After a few deep breaths I submerged my body into a bucket full of cold water topped off with at least over a hundred pounds of ice. In between the shivers and feeling the tingling throughout my body I continued to breath in and out slowly as normally as possible. Beep! Beep! Beep! The 3 minute timer finished and I moved to the heat of the sauna where I sat for at least 15 minutes until I sweat. This went on for 3 rounds and topped off with a final dip in the cold. And man! I really enjoyed it. Well, the more I thought about how I’d feel afterwards and the benefits it provided, I enjoyed it.
In March of this year, I shared a video on my Youtube Channel titled 5 Reasons to GET IN THE COLD where I spoke about a few physical and mental benefits. Additionally, you may have read, heard, or seen many other content that describes the benefit of cold water immersion, as well as the benefits of the sauna. As you may know, exposure to cold and to heat offer many recovery benefits, but what happens you combine the practices?
This practice is referred to as 🔥 hot-cold❄️ contrast therapy. Alternating between the heat of the sauna and cold of the ice water is an effective way to maximize the host of effects from both therapies. Below are some of my favorite benefits of the practices physically, mentally, and spiritually:
Submerging in cold water promotes healthy blood flow, muscle recovery, boosts immune system, and reduces inflammation, and can aid fat loss. The heat promotes full body blood circulation, muscle recovery, protects DNA by inhibiting telomere shortening, and cardiovascular function. The heat of the sauna raises the temperature of the body, the “sweat pushes out toxins and delivers oxygen and nutrients to your muscles.” Then, the “cold brings the blood back to vital organs, contracts pores to regular sizes and reinforces your body’s natural defense system.” Together they increase metabolism and boosts immunity.
Whenever I take on these type of exercises, I instantly feel the boost of presence, energy, mood, clarity, and focus. Concentration of the breath forces me to be present where there’s no space to overthink. Exposure to cold and to hot temperatures promotes anti-inflammation in the brain, the release of norepinephrine, myelin growth, increases BNDF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), are anti-depressive, and more.
On a spiritual level, alternating between cold and hot resembles the rhythm of life: Ebb & Flow, known Kabbalistically as Ratzo V’Shuv. We are generally running (closer to G-d; ebbing) or returning (to the world; flowing). Similar to the mental benefits, the fire and ice is a combination of breath-work and meditation, which boosts presence and clarity. Additionally, by exposing the body and brain to very hot and very cold temperatures, you build resilience in the face of stress. I believe this is a spiritual benefit because it builds trust in the ability to withstand adversity, which correlates with the ability to trust in G-d. When there are physical and mental benefits, the spiritual benefits follow because you feel better and think clearer, which leads to decisions aligned with your intuition. Finally, breathing to maintain normal breathing in these temperatures can be similar to observing non-judgmentally circumstances in our life. Rather than react to the temperature and lose control, we can breath and return to our center regardless of the temperature, regardless of the situation.
Are you up for the challenge?
A Few Resources: