The Connection Between Breathwork & Cold Exposure

Reset Your Nervous System by Doing This Chilling Practice

If you’re paying attention to the breathwork community at all then you’ve no doubt heard of Wim Hof. Better known as the Ice Man, this multiple world record winner has a passion for life and turned his own healing into a powerful method used around the world today. 

If you’re looking for a simple and effective way to boost your immune system, then look no further than this chilling therapy technique. 

The Wim Hof Method (WHM) uses cold exposure to trigger your sympathetic nervous system. Then you use your breath to calm it back into a parasympathetic state. While your mind races your blood slows. The temperature drop in the body puts your nervous system on high alert; focusing on your breath, you learn to control the experience. Once out of the cold your body starts pushing blood out to the extremities and inflammation is reduced. 

The release of adrenalin has been a huge draw for admirers worldwide who are also finding relief from auto-immune disorders, inflammation, injury, and blood circulation. 

An experience that sounds uncomfortable becomes euphoric through your own self-regulation. 

Controlling your core temperature and your breath helps drop you out of the constant mind-chatter we find ourselves in and into our bodies that we are all so disconnected from. 

Why You Should Do It

By exposing yourself to this extreme discomfort for a short amount of time other things begin to shift inside. 

  • You find that using your breath to calm yourself under this immediate threat helps you strengthen your ability to handle stressful situations. 
  • You find your endurance and patience are more accessible through breathwork used to calm the mind. 
  • You find your body temperature is more regulated and that a sudden shift in temperature doesn’t feel so scary anymore. 

The results: more energy and lower stress the natural way. Something pharmaceutical companies don’t want you to hear, but it’s true. Popping a pill for discomfort in our mind and body is sometimes necessary and helpful, but if you’re looking for long-term support– the more natural way– this approach helps you connect to a deeper mind-body connection. Drugs separate us from our bodies. They don’t take away the pain, they disconnect you from it. This detachment only leads to more detachment and more pain down the road. 

A year ago I finally took the leap. After months of avoiding The Hof-Man, thinking no way and that he was too macho for my taste, I gave in and I haven’t looked back since. 

You might be wondering, What does the WHM look like? Here’s a simple breakdown of what to expect. 

Breathing

1. Get comfortable – you can either perform the method in a seated or lying position. If you’re new to breathwork I recommend lying down. Be sure your head is flat, with no pillow or support so you can breathe fully.

2. Perform 30-50 deep breaths. Inhale and exhale through the mouth. Inhale as far as possible, and then release the air without exhaling fully. Don’t take a pause between the inhales and the exhales. This might cause a tingling sensation; that’s normal.

3. After the last deep inhale, exhale all the air out and hold your breath with no air in your lungs, for 1 minute, or until you experience the gasp reflex. 

4. Take a deep breath, inhaling fully, and hold your breath again, but this time only for 15-30 seconds.

5. Repeat the first four steps 2-4 times.

6. After that you will return to your normal breath and start meditating on it. Try for at least five minutes focusing your attention on your breath. 

Cold Therapy

Your breath is now warmed up and you are ready to go. 

You can start training at home in your shower. I like to get in and get the water going at a comfortable temp first. Then I go from cold to hot for 20 seconds each. At least 3 rounds. 

You are in control here so you can start with just exposing a leg at a time, then your arms, and build up to full immersion. 

Or you can just go for it.

I am not great at cold showers and prefer the full immersion of an ice bath or a nice alpine lake. This version doesn’t allow for any cheating on my part and I’m all in. 

You will most likely find the initial shock to cause some hyperventilation to occur. Here’s where you focus back on deep breaths. Allow your body to shake and concentrate on calming your core. 

It takes practice to get out of your head, but the deeper your breath the calmer your mind will become. 

By doing this you are strengthening the small muscles around your veins. When these muscles are working your heart doesn’t have to work as hard to pump blood around your body. 

We all know that our true character comes through in times of stress and discomfort. And we humans do not like to be exposed and vulnerable, yet it is inevitable for growth to accrue. The WHM is one way to train yourself to be ready for these life stressors and help you to grow with more ease because you are comfortable in the discomfort.

The renewed sense of empowerment you get every time you get out of the cold is also good for your self-esteem. Again and again, you prove that you can do hard things, and stay in control when things get tough. 

I suggest heading over to youtube and check out one of Wim’s videos. He is dynamic and crazy, and you can’t help but love the guy. 

Give it a go, and when you’re ready to try an ice bath let me know and I’ll put you on my waiting list for my next Breath, Mindset, & Cold Exposure Workshop.

Note: for safety, don’t perform this technique while driving or in the bath (or anywhere else you might pass out). Also, consult a doctor if you’re pregnant or have another medical condition, to check if this approach is suitable.

Finding Gratitude Starts with Noticing all the Little Masterpieces of Life

Simple Thoughts of Thanks are Found in the Ordinary Everyday

Do you ever notice how much more we focus on the things that we don’t want? It’s as if it’s more socially acceptable to complain. Almost like we have been trained to connect to each other over the things we don’t like, rather than finding connection through grace. We have defined ourselves by what we hate, rather than focusing on what we love. 

Tell me, how is this mindset serving you? Serving your community? Your work? 

The Gratitude Chain, by AJ Jacobs, is a great reminder to focus on all the little masterpieces that help you find gratitude. AJ was interviewed recently on NPR and it was a breath of fresh air. 

It’s so easy to say you want to be a better person or practice gratitude. Yet so many of us fall back into our grumpy selves the first moment we encounter a difficult person or situation. We go back to our programming when we know where that road leads. 

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Living in judgment
  • Being Stressed out, and 
  • Feeling separate from others is not the way to live. 

You know this, so why is it so hard for us to change?

It’s hard to do because we are overworked, over-stimulated, over-caffeinated, living in a competitive climate that benefits from us being at each other’s throats. 

We all have a deep desire to be seen and loved by those around us. It takes you noticing the small daily miracles that make up your life to step into that world. The truth is your thoughts create your life, so if you want to live in grace you must practice gratitude every single day. 

This is something that takes work, so here are 3 ways to start practicing gratitude in your life today. 

  1. Everyone Has A Story.

As you move through your life it’s easy to forget that everyone you pass has a story that is influencing their actions. Just like you, they are trying to make it through the day. They want their families to be safe and healthy, just like you. Their story has many layers and sometimes we interact during a challenging situation or a peaceful moment. 

  • The person who makes your coffee has a story
  • The driver who just cut you off in traffic has a story
  • The busy customer service agent you just waited 20 minutes to talk to has a story
  • The family member you had a falling out with has a story

Everyone has a story that you will never know about. But you can believe that they want the same thing you want: To be happy, healthy, and loved. If you can remember that, it’s much easier to not take things so personally. 

The media will show you a story of communities being divided and then that is what we start to see. If you learn to shift your thoughts to what you have in common with everyone you meet, it will become easier to see them as a human being. Even the worst of encounters can be looked at through the lens of compassion when you learn to see yourself in all situations. 

  1. Saying Thank You

Another simple thing to practice is saying thank you. You can say thank you for…

  • The roof over your head
  • The people in your life
  • Your steady paycheck
  • Walks in the park
  • Even the challenging moments in your life

There are literally hundreds if not thousands of things to be grateful for on any given day. Saying thank you silently to yourself or out loud to another is a simple yet profound way to let your gratitude grow.

A recent study at Harvard Medical School confirmed that saying thank you can make you happier. When you express gratitude towards another you not only help them to feel good, but you get to feel good too! Expressing gratitude towards the universe at large sends out signals of love to your entire environment helping you to connect and see more things to be thankful for. 

Thought leader James Clear has a great article titled “Make Your Life Better By Saying Thank You In These 7 Situations” It’s a reminder of how grace and thanks go hand in hand. 

  1. Say “Thank You” when you’re receiving a compliment.
    • Thank you, I worked really hard on that.
  2. Say “Thank You” when you’re running late.
    • Thank you for waiting.
  3. Say “Thank You” when you’re comforting someone.
    • Thank you for trusting me with that.
  4. Say “Thank You” when you’re receiving helpful feedback.
    • Thank you for helping me grow.
  5. Say “Thank You” when you’re receiving unfair criticism.
    • Thank you for your opinion.
  6. Say “Thank You” when someone gives you unsolicited advice.
    • Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
  7. Say “Thank You” when you’re not sure if you should thank someone.
    • Thank you for that.

Try it! Live today in continual thanks and see what offerings it brings. 

3. Savoring the Moments

We are living so much of our lives on autopilot. From the moment you get up, a series of motions begin to play out with little to no thought.

  • Going to the bathroom
  • Taking a shower
  • Getting dressed
  • Making coffee
  • The drive to work
  • Work!

Even your interactions are often said or done as a part of an automatic framework playing inside you. Instead, what if you began to savor each of these mundane things. Noticing the water on your skin, or even the fact that you can take a shower with clean warm water whenever you want. What if you decided to switch up your commute by taking a country road, or listening to an audiobook. Switch up the neural pathways in your brain to take you out of autopilot and into savoring the moment. 

How would that change your relationships? Do you think you would find yourself more connected and in tune with your environment and those you love? Doing these simple activities that help you savor your morning cup of coffee or the 9am company meeting will open you up to new possibilities. You will find gratitude more easily once you are open to seeing it in your everyday routine. 

Once you see it in your routine you will find thanks and understanding. It’s a cycle. 

When we look for happiness it eludes us, but if instead, we look for gratitude then happiness will find us. 

If you are grateful, you are not fearful

When you are living with an attitude of gratitude you have moved from a fear mindset into a growth mindset. When you are grateful it’s hard to see lack or judgment because you are so focused on the good that surrounds you. 

Like all things, it is a practice and one you must do daily. Incorporating gratitude into your daily breath practice is a twofer! You get the benefits of slowing your breath into a mindful place AND you get to bring more positivity into your life: Bonus, you’re gonna feel good, too. 

This week, take 5 minutes to do box breathing, adding in these words of gratitude:

Inhale – I receive gratitude

Hold – I hold gratitude

Exhale – I offer gratitude

Hold – I am gratitude. 

Let me know how it goes! I’m always interested in how little acts of positive change hugely affect your life. 

Change Your Breath, Change Your Mindset

Change the way you see the world one breath at a time.

From your first breath when you are born, to your last exhale when you leave this world, you are habitually breathing. It happens automatically and without thought. But what happens when you become aware of your breath? 

There are profound healing effects that can take place when you move to a conscious practice of breathing. 

  • You begin to see patterns 
  • You begin to release blockages
  • You begin to find more clarity of thought
  • You feel more in touch with yourself and your surroundings
  • You nourish your body from the inside
  • You increase blood flow
  • You calm the nervous system

Your breath is an amazing and under-utilized power that we are all born with. Taking small steps daily to consciously connect to that source can change your whole perspective. 

Change Your Breath, Change Your Mindset

Most of us, most of the time, are walking around breathing fast and shallow. Thus our thoughts and actions become short and shallow. Why? Because where the breath goes the mind flows.

When you are breathing shallow it’s much easier to be triggered by your surroundings. Think about the last time you were sad, mad, or angry with someone. Feel it in your body. What happens? Your chest tightens and you can feel your breath pump fast and shallow. This is natural. This is what naturally happens in these high-intensity states. The problem is many of us are living in this state all the time. 

Slowing your breath down by consciously taking deeper inhales and longer exhales creates an immediate shift internally. This is why when a child is on the verge of a breakdown we calmly guide them to breathe. Why? Because this slows the mind. Your breath and your mind are like two peas in a pod. 

2 Peas in a Pod

Let’s think about this. When your mind starts to spin into a negative thought pattern your heart rate goes up and your breathing gets more short. Hence, your breath simply follows orders from the brain. And it works the other way too! When you notice that you are in a negative spiral you can, at that moment, make a conscious effort to slow your breath. Instantly your brain will take the queue and slow down too. Once you understand this it’s easy to start to see the link between your breathing patterns and your mindset.

Mindset and the Breath

Breathwork is the gateway to meditation. Whether or not you are someone who meditates or is interested in meditation you most likely have some thoughts built around it. Perhaps you think it’s hard or that you don’t have time for it. You can say the same for breathwork. It’s so easy that it’s hard to remember to take time to dedicate to it. This is where mindset begins. You can begin by dedicating 5 minutes a day to sitting and consciously noticing your breath. 

That’s it. 

Five minutes.

Let your whole mind be in tune with only your inhales and your exhales. 

Soon you will find that you’re craving more than 5 minutes because you will start to notice things shifting inside of you. 

  • Your outside world will begin to reflect on situations in a much broader and clearer way. 
  • You will feel less like a victim to your circumstances and your mindset of life and your connection to it will be altered. 
  • You will notice addictive thoughts and behaviors and use breathwork as a tool to break free from those habits. 
  • You will create space for change to occur that leads you to insights you couldn’t see before. 

We all have a certain amount of trauma we carry around and we all hold a certain amount of shame around that trauma. Your mindset around these situations can be altered by breathing through the pain buried in your body because of it. Once light has been shown to it, you can begin unlayering that pain and shame. 

When you actively change your breathing patterns so too are you changing your thought patterns. 

Mindset work comes naturally when you are consciously breathing. In this type of meditation, your breath reveals to you your triggers and ways to set through them to heal. 

Release

Our thought patterns are shaped by every experience we have. As we age we see examples of our thoughts reflected back to us in all our relationships. We are wired to pick up and see things that mesh with our deep-rooted beliefs. This can be great, but it can also be toxic. 

For instance, if your Mother didn’t show you love as a child, you would have a deep rooted feeling around Moms being distant or unloving. Then, throughout your life, you would pick up on examples of this everywhere you went. Your mind would be completely closed off from the thousand of models that suggested otherwise. 

Breathwork helps break through these hard anchored thought patterns. They are uncomfortable at times, as all growth is, but your mindset will begin to alter and you will start to notice examples of loving mothers all around you. 

This kind of mindset work can only happen when you make the effort to do the work. Breathwork is just one way to walk that path. 

Spirituality and Love

Insights found while consciously breathing help you to see and maintain a healthy love for yourself and your body. This is the ultimate key to finding your true self. Once on that path, your mindset will be your spiritual teacher. You will begin to notice that every time you get up from a breath session that you have new clarity and insight. You might even find yourself linking up with new opportunities and people that before you hadn’t even noticed were there. 

The world is in a funky spot and people everywhere are struggling. Disconnected from each other and ultimately from themselves. We are on so many prescription drugs that numb us from our minds and bodies. It’s hard to find healing in a world like that. 

Using your breath to release old ways of thinking allows your mind to tap into something more authentic within yourself. 

Mindset and Clarity

Slowing your breath and your mind is not only good for your mental health, but it helps you find clarity in your thoughts as well. The deeper you breathe the deeper your awareness becomes. This helps you to be more present in a stressful situation without the risk of a freakout. Clarity helps remind you that we are all connected through our breath. That you can alter someone’s energy by slowing your breath or give in to their energy by raising your breath. The choice really is yours. Because of the high-stress world we live in it’s easy to think that brain fog is normal and anger is just something we all experience. But breathwork helps you to tune into something greater. Something more profound and much more energizing. 

Breath is your life force. As your breath becomes deeper and centered so to will your thoughts. Your mindset can be altered to create powerful positive changes in your life and the lives of those around you, and you hold the tools inside of you to make it happen.

Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way

Advice for those sitting on the sidelines 

How often do you find yourself judging the circumstances around you? Do you find yourself questioning the authority of your work environment, government, or random acquaintances’ life via social media? Do you find yourself curious about how others come to certain decisions in their life? Are you often angry about the choices other make? This, my friends, is a sign that you are sitting on the sidelines. 

It’s so easy to look at a solution or decision from the endpoint and judge it. When you have zero insight into the hard work and laboring hours that people involved went through to come to this solution. It’s frustrating. I have found myself doing this too. But lately, I’ve been taking a look at my place in the process. 

  • Was I involved in the decision-making?
  • Do I have any real background information as to why these decisions were made?
  • Does this decision really affect me so much that my anger is justified?
  • Am I willing to get on board with this decision?
  • Will I get involved to make a difference or support these actions?

I’m seeing a great divide among our nation and people in my own life about the covid vaccine. I’m watching from the sidelines as it tears us apart as a community and as family members. People standing firm in their beliefs on both sides of the spectrum and not willing to bend. I see regular folk who are now experts in science and healthcare. I see bullying and belittling, friendships being strained or ending. I’m amazed how easily this has wormed its way into being a huge political discussion. 

Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way

With so much controversy and passionate online debates, it reminds me of the quote “Lead, Follow, or Get out of the way.” Assuming (which I know is never wise) that you have educated yourself on a subject and are capable of having a discussion about it, this quote means that you are looking for others to lead you or to follow you. If they can’t do that, then you are requesting they step out of your path. 

For some reason, this is extremely hard for us to do in today’s online world. We use these social platforms to call each other names, to share links that prove that I’m right and your wrong. Very often in arguments with people we will never know or care to understand. 

I have found myself caught up in an online debate occasionally too. It doesn’t feel good, and no one walks away with a changed mind. 

So why do we do it?

Opinionated Spectator

My eyes were opened this week as a year and half long public art piece I’ve been involved with has finally made it through all the rigmarole and is set to be painted. This is a huge project and is somewhat controversial. A dedicated group of citizens dotted every I and crossed every T to get their project passed through the city. 

They showed up at: 

  • Multiple arts commission meetings 
  • Multiple city council meetings
  • Met with the city attorney and lawyers
  • Got public feedback and input
  • Kept coming back with work showing their dedication and willingness to be flexible

They took feedback and kept on pushing. As someone who’s been involved in the public art process for many years, I know this can be hard and seem never-ending. But big projects take time as all government work does. 

Finally, the hard work paid off and the city and group announced to the community that a Black Lives Matter Street Mural would be coming to our town. They put a call out for community members to sign up to get involved. And the team was feeling good about all their work. 

I made the mistake of reading the comments on the city Facebook page. My heart sunk. People were angry and being cruel. 

  • People who never came to council to express their concerns
  • People whose lives would not be affected by this mural
  • People who never educated themselves on the meaning behind the message
  • People who had no intention of getting involved
  • People who are sitting on the sidelines

When you decide to get angry and pull out your soapbox online for a discussion that you have not been a part of until after the decisions were made, you become nothing more than an opinionated spectator. 

Get Involved

It’s an easy habit to fall into. I scroll social media and sometimes feel triggered by what I consider to be an uneducated comment or quote. But here’s what I know…

When this happens and I get out of the way.

I am wise enough to know that my opinion isn’t going to alter theirs. I am not following their line of thought, and I am not led by hate. So I get out of the way. 

I place my attention on the leaders I choose to follow. The ones that resonate with my life work and mission and get involved in ways I can. 

I choose to not be a spectator, and I encourage you to do the same. 

No more sitting in judgment of decisions you know nothing about. No more anger put out towards the things you don’t like. 

It’s time to redirect your energy and attention to the things you’d like to see more of and follow those threads of action. It’s time for you to get out of the way of misunderstanding and lead yourself to a path that resonates with you. 

It will feel so much better when you are taking an active role in the decisions that matter to you. You are much smarter than being a couch critic. You are bigger than your emotional triggers. 

It’s a confusing time to be walking this earth. Focusing on the things that bring light into your life will help you discern who you want to follow, who you should lead, and when to get out of the way. 

Breath and Belonging

Using your Breath to find True Belonging

We are at a crossroads in our society. It appears that everyone is stretched between the desperate need to fit in and belong and the deep inner knowing that sets them apart. We are presented with so much information on a daily basis that it’s hard to focus on any one thing and find our own place of belonging. True belonging can’t be bought or earned. True belonging is belonging to yourself. And your breath can guide you to that inner peace. 

Keeping up with the Jones is a part of your heritage. Every ad you see tells you that your life will be better if you use this product or buy this thing. 

And you fall for it!

You try to break free from these chains and then end up losing yourself in being anti-whatever. But that’s not you either. This is a real problem. This constant looking outside of yourself while knowing the answers remains buried inside your soul. 

Inward motion

Looking inside is scary. It means you are taking responsibility for what you find. There’s no one else to blame when you’re dealing with yourself. There’s no easy framework or how-to guide that helps lay a foundation for where that story goes. And that is freakin scary!

You have been raised in a society that has told you time and time again that vulnerability is bad and shameful. A society that has told you that what you think and feel might not be right. That you should look to an outside source for the answers. Looking to those around you to see what the standard is. 

We keep each other bound by the expectations of our neighbors and friends. We want to appear that all is okay even if we are dying on the inside. This is apparent now more than ever. 

All the choices you’re presented with on a daily basis are paralyzing. With so many directions laid out before you, how could you possibly choose? And what if you chose wrong?

Consumption of information is killing our creative thinking. 

We have no way of knowing what is real or not. 

  • Is something real because you read it on the Internet? 
  • Is it real because your teacher told you? 
  • Is it true because you were raised to believe it? 

Everything you believe to be true or not can be debunked and belittled by someone. So how do you know what to believe and where to turn for guidance?

The short answer: There is no road map.

You must discern for yourself what resonates with your soul. What feels right and brings you peace. No one else can do that for you. No one else should. You must connect to your inner knowing and that is how you belong. 

Belonging

The incomparable Brene Brown has a mantra, “I belong to me.”

When I first heard her say this in an interview with Lewis Howes on the School of Greatness podcast it just hit. Like so much of Brene’s work, it resonates truth. It felt uncomfortable and was hard to sit with because it means I have work to do. 

You have work to do.

There are so many educators out there that can help guide you to a place of belonging. It is your job to find the ones that resonate with you. Not because it’s what you want to hear but because the message feels like growth and understanding. One of the fastest and easiest ways to connect to others is to first find a connection within yourself. That takes work.

You’re not going to find any system outside of yourself that is a perfect fit, but you will find guides and teachers on a similar path that can point you in the right direction so you can continue to belong to yourself. 

Once you belong to yourself you will be comfortable being uncomfortable. Using your breath you can break through the chains of uncertainty and lack. You can breathe into a life of abundance because you will feel at ease in your skin. 

Breathing

The reason your breath is a powerful guide is that it is the connection between the inner and outer world. It gives you a focus that allows you to shut out the external with time and practice. Awakening you to a deeper connection to self because you are inside. Breathing into sensations you haven’t felt and subtly moving energy around opens you up to yourself. To a deep knowing of what is the right path for you. 

The struggles remain. You still have to decide to breathe through challenging situations and conversations. Life is still going to offer an endless stream of information that changes daily. The difference is that now you have a tool to guide you into discernment. A tool that can be used to help you clarify and identify your true nature to yourself. 

You belong to yourself. Your breath belongs to you, it is a gift you share with the world. Because at the end of the day we are all connected, so it is impossible to not belong. At the end of the day, you get to decide and create your own path. This is an awesome responsibility that breaks you free from lack and into true belonging. 

Breath Practice

One of my favorite breathing practices is Heart Coherent Breathing. It is so simple that it is often overlooked. But as we know sometimes the simplest things are the most challenging to do. 

  • Sit in a comfortable cross-legged position, or if on a chair move away from any back support so you can have a straight spine. Plant your feet on the floor, a hip-width distance apart.
  • Round your shoulders back and let your chest feel open.
  • Tuck your chin slightly.
  • Soften or close your eyes.
  • Bring your attention to your breath. Make no effort to change your breath pattern, simply notice it.
  • Begin to slow the breath by inhaling to the count of 5, and exhaling to the count of 5.
  • Bring your attention to the inhale. Feel the breath flow in through your heart center. 
  • Exhale and notice the breath leaving your heart center. 
  • Do 10 rounds of breathing like this, focused on your heart. If it feels good you can place your hands over your heart to help keep your focus and attention there. 
  • After 10 rounds or so let the 5×5 pattern go and continue to breathe with ease keeping your attention inside. 

This simple and effective practice can be done anytime day or night for clarity. I recommend starting by just practicing the steps above. After you feel more comfortable keeping your attention internal and your breath and heart you can add a question for clarity or intention. You will be amazed at the things your heart and breath begin to open up to you in these subtle moments when you truly belong to yourself.