Life begins …

Through my life as The Eco Monkey I’ve been blessed to meet some amazing people. Two of those are Matt and Mark of The Wellderness. If you go to one of their sessions you’ll likely hear one of their mottos – life begins at the edge of your comfort zone. Well last week I was certainly taken beyond the edge of mine – and life was certainly in full flow.

I first came across the Wim Hof Method in early 2020 when my best friend went to a workshop somewhere near Asheville, NC and then later another when he was in Costa Rica. Intrigued by what he was doing – I looked in to it and part of it appealed (the breath work) and part of it scared the hell out of me (the ice baths). It seemed to do my best friend the world of good – and I got to thinking maybe. That thought was then parked until June of this year when, at a Wellderness event, I was told that they had a Wim Hof workshop planned for later on in the year. I immediately said yes – and booked as soon as I could without properly thinking about it.

As the time drew closer – the butterflies kicked off in my stomach. What had I actually signed up for? An ice bath. Outside (albeit in beautiful ancient woodland). In October. In the UK. And then camping afterwards. Was I mad? Quite possibly. I made sure I told quite a few people I was going to so it though – so there would be no escaping or hiding from it. That and I was determined to hold Matt to his promise of getting in the ice bath – I couldn’t hold him to that and not do it myself could I?

The session was last Saturday evening. I am writing this several days later and with a good dose of hindsight on my side. I’ve had that chance to reflect on what was rather than write in the heat (or cold) of the moment. Physically it was possibly one of the most challenging things that I’ve done. It reminded me of when I used to run – I did a couple of half marathons and 10 miles runs. As I crossed the finish line each time I vowed never again. And 48 hours later I found I’d signed up to do another. Now whilst I haven’t yet signed up to do another Wim Hof session … on getting out of that bath I said to myself never again … and this past week have looked at where I could go do another.

Wim Hof breathwork session

The session was run by the amazing Will Van Zil. It started with the Wim Hof breathing technique. Belly. Chest. Head. Breathing is something that we do unconsciously. We rarely breathe fully – usually only taking short, shallow breaths. In the Wim Hof method you bring more oxygen into your lungs, and therefore your body through taking full breaths. I’m not going to try and explain the Wim Hof method here – if you want to know more I’d suggest you look him up online.

Braving the ice bath

One thing I learnt last weekend was that baths are deceptively large. Walking into the woodland to see two baths sat waiting, getting filled with ice and a small amount of cold water. Looking at them they didn’t look like something that I’d be able to near enough fully submerge in. In the case of most others – they didn’t. Longer legs meant knees were out in the open air. My short legs fitted no problem unfortunately!

It’s a very different breathing technique you need when sat in an ice bath. This time it was golden thread breathing – a technique known to calm the nervous system and, as such, the body as a whole. I understood the concept – but stepping in and sinking down amongst the ice my body initially had other ideas as my heart started to race, taking my breath with it. I knew I needed to quickly catch my breath in order to stand a chance of lasting my allotted time in the ice – that was as much of a challenge as everything else. Focus. Concentration. Will power. I knew I could do this. I hoped I could anyway. And I did. We each had a maximum of 2 minutes in the ice – and I’m proud to say I lasted for all of it.

So how did it feel? In the ice I felt a burning, tingling sensation all over my body. Nerve endings coming to life and reminding me what it is to be alive. A connection to the trees that stood tall around me, offering shelter and protection – and reminding me to trust. And to breathe. In this past week I have felt more alive and a deeper connection to the natural world. I took an EcoNIDRA session earlier this week (more on those later) and chose ice as my partner in the practice – offering me grounding, safety, security and protection.

At the start of the session we were asked to share one word to describe the reason why we were there. My word was experience. It’s fair to say the whole session delivered on that. Breathwork, an ice bath, storytelling around an open fire, camping, sunrise yoga and more breathwork … it was an amazing experience. One that I hope I get to repeat again.

Invitation: Life begins at the edge of your comfort zone. I invite you to take a step beyond the edge of yours. I wonder what will happen?

If you feel inspired to take this invitation, feel free to share what you are noticing below.

Photographs: Milnerpics Photography

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