There is so much more to life than meets the eye if you choose to seek it. The seeker becomes the finder, the finder of so much more than we thought was possible. Most of us are raised to follow a familiar, predictable path: you go to school, choose a career, and then, if you are lucky, you earn a sabbatical, maybe a raise. This experience defines us, but it is not us. There is much, much, much more to our existence than that, to who we are in our depth. Our soul. And in accessing that soul, we find out that our minds and bodies are capable of so much more. We are beings of light who, by birthright, own our own minds and souls. This is the time to wake up to the true power we each possess within us. By consciously connecting with the reptilian brain, previously believed to be inaccessible, we have arrived at a new frontier, that of the brain-over-body consciousness. That consciousness allows you to truly trust your judgement based on intuition and instinct. I arrived at these insights going into the cold water, by reconditioning my mind and body to reject primordial, prehistoric feeling that the cold is our enemy and that we have to make fire and sit in the cave to combat it. We have nothing to combat but our own conditioning and fear.
In Chris Ryan’s book Civilised to Death, he ponders these deeper feelings, about how we have become so civilised so ensconced in our comfort zones, that it has gotten the better of us. He argues that we don’t live in nature anymore, but in opposition to it. And what, in the end, are we really opposing? The cold and its adverse power are not our enemy! The cold knows how to trigger our vascular system, which, if laid out end-to-end would stretch nearly two and a half times the length of the world. Cardiovascular-related disease are the number-one killer in our society today, but it doesn’t have to be that way. There are approximately sixty-two thousand miles of veins, arteries, and capillaries in each and every one of us. The vascular system is constructed, after millions of years of evolution, with millions of little muscles that contract and open the veins and the vascular channels in reaction to the weather. Regardless of if it is warm or hot, our core body temperature has to remain 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. If your core temperture dips only 2 or 3 degress below that, you go into hyperthemia, a hypothermic state. If it dips 3 degrees or more than that, it’s irriversible; your core body temperature spirals down, and your body is no longer able to heat up. So, we have this vascular system that opens and closes to protect ourselves from the cold and heat, to remain within the range of normal body temperatures. It’s a very delicate system.
But what did we do? We got into clothes. And we love these clothes so much, these dresses and suits and nice ties. They’re wonderful! We’ve got Gucci, Versace, Vanderbilt, all these fashions that everybody loves. But clothes actually de-stimulate our vascular system, the intricate system that delivers blood throughout our bodies. And when the elements are working on our vascular system, it opens and closes, it expands and contracts, and in doing so, the muscular tone of the vascular system is exercised. But wearing clothes, being dressed up all the time, is de-stimulating. These little muscles do not work. And do you know who’s paying for that? Our heart is.When these little vascular muscles are not tuned up, not working at an optimesed condition, our heart is forced to pump much more, deeper and stronger to get the blood flow through.This puts undue stress on our heart on a chronic basis. That’s one of the primary reasons, together with diet and exercise, why cardiovascular-related disease are the number-one killer in our society.
How do we tackle this killer? It’s very simple. A cold shower a day keeps the doctor away. The medical system is increasingly driven more by pharmaceutical solutions than by healing, and few would recommend this method, but it’s right there. It’s simple, and it works, and it doesn’t cost a thing. Our vascular system needs to be stimulated to achieve the desired muscular tone. It doesn’t need training, only awakening. Then, once it’s awakened and optimised, lets say in ten days, a whole sequence of magic begins to occur within the body.
Anybody who has ever stepped into an unheated swimming pool or endured an “Ice Bucket Challenge” knows that the immediate impact of cold water on our bodies can be uncomfortable, if not downright painful. It is therefore understandable why some might be reluctance to willingly submit to that discomfort. It’s unpleasant. But just as your body adjusts, in time, to the water in the swimming pool, so does it adjust, with repeated exposure, to the water in the cold shower. Initially, the cold water will precipitate a cold shock response, or a gasp reflex,which is a completely natural reaction. This may lead to some hyperventilation, yet this involuntary physiological response subsides over time as the body relaxes and begins to adjust to its new environment. The more often you take colder showers and the more accustomed you get to that initial shock, the more you begin to crave the sensation.
When you take a cold shower, all of those little muscles in your vascular system – millions of them – are activated and exercised. Within ten days of taking these showers, you will notice that your heart rate has decreased significantly, as much as fifteen to thirty beats per minute, and that it remains that way twenty-four hours a day. That translates to a lot less stress. It’s important to understand that your heart rate increases whenever your body experiences stress. That sends a primordial signal to the body to activate adrenaline and cortisol, which sets off a series of biochemical processes that exhaust your adrenal axis, your energy, because you’re in poor vascular condition. Your heart needs to pump more, work harder.
At the same time, while your energy is depleted, you’ve got your boss telling you to do this or that, your spouse is making their own demands, and your children are doing what children do, all of which increase your stress levels. Traffic on the roadways or mass-transit delays don’t help either. It all adds up, and the result is that your heart has to pump even more without any way to cool down, to have a rest, because your vascular system is compromised.
Now if you go and exercise your vascular system – I call it “vascular fitness” nowadays – you can effectively counteract this stress. Once you have trained yourself with exposure to cold, you can do “snowga”, which is, like it sounds, yoga in the snow. You can go and do exercises outdoors in the cold while bare-chested and barefoot, just in shorts. Within fifteen minutes, you won’t feel the cold, which is an indication that your vascular system has adapted. That’s innate. It was always there, but by constantly seeking comfort, we have become strangers to our natural, optimised vascular conditon. This is unfortunate becasue it’s our vascular system that delivers blood to the cells and with it, all the nutrients, oxygen, and vitamins our bodies need to thrive. And if your vascular system is exercised and adapted, your heart rate will decrease in turn, It’s the antidote to stress, and it all starts with cold showers.
Cold showers are the gateway to flow and energy and peace. I’m not exaggerating. It’s the entry point from which you will learn the power of the mind over the body. If you do just ten days of cold showers after warm showers, meaning that you end your regular, warm showers with a minute or so of cold water, then you will be able to command your vascular system to close up when you go into the cold. It’s amazing what your body can do at will, and all it takes is ten days of these showers to regain your optimal vascular tone and achieve this control. As your vascular system awakens and its muscles begin to tone up, it forges a connection with your brain, with your will.
From the book – The Wim Hof Method by Wim Hof