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.

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.

When Life Moves You Out of Alignment, Take a Step Back & Breathe

The Benefits of Breathing into Alignment

In order to live an authentic life, we must be in alignment. Meaning our outward actions must be in agreement with our inward intentions. Conscious breathing is a great way to line up the inner and the outer world. 

We spend so much of our existence seeking answers and things outside of us. This throws our system out of alignment. It starts subtly and ends up reflecting back to us images and lifestyles that we don’t even relate to. Following your breath is a significant way to guide yourself back into alignment. 

Breathwork offers effective techniques so you can…

  • Manage intense emotions 
  • Show up authentically in your life
  • Make inspired decisions
  • Feel calm
  • Improve your sleep quality
  • Lower your blood pressure
  • Increase mental and emotional resilience
  • Balance energy levels

We all go through times in our life when things aren’t going well. Where every move we make seems off. You are probably aware that your alignment is off, but can’t quite figure out how to nudge it back to the right place. Simple and effective breathing is a great tool to use anytime you’re feeling off. 

Balancing the nervous system is one of the many benefits of breathwork. Helping you to identify the areas in your life that are out of alignment in your evolutionary experience. 

Below are 3 breathing exercises to help you breathe your way back into alignment. 

Balanced Breathing

Balanced Breathing is performed by breathing in and out in equal parts. 

  1. Begin by sitting in a comfortable cross-legged position on the floor. Or, if you prefer, lying down. Be sure legs are not crossed, but you may like them elevated. 
  2. Close your eyes and bring your attention to the tip of your nose. Notice the natural rhythm of your breath.
  3. After a few rounds of natural breathing, begin to slowly count to 4 or 5 as you inhale.
  4. Take a moment at the top of the inhale before slowly counting out to 4 or 5 as you exhale.
  5. Take a moment at the bottom of the exhale before returning to the inhale
  6. Continue in this pattern, breathing in and out slowly to the same count with a pause at both the top and bottom of each breath.

By breathing in and out in equal time you are balancing out the nervous system. This helps bring you up if you’re feeling low and helps guide you down if you are too anxious. 

Balance is the key to many breathing practices. 

Alternate Nostril Breathing

Another great example of equal part breathing that helps nudge us back into alignment is Alternate Nostril Breathing. In this pattern, you will breathe in and out through alternating nostrils.

Before getting into the technique, let’s chat about hand placement. 

  • Look at your right hand and fold the first two fingers (the pointer and middle) into the palm.
  • Use your pinky to help guide the ring figure up to your best degree.
  • Your hand will look similar to the hang loose hand gesture. 
  • Keeping your hand in this mudra you will perform the technique.

This is best done sitting in a comfortable seated position. Either on the floor or in a chair with your feet firmly placed on the floor and your back free from support.

  1. Place your left hand on your left knee.
  2. Exhale completely and bring your right hand up to your nose, closing the right nostril with your thumb.
  3. Inhale through your left nostril and pinch both nostrils closed at the top of the inhale.
  4. Open your right nostril by removing your thumb and exhale out the right nostril only.
  5. Stay here and inhale in the right nostril while your ring and pinky finger press closed the left.
  6. Pinch both nostrils at the top of the inhale.
  7. Release your ring and pinky finger and exhale out the left. 
  8. That is one round. 
  9. Continue in this cycle for 10 rounds or 5 minutes. Always ending the practice by exhaling out the left nostril.

Focus on keeping your breath slow, smooth, and continuous; nothing labored.

Abdominal Hollowing

Abdominal hollowing is the more active of the three described here. I recommend doing this one laying down so you don’t overwork your back muscles while actively pushing out the breath.

  1. Lie on your back with the souls of your feet planted about hip-width distance apart.
  2. Begin breathing in a slow and controlled manner.
  3. After a few rounds, activate the breath by deeply breathing in for a five-count.
  4. Exhale all the air out of your lungs as you push your belly button all the way back towards your spine. There is no count on the exhale, but it should be at least 2 to 3 counts longer than the inhale.
  5. With your abdominal area completely hollowed out, hold empty for 5 counts.
  6. Repeat this cycle of a triangle (breathing, inhale, exhale, hold) for 10 rounds or roughly 3 minutes.
  7. After the last active round, go back to your natural breathing pattern before moving on.

Abdominal hollowing works into your underworked deep abdominal muscles. Making it beneficial for those suffering from lower back pain. As an option, you can drape something over your belly to add extra pressure to the exhale. This is helpful because it assists in flushing out all the stagnant air trapped at the bottom of your lungs. A pillow, yoga block, or light sandbag all work great. 

Taking the time to breathe consciously as a daily practice has the power to move your life from a place of chaos to one aligned to your inner calling. 

We All Face Challenges

Working with all kinds of people in helping them reconnect to their breath, I have come to understand that these simple breathing patterns can have a profound impact on one’s life. Like meditation, it gives you an opportunity to let go of the mind-chatter and reflect within. 

I cannot tell you the number of times students come up to me and thank me for helping them to sleep better or breathe through a difficult emotion. Although it is a true honor to share these practices, I did nothing to help them that they couldn’t do on their own. 

Sometimes getting in alignment means having someone like me to guide you through the work. Giving you an opportunity to sink deep into a practice while a guide does all the counting, observing, and keeps you on track. This is part of re-connecting to your alignment. 

If you are interested in going deeper with your breath practice I am here to assist. Contact me at mary@heart-lightstudios.com to find out more. 

Ring True with the Nature Inside Yourself and Say Goodbye to Mental Instability

Your Mental Health is Counting on You to Seek Within

Gun violence continues to rise and our ability to handle uncertainty is getting shorter by the day. In 2020 there were over 43,000 gun-related deaths in the US according to Gun Violence Archive. Halfway through 2021 and we have already passed the 24,000 marks for gun fatalities. Gun violence hasn’t been this high in over two decades. 

It’s easy to look around and see why this is happening. We are living our lives in a pressure cooker and the heat keeps going up. It’s impossible to turn around without hearing the latest in world drama. 

  • Our oceans are on fire
  • Our forests are on fire
  • Our communities are on fire

And this has just become a normal summer happening for those of us living on the West Coast. Fossil fuels are being sucked out of the earth and are building up greenhouse gases that are changing our climate. Mother Earth is dying and this is just one of the underlying layers that many don’t have time to even consider thinking about. 

Too many are wrapped up in their own life drama, unaware of the pressure building from Earth herself. Thinking their problems are separate and more important than the whole. 

As a collective, we are watching the entire world climate change, and that goes far beyond the physical. 

Mentally we are Waking Up

We are tired of hearing about “The American Dream” and wish to wake up to a world where it was possible. Instead, we live in a world where 75% of adults are on some kind of altering substance at any given moment. A world where most feel it is necessary to numb out just to make it through the day. 

  • Every day we have a new “2 minutes of hate”. 
  • Every day a new enemy to point our rage at. 
  • Every day a reminder of how “they” are holding us down. 

We wake up thinking about our worries. We all spend our days worried about our job security, our mortgage/rent, our bills, our relationships, what the president did, and what our racist uncle might have said online. It’s a lot. Too much. It leaves us broken with no time to think about our health or our mental wellness. 

You might even think “how dare I take time to do such things when the world is falling apart!” To many, mental health feels like a luxury that their life wasn’t designed for. 

We are so used to self-sacrifice that taking 15 minutes a day to breathe seems like a waste of precious time. We have been programmed to be busy all the time and never look within for the answers. 

We have come to a standstill in our culture. We have been divided, yet we are programmed for belonging. Humans are meant to connect, care, support, and interact. 

The more medication we take and the more screen-driven we become, the more separate we too become from each other and ourselves. On some level, we all feel this. Why else are we continuing to shoot each other and ourselves at such a high rate? 

It’s time to speak up about our needs and find that we are not alone but connect through the burdens of life we all collectively carry. When one has the courage to speak up, others will follow. 

The Power of the Vulnerable

Our hearts have become so guarded that we are beginning to crack as a nation under the silence of mental instabilities. To the highly intuitive there is an unspoken nature of things gone terribly wrong. The vulnerability you feel is your power, yet we treat it as a weakness. This is keeping us in silos with nowhere to turn. 

The time has come to override these standards and uncover our power. Get creative and help yourself and others to breathe deep. 

  • Dance like you don’t care how you look
  • Sing/ chant / hum until you find your voice
  • Swim in the open sea
  • Help your neighbor /stranger / friend
  • Cry in front of someone you trust.
  • Write your local politicians / newspapers / or radio stations
  • Walk amongst the trees

No one can express the need inside your heart. Be confidently vulnerable and share your spirit. Shout it from the rooftops and let the haters hate. Those who connect to your spirit will glide through the cracks and find you. And isn’t that what we all want? To be seen by those who love and care for us? Even if it’s just you at the party, go for it.

Your mental health is too important. Your heart’s too big to keep chained up in armor. Give yourself permission to shine. You may be the light that heals another. 

We are all looking for something to connect us. We all want something bigger than ourselves to help ease our worried souls. Everyone is searching, everyone. 

It’s Time to Get Honest with Ourselves

It’s time to get honest with yourself. It’s time to follow your inner calling. It’s time to share your fears, your dreams, your doubts, your love. Ring true with the nature inside yourself and say goodbye to mental instability. You say goodbye to uncertainty when you are in tune with your inner truth. 

No more looking on the outside. Your mental health is counting on you to seek within. Let this be your sign to do that. 

By healing yourself you set out waves of healing to all those you come in contact with. When you breathe out hope and inner connection, others breathe that in. We can uplift as a world by taking time to reach within. Fill your cup so it might flow out unto others.