrum of outdoor activity. This activity is often the cause of tired / sore bodies. From strains and sprains to over extended everything to being simply worn-out, the mountains spawn dis-ease.
At special places in mountainous environments, deep factures in the earth exist from tumultuous volcanic activity millions of years ago. Some of these fractures have water aquifers flowing into them and the result is naturally flowing hot springs when the heated water reaches the earth’s surface.
Man has sought out these springs throughout history for health and relaxation benefits. When the first Europeans arrived in the Upper San Juan River Valley and “discovered” the “Great Pagosa Hot Spring” the area had had a long occupation and history of use by many Native American tribes. Welch Nossoman, Pagosa’s first European settler, noted that, “All trails led to the Great Pagosa.”
Many of the Indians, including the well known Anasazi or Ancestral Puebloans of this area, had religious beliefs that spiritual life existed under ground and that their ancestors had come from deep inside the earth. Many tribes hold special places, often associated with mountains and water, where the tribe arose from inside the earth. The hot springs, boiling up from with-in, became a holy place of the highest order to many tribes. They used the area as holy ground, a summer hunting camp and used the water’s therapeutic benefits. It was noted by early settlers that tribes, otherwise at odds or war, would coexist peacefully while near the Great Pagosa.
Many people wonder about the claims made for the curative effects of hot springs and place these claims in the relm of the mysterious. With no actual proof of health benefits, what are we to believe? This article does not aim to argue in the area of the mysterious, here we will discuss healing benefits well accepted by the most traditional proponents of modern medicine. It is not all mysterious!
Applying temperature, hot or cold, to the body or body parts has long been accepted therapy for aches and pains. Hot and cold packs are routinely ordered by medical professionals. Usually the order is to use the pack for a few minutes and then remove it for the same time. The idea is to alternately change the temperature of the affected area. You can think of a hot spring, or any hot water pool, as a whole body hot pack. By getting in and out of the pool the same process of temperature change occurs.
The actual process involves the body on a cellular level. Cold tends to constrict or pucker cells. Changing to hot expands and relaxes the cell’s walls. This process exercises and promotes circulation of built-up toxins out of the cells and increases intake of fresh blood with oxygen and nutrition. This is the healing process that is taking place with temperature change.
Some people seem to think that the hotter the water and the longer one can stand it the better it is. This is not the case. As long as the change is significant the healing is taking place. Others think the greater the change the better the healing is. These are the folks the go from a hot pool directly to a cold plunge. There is a known death rate from doing this and it is not recommended for other than trying to impress your friends.
Soaking in one of Pagosa’s hot pools and then getting out into the cooling atmosphere is enough to provide therapeutic temperature change.
Another well known and non mysterious health benefit comes from percussion of the muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints. This is often found in professional massage when short erythematic blows to the body are used. The effect is the same as temperature change. The cells are vibrated and the toxin / nutrition exchange is enhanced. There are three pools at the The Springs Hot Springs Resort where endless percussion massage can be found. These pools are The Falls Pool, the Serendipity and the Dancing Waters Pool. The Falls and Serendipity both have waterfalls. The Dancing Waters has powerful air jets for the same type of percussion. Pounds of water falling from five to six feet acts like a massage on any body part held under it. The pounding is random as the water is altered by the passing breeze and water flow, but random or erythematic, it is all good.
The falls is bow shaped and one can sit on the subsurface bench at either end or stand in the middle. The flow in the middle seems to be stronger. Sitting on the bench allows sore hands and arms to be held under the flow. Let the limbs float on the surface so you are using little effort for support and the muscles are relaxed.
I tell people to hold whatever ails them under the falls and note that that is usually my head! A recent user from Santa Fe called it a cranial massage. It takes a bit of practice to learn to breathe with the full stream flowing over the head but it can be done. Hold your face down and breathe slowly through nose and open mouth. This allows a full massage of the neck, upper back and shoulders.
To the left of the falls as you look at it there is an underwater, very hot, stream of water jetting into the pool. This can be used on sore lower limbs for an extra blast of heat and the immediate area of the jet is warmer than the pool’s water.
An added benefit of being in and around the falls or indoor at The Healing Waters and The Overlook is the humidity. Humidity is a common prescription of most ailments of the nose, sinuses, and on down to the lungs. The pools all have a high humidity level. Stuffy nose or swollen sinuses disappear in the humidity and seems to help for the following day or two. Being under the falls, again breathing slowly through the nose and mouth, is about as humid as you can get and not drown! A few years ago we had the smoke from several forest fires and locals noticed that the falls helped with breathing related problems.
So, without commenting on the more mysterious aspects of hot spring healing benefits, it is obvious the springs have positive effects on people. Even if they have absolutely no benefit – they sure feel like they do. A couple of hours in a pool, a good meal, a soft bed and you’re in for the best night’s sleep of your life. That is a healing in itself.