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.

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.