If you watched the “Goop Lab“ series on Netflix, you likely watched in awe as Goop staffers plunged into ice baths and sat in the snow with ‘the Ice Man’ Wim Hof. This episode shared a glimpse into the Wim Hof method—a health routine that’s as simple as it is activating. It’s all about awakening our full power using two keys—the cold and our breath. Stimulating these physiological processes with cold therapy, breathing exercises, and mindset training, awakens our inner power. And, along with it, health and happiness.
So, would you be down to plunge into an ice bath daily if it made you happier? Seems, um, counterintuitive, right?
Not for Toronto-based Wim Hof instructor Marie Bodine.
For her, the momentary shock of plunging into a cold bath is nothing compared to life without it.
“I think being depressed, in pain, or on prescription drugs for the rest of your life is intense,” she says. “Being healthy to me is not intense—it’s a birthright.” For her and many other Wim Hof devotees, the method is a way to activate that birthright.
We spoke with Marie about what the Wim Hof method is all about, what it can do for your body and life, and where to go to get started.
E7: How did you first discover the Wim Hof method? What about it appealed to you?
MB: I first discovered the Wim Hof lecture after a talk from someone that had gone to Poland, and had surprising nerve regeneration after a gunshot wound. I was looking for some insight for the past five years on why cold showers were beneficial, but couldn’t find a structure or anyone to walk me through the process in a safe way.
After the talk, I saw the Vice documentary, then realized there was a website that gave me much more useful information: The Wim Hof Method. After discovering the website, I was all in. I was drawn to the simplicity of it, and the simple structure. By this time there were science findings, and that really appealed to me.
E7: What exactly is the Wim Hof method? How has it changed your life?
MB: The method consists of three pillars—breath exercises, mindset/commitment, and gradual cold exposure. There’s lots of room for individuality; you can tailor this practice to your life, and make it your own. The method can take you as far as you want to go—either just breathing, or include cold showers, or more in-depth cold exposure. What’s most important is that you go at your own easy, gentle pace, and listen to your body.
The Wim Hof website lists over 20 reasons why we would want to become familiar with the cold and to incorporate breath exercises every day. The cold is a vasoconstrictor, which is like a full-on exercise session for your entire vascular system. Combining cold therapy with mindset training and breathing exercises can offer benefits from stress reduction, to faster recovery from physical exertion, to better sleep, and more.
Participants are required to read the disclaimer on the website, and never do the breathing exercises in or near water, or while doing anything other than lying down in a comfortable place, like a bed or couch.
I thought this method was simply a way to help me live in a cold climate. I learned so much more than that. Nothing about my life is the same. I’m calmer, happier, and [I] see every aspect of life differently now. I’ve created more inner peace and self-love [sic], and I respect other people more.
E7: The techniques seem pretty intense (at least they did on Goop Lab!) Can anyone really plunge into a full-body ice bath, and why would we want to?
MB: I disagree. I think being depressed, in pain, or on prescription drugs for the rest of your life is intense. Being healthy to me is not intense, it’s a birthright.
Due to constant climate control, humans are becoming weak. Short bursts of temperature variance create a strong, resilient body and mind. This resiliency can transfer to other aspects of your life. The body requires a very small stimulus to initiate change. I use this principle in all aspects of how I teach. More is not necessarily better.
What’s even more incredible than a cold shower or ice bath is the skill of learning how to generate and move internal heat throughout the body. We teach this technique at the workshops. It’s even more valuable than getting into cold water, ‘cause anyone can get into cold water. Most people can take an ice bath easily with proper preparation. My workshops are a deep dive into learning how to do it safely, and to have a lot of fun in the process.
My playlists for the breath sessions are requested after every class. You won’t get this type of experience anywhere else in the country. I really take people on a trip.
There are populations who may not want to participate. Anyone who is pregnant, has epilepsy, or a heart condition would want to consult their doctor prior to practicing this method.
E7: How can people start practicing the Wim Hof method? What would you suggest for someone who’s hesitant to try, but maybe a little curious?
MB: Download the app, jump on the Wim Hof Canada, Wim Hof Toronto, or Wim Hof Women’s only Facebook groups. You can take the online 10-week course to learn more at your own pace, take a workshop, and bring a friend for an experience you will remember for the rest of your life. The ice can melt your fears, open up the way you think about the cold, and ultimately transform your life.
Connect with Marie:
Take the fundamentals workshop: wimhofmethod.com/instructors/mariebodine
(Story by Contributing Editor Kate Fowlie)