On a rainy afternoon in tropical and tranquil Ubud, 30 people gathered at Villa Gaia to get a taste of the latest trend – ice baths. As an Irish woman who has been living in Bali for the past nine years, I was was ecstatic to experience some duality in temperature.
Recent years have brought a surge of interest in the benefits of cold exposure, from cosmetic and rehabilitative cryotherapy machines to cold water wild swimming. At the forefront of this movement is Wim Hof. This Dutchman, often referred to as the ice man for his ability to withstand long periods of time in freezing temperatures, holds the world record for “ice endurance.” He pioneered a technique that combines breathing and cold exposure which is being studied currently to understand its benefits on health.
Reported benefits include increased energy, improved sleep, heightened focus, improved performance, reduced stress levels, greater cold tolerance, faster recovery and enhanced creativity.
The workshop was hosted by Bart Bierman, a medical doctor and Wim Hof instructor. He shared the science behind the technique in an extremely informative presentation, cited well enough to satisfy any skeptic.
But, the proof is in the pudding. Bart lead the audience through 30 minutes of breathing exercises, not dissimilar to hyperventilation at a consistently high pace, with interludes of breath retention. While the exercises were taking place, the Villa Gaia staff prepared ice baths. Promptly after the breathing sessions were over audience members silently proceeded to their awaiting ice baths.
I was feeling a bit apprehensive about the whole experience, afraid that perhaps years of living in the tropics had rendered me physically unable to cope with cold temperatures. However, I was pleasantly surprised. When my turn came, staying in the bath for five minutes was surprisingly easy, and the feeling post-ice bath was literally exhilarating. The breathing had left me feeling deeply connected to myself while the ice bath made me feel like anything was possible.
The evening finished with the group sharing a beautifully prepared vegetarian buffet dinner overlooking the rice terraces surrounding Villa Gaia.
Bart’s Wim Hof workshop was received so well that he’ll be returning in March to deliver a series of other workshops on the topic.
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