Everyone is talking about it so we decided to join the conversation and dive a little deeper. Here we share what we learned about the Wim Hof Method as a means to improving overall health and longevity by activating the body's natural healing potential.
At the end of last year we experienced the healing power of water on the Mornington Peninsula by immersing ourselves in natural thermal springs. The mineral rich, geothermal springs offer complete relaxation and rejuvenation. As the body relaxes, the mind finds solace allowing the stress to melt away. The mineral rich water has been proven to enhance the immune system, promote a sense of balance and harmony, relieve joint pain and muscle tension and even alleviate skin conditions, leaving the skin feeling soft and subtle. So why, you may ask leave the therapeutic benefits of warm water for cold water therapy?
Exposure to the cold starts a cascade of health benefits (now with research to back up the good feelings associated with a cold water plunge), including reduced inflammation, a stronger immune system, cardiovascular health, stem cell renewal, weight loss, hormone balancing, improved sleep quality, and the production of endorphins and dopamine - the feel-good chemicals in the brain that naturally elevate your mood.
As part of our experience in the natural thermal springs we ventured into the cold water pools on offer to experience the contrast. Cold showers and swimming in the ocean through winter are the other ways we've embraced the cold as well as bathing in cold water plunge pools at QC Terme during the European winter in the Alps. Whilst the initial plunge is not always enjoyable, the feeling after is what keeps us going back for more.
We joined Wim Hof on-line for his annual live retreat to learn more about the breathing techniques and mindset work he practices alongside cold water bathing. We learnt more about the science and how best to incorporate these practices into daily life as shared below.
"A little bit of cold everyday makes you really warm in your heart." - Wim Hof
The breathing exercises help to bring alkalinity to the body and clarity to the mind, adrenaline is stimulated and the overall physiology in the body is changed in a positive way.
The practice essentially includes 4 steps:
- Get comfortable - Wim prefers lying down so the belly can expand freely.
- 30 deep breaths - Inhale deeply through your nose or mouth while pushing your belly outward. Take the breaths one right after the other. You will likely feel light headed and will experience tingling through the body - this will pass as regular breathing is resumed.
- The retention phase - After the final exhalation, hold your breath until you feel the urge to breathe again. This is where the changes in chemistry in the body begin.
- Recovery breath - Draw one giant breath, once again letting your belly expand fully. Hold that breath for 15 seconds, then let go. This completes one round.
Feel free to repeat the full cycle 3 to 4 times.
With every round, one feels more relaxed and present in the body. Doing more rounds has a longer lasting effect throughout the day. You may notice that you can hold your breath for longer on consecutive rounds which demonstrates the changes taking place in the body.
Cold water immersion
Cold water immersion activates the body's natural healing powers and demonstrates the power of the mind over the body. When practiced on a regular basis, the positive effects of exposure to cold last even longer.
We are big believers that new routines and wellness practices must be sustainable. Whilst taking an ice bath regularly may not be an easy and accessible thing to do, take a cold shower on a daily basis or at least start with warm and then move to cold. If you live near water, take a cold dip when you can. If you have the means to fill a bath with cold water and ice once a week, consider incorporating this into your lifestyle. Cryotherapy is another way to experience cold therapy and is becoming more widely available at an affordable cost.
Studies have shown that an ice bath once a week, together with cold showers and breathing exercises (even 1 round) on a daily basis create positive changes in the physiology of the body.
One of the latest findings relates to the neuroplasticity of the brain. Cannabinoid signalling in the brain helps maintain or regain homeostasis by modulating the stress response, and researchers had a hunch that Wim Hof Method practice could improve mood by directly impacting those signalling pathways.
This has now been proven following a 6-week Wim Hof Method training, using PET and fMRI scans to detect changes in cannabinoid type 1 (CB1) receptor binding. They found “substantial increases in CB1 receptor binding across the brain”, which is strongly associated with improvements in mood and anxiety. As Wim Hof states "It's about opening up new brain pathways - we are able to regulate our mood at will. Connecting with the depths of the brain teaches us that we can face any kind of stress and come out just fine."
There are studies now showing that the chemistry changes in the physiology just from 10 minutes of breathing are equivalent to hours of meditation.
Mindset and intention
Wim Hof teaches that when we put the feelings of energy, power and pure presence that come up from the breathing and the cold water immersion into our long term memory, the body will already start to make the chemical changes the next time we immerse ourselves. This is the incredible power of the mind.
The cold water and breathing techniques help to truly connect within. It's easy to look outside for answers, information and reference points to know that we are okay, however you are rich with everything you need.
We created the name Inu "in-you" as a reminder that everything we need is within. Practicing wellness techniques that allow us to connect within empower us to activate our full potential and face the challenges that are an inevitable part of life with more ease and grace.
You may like to learn more about cold therapy from Wim Hof ‘The Ice Man’ himself and give it a go, guided by his You Tube videos. There are many resources available on the Wim Hof Method website.
"You are the master of your own mind" - Wim Hof