Cold Therapy & Breathing Our Way To Less Stress!
With the global covid-19 pandemic taking the forefront of our lives this year, we can see the implications that an increased stress can take on our health, relationships and many other facets of our lives. Many of us manage try to manage our stress differently, from walking more, working out more or taking up meditation and mindfulness practices to name a few.
I came across a man named Wim Hof a year ago, a Dutch man nicknamed “The Iceman” who is known for breaking a number of records related to cold exposure including climbing Mt Kilamanjaro in shorts, running a half marathon above the Artic Circle barefoot, and standing in a container while covered with ice cubes for 112 minutes.
Wim has made it his mission to share his learned methods, “The Wim Hof Method” to the rest of the world to enable you to take control of your thoughts, emotions and your body. Built on three fundamental pillars of BREATHING, COMMITMENT and CONTROLLED EXPOSURE TO COLD.
The breathing method in itself will be very beneficial even if you don’t take a cold shower, as it helps to regulate the body. The technique can unlock a host of benefits including:
- Increased energy
- Better sleep
- Reduced stress levels and inflammation
- Increased focus and determination
- Increased willpower
- Stronger immune system
From my own personal experience with trying this for a few months I have noticed I feel more energised and alert, usual unpleasant experiences don’t seem as bad, after all anything can be better once you’ve had a freezing cold shower to start your day!
Research conducted demonstrates learnings about how Hof’s breathing techniques affect brain and metabolic activity, inflammation and pain. Participants in a 2014 study (1)performed breathing techniques such as consciously hyperventilating and retaining breath, meditated and were immersed in ice cold water. Results showed that the sympathetic nervous system and the immune system can be voluntarily influenced. This could be due to the anti-inflammatory effect produced by the techniques.
In 2017, a case study (2)of Wim Hof found that he is able to tolerate extreme cold by creating an artificial stress response in his own body. Scientists believe the brain rather than body helped Hof’s response to the cold exposure. This suggested that people can learn to control their autonomic nervous system to bring about similar changes.
A quick explanation on The Wim Hof Method Breathing Exercise:
- Get comfortable
Sit in a meditation posture, best to be done after waking on an empty stomach
- 30 power breaths
Inhale through your nose or mouth and exhale through the mouth in short powerful busts. Keep a steady pace and close your eyes to complete 30 rounds. Symptoms can include light-headedness and tingling.
- Breath hold, retention after exhalation
After 30 rapid successions of breath cycles, draw the breath in once more and fill the lungs as much as you can without any force. Then let the air out without force. Hold the breath for as long as you can..
- Recovery breath
Inhale to full capacity with full chest expansion. Hold the breath for around 15 seconds for the first round. This can be completed for 3-4 rounds.
If you are new to cold exposure, it is recommended that you end a warm shower with 15-30s of cold water only. After initial hyperventilation response, try to calm down and breath at a normal rate. It is suggested to gradually increase the length of cold exposure gradually or as able. It is suggested that individuals that are pregnant or with known health concerns should not practice cold exposure and should consult with a doctor before practicing.
For more a more detailed explanation visit thewebsite (3)below!
- Kox, M., van Eijk, L., Zwaag, J., van den Wildenberg, J., Sweep, F., van der Hoeven, J. and Pickkers, P., 2020. Voluntary Activation Of The Sympathetic Nervous System And Attenuation Of The Innate Immune Response In Humans.
- Muzik, O., Reilly, K. and Diwadkar, V., 2020. “Brain Over Body”–A Study On The Willful Regulation Of Autonomic Function During Cold Exposure.