We took the ice plunge ∙ The Wim Hof Method workshop at The Lygon Arms
January 2024: Along with millions of others, I watched Freeze the Fear with Wim Hof on BBC1 back in 2022… and I loved it. I watched in fascination as celebrities took ice showers, plunged into glacial lakes, faced blizzards, and other ice cold challenges. Oddly, alongside the chills of the mere thoughts of jumping into a freezing lake, there was an undeniable allure. Wim Hof, the Dutch “Iceman,” with his booming voice and infectious grin, guided the contestants and viewers through breathing exercises that would unlock dormant reserves of resilience. While I was happy watching this from under a warm blanket with a hot coffee in my hands, I was intrigued. I thought “I’m a Scandi, I could easily do this, I’m practically a Viking”.
So, my husband, Robin, and I both decided to take part in a small way. We were going to take on the challenge of the cold showers. Every morning, longer and longer each time, until we could do 3 minutes for the full effect.
Let’s just say, Robin did incredibly well! Me… not so much. On the first day I did 3 seconds. On the second day… there was no second day in my Wim Hof cold shower challenge. It was just too cold! Not much of a Viking, it turned out.
So, when I saw the Wim Hof Method workshop advertised at the spa at The Lygon Arms, what possessed me to sign up?! Well, the fact that I had failed so miserably just a few seconds into a self-imposed cold shower challenge, for one. I thought this was my chance. I could have someone properly teach me the breathing method so I can do cold showers every day and get all the benefits that come with them.
Robin and I stepped into the workshop at The Lygon Arms and found ourselves grouped up with eight other people who all had their own reasons for being there. Three were friends and neighbours who did cold lake swimming already but wanted to learn the breathing method properly. Two were friends where one was very spiritual and wanted especially to explore how this method affects the mind. Others were there for the health benefits. They were such a lovely bunch that Robin and I were really happy to share this experience with.
Jamie Christopherson, the Wim Hof Method instructor, made us all feel at ease from the first moment. He radiated warmth and knowledge, sharing his own story of how cold water therapy and breathing conquered a debilitating illness. His enthusiasm was contagious, and soon, we were all diving into the world of controlled breathing and icy dips.
The breathing exercises themselves were an eye-opener. Jamie was great at explaining, great at making us all feel at ease. As we were breathing and listening to the instructions and soothing sounds and words, many of us felt a shift. We were suddenly focused, laser-sharp, while strangely at peace. It was like rewiring internal circuitry, a glimpse of the mental control promised by the Wim Hof Method.
Several hours of breathing and learning passed, and then Jamie led us all outside to where the big bath tub was waiting for us. Surrounding the tub, we learnt some more physical exercises meant to focus our minds and keep our blood flowing before and after the ice bath.
Also, part of the experience is to “make friends” with the ice bath before you get in it, so we were asked to fill it with ice cubes ourselves, which we did just before we went downstairs for the lunch-part of the experience.
Lunch in the Drawing Room at The Lygon Arms was a very healthy and delicious selection of brain food, perfectly chosen for a group of people about to take on a challenge of the body and mind. There was date and peanut power balls, a cauliflower salad with pomegranate and coriander, and a bulgur wheat salad with sultanas, feta, and courgettes. Dessert was the most delicious coconut sorbet with mango. All lovely, as food experiences at The Lygon always are.
The moment of (ice cold) truth
Then came the moment of truth – the ice bath. Armed with our newfound breathing superpowers, we found ourselves standing around the tub full of ice cold water and ice cubes. We were doing our exercises and watching our new found friends one by one submerging themselves into the ice bath. We were allowed to stay in the ice bath for no more than two minutes, which most did.
I stepped into the tub overflowing with ice vibes and a distinct lack of any tropical feel. I’m not going to lie. The initial shock was, well, shocking… painful. But I stayed in for a full minute and I was proud of myself. Happy that I had done something I never thought I would do.
When you step into an ice bath while practicing the breathing techniques, something in your mind changes. The cold somehow becomes manageable, even invigorating. Your body tingles, your mind buzzes, and for a fleeting moment, you feel invincible.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing, of course. Some struggled, and the water temperature felt more like a personal vendetta than a refreshing dip. But watching those who mastered the breathing conquer the ice with smiles was like witnessing superheroes in training. It proved that the key to this truly lies in those powerful breaths.
The workshop wasn’t just about braving the cold; it was about unlocking hidden potential. I left with a newfound respect for the power of breathing, a healthy dose of cold-induced confidence… and a serious craving for hot chocolate!
It’s still early days in my Wim Hof journey, but I’m now determined to get in touch with my inner Viking and brave those cold showers. Robin and I might even join our fellow Wim Hoffers and do some lake swimming… watch this space!
So, if you’re a curious soul considering taking the Wim Hof plunge, I say go for it! Embrace the cold, respect the power of the ice, and remember, when in doubt, it’s all in the breathing.
~ Mette ∙ Cotswolds Concierge
The Wim Hof Method
The Wim Hof Method is created to show people how breathing exercises, cold exposure training and meditation can help them get strong, happy and healthy in a multitude of ways. The method is known to help people manage depression, anxiety, mental focus, pain management, and much more.