Now a household name, Wim Hof truly set the stage for the power of the mind over the reaction of the physical body. His unique method involves breathwork and mental training that has been scientifically proven to override the nervous system, resulting in stunning capabilities to withstand extreme cold.
Whilst travelling through Puerto Escondido, Mexico I came across an event for an ice bath ceremony, led by a certified Wim Hof Method facilitator. I jumped at the chance to find out what this was all about. The morning of, I made sure to get my 20 minute meditation practice in. I also completed a few rounds of nadi shodhana pranayama, which has always been one of my favourite practices to feel centred.
Prior to taking the plunge, a group of twenty of us were encouraged to set an intention and share it with the group. As a yoga teacher, setting intentions is second nature to me now, but having the opportunity to share mine with the group felt like a great way to build community. We were then led through a series of breathwork exercises. In terms of breathwork I’ve done in the past, this type of breath felt most similar to kapalabhati, as a form of controlled hyperventilation. This breath however involved a more powerful inhale and passive exhale.
We took 30 breaths in this manner and after the last exhalation we held our breaths for as long as it felt comfortable. We took a break and completed this cycle three times in total. This breathwork was delivered as preparation for the ice bath and we were encouraged to breath as normally as possible whilst in the ice.
Finally, we entered the ice bath, and let me tell you it was shockingly cold. Four of us at a time stepped into the inflatable pool, which had been filled up entirely by bags of ice. The goal was to stay submerged for six minutes, and I’m happy to report that we all managed. I felt very grateful for my yoga practice and awareness of my breath during those six minutes. While my body immediately tried to go into a state of shock, I was able to use my focus to slow down my breath and continue to come back to the present moment, knowing it wouldn’t last forever. When the six minute timer went off, we all smiled and laughed, collectively agreeing that time went by much faster than expected. After the blood rushed back to my fingers and toes I felt refreshed, energized and very happy to be defrosting in the warm Mexican sun.