Why I Ice Bath
The magic in Wim Hof Method Workshops is primarily because of the breathwork. However, the hallmark of these events is the ice bath. It's the thing that people can see; the recognition that it's possible to control your nervous system in a chaotic state. I often reference in my workshops that I'm inspired by the monks who protested by self-immolation during the Vietnam War. Not that I'd ever want to light myself on fire, but I'm inspired by the fact that these men showed they were so connected to a higher part of themselves that they showed no signs of suffering whatsoever. They lit themselves on fire, sat in a lotus position, and just stayed with it. While this may sound a bit extreme, I'm fascinated by the fact that it happened; enduring the most extreme pain and showing no signs of suffering or struggle.
I intuitively knew that they had to of practiced in some very disciplined way. Fast forward several years, and I'm at a Rickson Gracie Jiu-Jitsu seminar. I had watched Rickson's documentary "Choke" which follows Gracie as he prepares to fight in Tokyo's Vale Tudo Japan 1995. While he is out there, he spends lots of time practicing breathing exercises, and a lot of time fully submerged in the freezing waters in the mountains. Someone asked him about this during the seminar. They asked why he had spent so much time in the water, and he responded by answering, "I do it, to embrace death." That's when I knew I had to make cold plunging a regular practice.
At around the same time, I was also getting involved with volunteering at Tony Robbins events, and I was seeing that Tony made it a point to regularly do cold plunges first thing in the morning. His reasoning was to let his mind know that he was in control. Shortly after these experiences, my friends and I would do regular cold plunges in our swimming pool during the wintertime when the water was around 50° Fahrenheit (10° Celcius.) At first, it was just about jumping in to feel that immediate surge of energy. Gradually, it became trying to stay in for 10 seconds, 20 seconds, 30 seconds, a minute, etc. We were miserable the whole time, but it was just about enduring it.
Shortly after committing to the practice, I discovered Wim Hof and his Method. I learned that you could apply some techniques to the process and stay calm and focused inside of the ice bath. Now, I regularly do plunges for 5 minutes in 32° Fahrenheit, (0° Celsius) for many reasons, but I still hold on to my original purpose.
Cold immersion is excellent for the cardiovascular and immune systems, it reduces inflammation and many other health benefits. However, the thing that excites me most about the cold plunges is that it helps me gain control of myself. The cold surge sends my body into fight or flight, and I am forced to feel all of it and focus on my breathing and my interoceptive senses to stay calm within that chaos. There's an exact point where I can feel like I get a hold of myself. Sometimes it's immediate, sometimes it takes several seconds, but I always know eventually it will happen. I am able to feel completely relaxed, while another part of me is still freaking out. It's truly exhilarating.
I feel like the cold and anxiety/fear are very closely related. It doesn't take a lot of imagination to think of someone who is freezing cold and someone who is terrified, and you will imagine a lot of the same physiology. I feel that making ice baths a regular occurrence has changed my relationship with fear and has enabled me to feel more in control of myself. I recommend everyone tries it at least once. You can check out my upcoming workshops, at https://www.joeyhauss.com/events.
PS: If you prefer watching over reading, you can watch this video where I talk about this experience, here.