A journey into the cold

I first heard about the Wim Hof Method 3 years ago this very week. A very precious friend had mentioned it to me. They were going through a dark period in their life and believed, from what they’d heard about the method that it could be something to help them – so they signed up to do a Wim Hof Method Fundamentals workshop. I spoke to them just before they went into their workshop and they were low, as was the norm for them at the time, but with some excitement about what was to come. They called me about 5 hours later as they were leaving the session and it was as though I was talking to a completely different person. Where there had been darkness – there was now light. Where there had been despair – there was now hope and optimism about the future. The change in such a short time was extraordinary that it really me stand up and take note. I was intrigued by how breathwork, cold exposure in the form of an ice bath and mindset, the 3 pillars of the Wim Hof Method, could do so much in such a relatively short space of time. I wanted to know more!

That was in February 2020. Then March 2020 happened. Life as we once knew it changed forever. The world seemingly went mad. Lockdowns got imposed across the globe. Who knew which way up was any more?

As we emerged into a new world that was the early summer of 2021 I became one of the facilitators for a local group called The Wellderness. Headed up by the awesome Matt and Mark, they combine wellbeing and wilderness skills in community events (I can’t recommend them highly enough – check them out!). We were chatting about what other sessions they had planned and they excitedly told me of a Wim Hof Method session planned for October. Without really thinking about it I said YES!! I booked – it was a warm sunny day and the thought of sitting in an ice bath was appealing. It was only as they day got closed I really questioned my own sanity. It was in a woodland, in the UK, outside, in the evening, in October … and then I was going to be camping afterwards. Was I mad? Possibly – but that experience was the beginning of something for me. I’m not going to go to much into those details here (you can read about it on another post). But suffice to say – I understood some of the benefits of the practice. I’d walked with knee pain for over a decade. But for 10 days to 2 weeks after that session I walked pain free. That was enough for me.

My first ice bath – also known as the longest 2 minutes of my life! Photo by Milner Pics

Over the following weeks and months I incorporated the breathwork and cold water into my life – although to be fair, it wasn’t everyday.

In January 2022 the person who had introduced me to the practice walked out of my life in quite a traumatic way. Because it was them who had introduced me to the practice, in my head I associated the method with them. And because of that – it was too painful to practice it. I had to step away from it as I healed from their absence from my life.

That was until March 2022. I was in Costa Rica, taking a boat taxi from Montezuma across the Gulf of Nicoya towards Jaco. I was sat in the bow of the boat, facing the way we had come from. I was told it would be a smooth crossing and, quite literally, my arse, was it. There were some bumps that were fun. And then there was one that wasn’t. I took to the air and landed hard, pain shot up my back. At this point we were halfway across and all I could do was move slightly further back in the boat for the remainder of the crossing. With no pain relief to hand – all I could do was breathe. Everything I’d been taught about my breath through the Wim Hof Method session I’d done came back to me. Just breathe Holly.

When I returned back to the UK, still using breathwork as pain relief, I started to play around with heat and cold to see what would ease my back – it had transpired that I’d locked the T/L junction on my spine and the muscles around it had contracted to protect the area. Cold was the winner. It felt like the universe was pushing me back into the Wim Hof Method once more. Whilst I knew what I was letting myself in for, there was still some nervousness on my part. I expected going fully in with the session would release some of the, still trapped, emotion in me from the breakdown of my friendship at the beginning of the year. The session was with the same instructor I’d done the other session with (I knew he would hold the space for me and I trusted him) – but it was out of my area. If I broke down, as I fully expected to, it would be fine. No one there would know me and I’d never have to see them again.

The day came around and I carefully lay down for the breathwork and something shifted – but I couldn’t tell you what. It was the ice that I expected to really shift something in me. When my turn came, step in on an inhale, sit down on an exhale and just breathe Holly. As I sat down so I felt a surge of emotion … hold on Holly … here we go … it’s coming … it burst out of me … as laughter. Well I wasn’t expecting that! In that moment I felt a huge weight lift off my shoulders. This practice was for me. It was a gift from them. But it was for me.

It wasn’t just me who realised something had changed. Others commented on how different I seemed after doing that Wim Hof Method Fundamentals workshop. I had already been an evangelist of the practice after the first experience in the ice – but now I was even more so. I felt the universe was giving me a sign in this practice – that there was something more in this for me. And so I embarked on the path to becoming an Wim Hof Method Instructor. I want to be able to share this gift with others. I want to show how this really is a practice for everyone.

The past 9 months have been one hell of an adventure as I have stepped in to this practice and training to become a Wim Hof Method Instructor. This week I take that final step as I head out to the Pyrenees in Spain to do my master module. I’m ready to step fully in, to embrace the unexpected and take comfort from discomfort.

I’ll see you on the other side.

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