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Touting water’s wonders

Local TB survivor says that with Kneipp hydrotherapy, ‘Saranac Lake can become a healing place again’

October 5, 2012
By CHRIS KNIGHT - Senior Staff Writer ( , Adirondack Daily Enterprise

SARANAC LAKE - The healing properties of water were the focus of a talk Wednesday at North Country Community College by an author and Kneipp hydrotherapy teacher from Bad Worishofen, Germany.

German M. Schleinkofer spoke to a group of 50 people, mostly college students, in NCCC's Petty Lecture Hall.

Schleinkofer and his wife Sissi traveled to Saranac Lake this week for a series of events organized by local resident Lilo Levine, who hopes to make the village a center for Kneipp hydrotherapy, a system of healing involving the application of water through various methods, temperatures and pressures.

Article Photos

German M. Schleinkofer, an author and Kneipp hydrotherapy teacher from Bad Worishofen, Germany, speaks to a group of North Country Community College students and local residents Wednesday in the college’s Petty Lecture Hall.
(Enterprise photo — Chris Knight)

"Saranac Lake should be the first Kneipp center in the United States," Levine told the Enterprise on Monday. "Saranac Lake can become a healing place again."

Levine, 91, came to Saranac Lake to cure from tuberculosis in 1949 after catching the disease while working as a TB nurse in England and New York City. She and her husband, whom she met here while they both were curing, moved away before returning to Saranac Lake to retire in 1987.

Levine told the Enterprise this week that when she was 10 years old and living in Germany, her mother took her to Bad Worishofen, the town where Kneipp was developed, to walk in the Danube River. She revisited Bad Worishofen in 1982 to attend the Kneipp school there, and that's when she met Schleinkofer.

Schleinkofer was introduced Wednesday by NCCC professor Johnna MacDougall, who said she's been practicing Kneipp hydrotherapy for 30 years and, since she met Levine in 2006, has been helping her promote her cause. In 2008, MacDougall traveled to Bad Worishofen, which is now a spa and resort town focused around Kneipp healing, with a group of NCCC students to learn Kneipp from the Schleinkofers.

"Saranac Lake began as a healing community, with the (tuberculosis) cure," MacDougall said. "They're here to give us a taste of what Saranac Lake can become again, because we have these beautiful waters and lakes. So I hope, with enthusiasm for all of you coming here today, that you will embrace some of this principle and work and take it into your community, and most importantly into your homes, because it's that simple. It's a simplistic way of taking care and being self-responsible with a variety of water treatments."

Based on what he's learned about the community both before and during his visit, German Schleinkofer said Saranac Lake has "a high potential for becoming a healing center, for becoming a wellness center." He noted that there is a growing interest worldwide in Kneipp hydrotherapy, which traces its roots to the Rev. Sebastian Kneipp, a 19th-century Catholic priest who lived in Bad Worishofen and developed more than 100 different hydrotherapy treatments.

Schleinkofer said some of the most simple Kneipp treatments include walking barefoot on dew-covered grass or walking barefoot in snow. The most well-known Kneipp healing application is called water treading, where people basically walk like storks in a body of water no higher than the knee. Other treatments include wraps, compresses and affusions or streams of water with varying amounts of pressure.

Kneipp can be used to treat a variety of ailments, Schleinkofer said, including circulatory disorders, chronic fatigue, insomnia and muscular and skeletal diseases. Other benefits, he said, include relieving stress and strengthening the body's immune system.

Earlier Wednesday, Schleinkofer led a water treading session at a beach on Lower Saranac Lake near Trudeau Institute with Levine, MacDougall, a group of NCCC students and several village officials. Sissi Schleinkofer was scheduled to deliver a presentation at the Mirror Lake Inn and Spa in Lake Placid on Thursday, and a seminar for athletes at the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid is scheduled for Saturday before the Schleinkofers return to Germany.


Contact Chris Knight at 518-891-2600 ext. 24 or



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