Ice Bathing à la Wim Hof

I recently signed up for a Wim Hof workshop. If you haven’t heard of Hof, he’s referred to as the Ice Man and has broken numerous world records for his extreme athletic pursuits – like climbing Mt Kilimanjaro in shorts or swimming 100m under ice (his eyeballs froze and he overshot his original goal of 50m!)

I found myself in a room of mostly athletes at a hardcore gym in town. Our instructor, Nigel Beach, shared inspiring Wim Hof videos, described the benefits of the Method and shared his own moving testimonial. He explained that after five unsuccessful rounds of IVF, his wife was told that she would never conceive. She began using Wim Hof’s techniques and 12 weeks later became pregnant with the first of their two naturally conceived children.

During the workshop we explored the theory and practice of the breath work. Several participants reported a natural high from the intensive breathing. One man reported dropping into a deeply meditative state. I noticed tingling in a couple of injury sites in my body, as if the freshly oxygenated blood was prioritizing flow to those areas.

Finally, it came time for the two-minute ice bath, complete with salted ice (it’s apparently 4 degrees colder than normal ice.) When the instructor asked who wanted to go first, I put up my hand. I couldn’t bear the thought of watching everyone else suffer before I took the plunge. Whenever a camera is turned on this actress she naturally rises to the occasion. Bathing in ice, walking on fire (haven’t done that one yet) the adrenaline of the moment usually overrides the discomfort, as evidenced by my smile. It was a strange experience, for sure, but somehow left me invigorated – dare I say, lit up?

Since the workshop, I’ve shared the experience enthusiastically with friends. One said: “Oh I wouldn’t want to do that, I HATE being cold.” Thing is, that’s the point. Nobody likes being cold, but something wonderful happens to the body and mind through ice bathing. A few reported benefits of the Method include improved ability to handle stress, relief from depression and anxiety, faster healing of athletic injuries and inflammation, alkalization of the blood and enhanced immunity.

For anyone curious to dip a toe into the work (or the ice water), there are lots of free resources on YouTube, including this guided breathing track for beginners. You can also download a free Wim Hof Method app and take a free mini workshop.

Hof warns that you should always begin practicing cautiously, particularly if you have any health or heart concerns. Instead of a full-out ice bath, for instance, you can opt for a 30-second cold burst at the end of your warm shower, which is pretty do-able. You might combine it with focusing your mind on a mantra like the one I’ve been using: “Cold water empowers me to live my most lit-up life.”

Susannah Kenton

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