Ice Baths. At first I was terrified. My beautiful friend Dani had just completed her Wim Hof training and I was intrigued. I’d watched her own personal transformation with this practice and needed to experience it for myself. With her patient teaching and holding space we immersed in ice and the results are profound. This is a new journey for me into discomfort and learning about the physiological effects of cold exposure .. and its exciting. So I wanted to share Dani’s story with you.
WIM HOF training in Poland with Dani Smith
“I was sitting at the airport waiting to board a plane to head to Poland to complete my Wim Hof teacher training. I had been working so hard all year to get to this point. Then fear and doubt set in. I live on the Sunny Gold Coast, where it is beautiful one day and perfect the next and I was about to expose myself to sub zero snowy conditions where I would immerse in ice cold water and be expected to climb a mountain in -5 degrees in my gym gear where my abdomen and arms and legs would be exposed – how was I meant to do this – this is crazy.
But if anything this experience has taught me to enjoy the Journey and savour every bump, fear, doubt and success along the way. So I felt into these emotions as it is quite a natural response but then I decided to change my mindset and repeat one of Wim Hof’s mantras F%$K FEAR. Nothing great comes without discomfort and challenges so I knew that this was going to be tough but it’s about looking fear in the eye and doing it anyway.
We arrived at our hotel all excited, enthused and anxious about the week ahead – knowing that we will be expected to step outside of our comfort zone, push our limits physically, emotionally and intellectually.
The first day started with a walk down to a nearby lake – there was snow on the ground, the air was crisp and windy – we then had to strip down to our swimmers and submerge in the running water which sat at 0.8 degrees – it was the coldest thing I had ever experienced – although I had been preparing with ice baths all year I had never had the temperature outside of the water be that cold or be in that cold of temperatures. I felt like there were razor blades going through my feet and hands and again that fear and doubt and limiting beliefs set in – could I really handle being in these temperatures. Your breath gets taken away instantly and you start to breath heavily but as you focus on your breath and you start to calm down then you are left feeling quite peaceful and euphoric and it becomes such an enjoyable experience. As we got out we stood in the snow barefoot in the sand had to perform the horse stance – this exercise helps you to stay focused and stay connected as you are trying to give your body the opportunity to warm itself up and surprisingly I could. I was left feeling invigorated, energised, present, connected and like I could achieve anything. We really are innately built to withstand environmental conditions however we seek comfort over discomfort so our bodies have become weak – all we need to do is to expose our bodies to these conditions to remind our bodies that it is capable of far more than we have been led to believe.
Throughout the rest of the week we were exposed to extreme cold exposure in fresh water and did an abundance of breathwork all in the preparation of climbing this mountain – this mountain was not only a physical challenge for me but a representation of the metaphoric mountains that we have to climb everyday with challenges and adversity that we are faced with – if I could get through this next challenge – I could do anything and survive anything that was thrown at me. We were told to meet downstairs at 08:00hours with our bags packed, our hiking boots on and just wearing minimal clothes that we would wear up the mountain. I wore a sports bra and gym pants. It had been snowing all night and there was quite a bit of wind and the temperature outside was -5 degrees. We gathered in our sub groups of people so we could all make sure everyone was safe. WE set on our way up the mountain – the adrenalin at first and excitement of what we were about to embark on set in for the first 30 minutes – after a while I felt pain in my left shoulder and it again felt like I was getting stabbed by knives as it was that cold – I had to indulge in the pain for a while and feel in to it and had a conversation with myself as to whether this was really painful or was I creating the pain as a way of resisting – was this the way that fear was being presented to me in my body – I had two options I could push through this pain and continue on my journey up the mountain or I could turn around and head back to our accommodation. As soon as I decided to push through the pain and suffering the pain actually subsided and I was able to continue our route uphill with no pain. There were beautiful pine trees around, the fresh smell of snow on the ground – it was the perfect representation of mother nature at her finest. It was at this moment I realised how important it is to be in nature – even if its placing your feet in the ocean for a couple of minutes or placing your feet in the soil or hiking a mountain just as long as you have some exposure to nature. As I walked up the mountain I spent some time in silence really taking everything in and as well as having beautiful conversations and connections with some amazing humans I was sharing this experience with – most of us were strangers a week ago yet through challenging ourselves we were able to develop these beautiful, true, long lasting connections. We finally made it up the top of the mountain and everyone of our group made it to the top where we proceeded to do snow angels with our bellies and backs in the snow. I cannot believe what I had just achieved – if someone had told me 12 months ago that this is where I would be on top of a Polish mountain skin exposed to the snow I would have laughed in disbelief. Having a fear and a hatred from the cold I now have a deep respect and love for it – knowing that I can use the cold as a metaphor for life Exposing yourself in these extreme conditions really shows you that you can handle anything that life throws at you. When in the cold you really can’t think about anything except for the here and now so making to be PRESENT something as a society we really struggle at doing.
AS a part of this experience we were asked to share why we were doing this work and why we wanted to teach this method to others. I had prepared a presentation but when it was nearly my turn to share I realised that what I had created was very surface and safe. The reason I had come up with wasn’t really the reason and I knew that if I really wanted to succeed in teaching this method then I had to share my true story. I had to have the courage to be vulnerable as how can I ask others to be open and honest when I was about to not be myself. –I had never shared this reason publicly so I was petrified and anxious. We were about to wrap up the sharing session and I almost didn’t do it. I suddenly threw up my hand and asked to have my turn so I went up to the elevated area and proceeded to share. The reason that I felt so strongly about this method is that for 8 years I had an eating disorder. I spent 8 years hating and loathing my body, taking extreme measures of not eating food, addicted to laxatives, addicted to exercise. I was so low and depressed, anxious, lost and wanted to die. I spent those years trying to disconnect from the pain and suffering that I became so numb.I actually prayed to die that I would be struck down with an illness that would take my life. Then one day I felt so sick and I passed out in the laundry and hit my head and didn’t have the energy to get up – at that moment I thought I was going to die and realised that I didn’t actually want that. It was at that moment that I wanted to get better. In western medicine the minute that I was a “normal” weight I was considered cured. Yet I was left with a distorted relationship with food, gut issues, weak immune system, low energy levels , self love issues and an inability of feeling and connecting. I then discovered recreational drugs as these allowed me to feel it allowed me to feel love and happiness albeit chemical feeling it allowed me to feel so I continued to take them again, and again and again. Until all of a sudden I needed to take more to feel anything and then I actually stopped feeling better when I had them and feeling low and depressed on the days I wasn’t taking any again I felt so lost and loathed and hated the person I had become. I felt like I couldn’t have conversations or feel connected to people without having drugs. This is not the human I wanted to be. This then sparked my journey on searching for a way to connect to myself and others without chemicals. I explored yoga, shamanic breathwork, transcendental meditation and although these practises were great for my health there was still something missing from really allowing me to connect to myself and have control over my mind, body and energy levels. 2 years ago I then had my first exposure to the Wim Hof method at a Wim Hof event. Not only was I inspired by the passion of Wim himself and the adversity that he had overcome but the feeling I was left with after the breathing and ice bath – it was as if I had finally arrived home to myself – I realised that this is the magic that I had been waiting for. I felt more connected to myself, to others and was so present in the moment – I was awake I felt as if I have been given a second chance in life. I kept practising this method and continued to see improvements within myself in the way that I saw things and the way that I responded to things, my energy levels. I just knew that I need to share this with others so I applied for the Wim Hof academy”
Having to share this experience was freeing and liberating. I realised that vulnerability is freedom and that if I could turn my pain and suffering into a positive then I didn’t go through all of this suffering for nothing – that I could help others experience this open connected way of living.
This experience really taught me the importance of love and connection. We live in a world where we are forced to suppress our emotions, where people don’t feel , not feeling connection within themselves or to each other. A world where busy-iness and Stress is considered gospel and the norm and numbing ourselves out with pharmaceuticals , substances and alcohol seems to be society’s prescription to deal with sickness and disease. We know that 95% of all illness and disease comes from inflammation and inflammation is caused from stress. We are not taught how to deal with stress so this method really teaches us how to deal with managing our stress so if we can master this practise then we take control of our own health and lead a conscious life. We have the ability to control our own minds and bodies through breathing, cold exposure, nature and commitment to the practise
This was the most rewarding and life changing experience and I now have a mission to help people realise that they do have the power to be happy, healthy and strong and I would love to teach this method with as many people as I can so if you would like to join me in one of my workshops to unlock your greatest potential then email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or head to this page to sign up for a listed upcoming workshops. https://www.wimhofmethod.com/instructors/daniellesmith”
Love and Gratitude
“We really are innately built to withstand environmental conditions however we seek comfort over discomfort so our bodies have become weak – all we need to do is to expose our bodies to these conditions to remind our bodies that it is capable of far more than we have been led to believe.” Dani Smith