One of my favourite things about living in the north is bathing in the cold water all year long. It might sound crazy, but it’s absolutely doable and it can be an amazing experience, an internal dive and a total energy kicker. Actually, it’s like yoga. You practice ease, presence, body awareness and feeling, and it makes you feel great. In this post I want to share some tips on how to make your ice bathing experience most enjoyable.
I am gonna use the words ice bathing or cold bathing for bathing in cold water – sea, river or mountain lake – all year long, not only during winter. Obviously I will also cover the winter months bathing with snow and ice, woollen hat and bikini.:)
Why shall I do that?
In many towns in Norway there are so called ice bathing groups – people who meet up regularly to do the ice bathing together. There are even some individuals who bath every single day, no matter the weather. So why would someone go out in minus degrees, take off the clothes and dive in the freezing water? Is it some form for masochism? No, not at all! There is many benefits on both physical and psychological plan. Let’s have a look at them.
- It’s a total reset. Any time I experience a dis-balance in any way, I feel moody, uninspired, angry, overwhelmed, too hyper, nostalgic or even having headache, stomach ache or any other ache, I know that it will be at least 10 times better if I go for the cold sea bath. In 99 % it works. I don’t think I remember one time I had regretted taking a cold bath. It works as a total reset of your system, whenever you need it. You gain back clarity, focus and strength. You feel balanced and energised.
- It boosts your immune system. My mom would say: Omg, don’t go to that cold water, you’re gonna get sick! Nope. The opposite is right! It’s scientifically proven that regular cold bathing or cold showers improve the immune system. The body experiences the icy bath as a mild stressor and starts to produce more white cells to combat the enemy. One ice bath a day, takes the doctor away. That is true!
- It makes you glow from inside out. Ice bathing makes your blood run faster in your veins, arteries and capillaries, flushing the toxins out of it, cleansing and exfoliating your skin, fighting the cellulite, revitalising the whole system. It’s fascinating. You can literally hear it all happening in your body. The heart pumping, the blod rushing around, the whole body pulsing. You feel and look alive!
3. It connects you to nature and to yourself. Sea bathing can be like a dialog with the sea. You enter the magical sphere and let it take you for a while. The waves are hugging you, carrying you, welcoming you in their space. This is great to have on your mind right from the beginning of the bathing. Once you are out of the water, relaxing and soaking it all in, you may get a nice and intimate feeling of yourself. Suddenly it’s so obvious and easy to know who you are and who you want to be. So natural. And you promise yourself to remember it forever. Or at least until next time you come to bath.
How shall I do it?
Are you asking if you can do ice bathing even if you hate being cold or just the idea of it makes you freeze? Yes, you can and here are some tips how.
1. It’s all in your head. As you probably know the right mindset is everything, so remember this before you head for your cold water adventure. Think of water as a healing agent, as a cheerful friend, as a loving substance, a harmonising element. How lucky you are who can dip yourself in it and receive all the benefits! Totally free of charge. Talking aloud is also helpful, choosing positive and encouraging language is a good idea though. You wanna say something motivating like: I’ve got this! It’s super exciting and wonderful and good for me! I’m loving it! I am warm! This is fun! rather than What a heck am I doing? This is crazy and totally absurd! I wanna go home!
2. Find a song. Almost every time I go ice bathing, I sing! It’s like a ritual. I have one song which I use every time and it totally works for me. It’s The anchor song, by Bjork. It somehow helps me create the connection with the sea and brings more ease, fun and intimacy into the process.
3. Find your own pace. I love to walk in the water calmly and feel that I have control over what is happening, while others may prefer to run in or even jump in. This is very individual and up to you to discover. If you decide for walking in slowly, don’t be too slow, just walk forward step by step and breathe. Let the water reach your knees and belly, then slowly dip in. Once you’re in, move your legs and arms very quickly, to keep you warm. This may be very intense! Sometimes I even scream and laugh, like a crazy person!:) This really draws you in the present moment! Then head back to the land, whenever you are ready playing.
4. Don’t skip the relaxation. Here comes the best part. The reward. The celebration. You did it! Now just enjoy the feeling! Maybe stay still for a while, either standing, siting or lying down. I love to lay down on some huge flat stone or in the sea weed and just BE. In winter months, it’s important to put your shoes and clothes on before you relax. Relaxation allows the body to receive all the benefits of the bath, calm down, reset and start repairing all the tissues. Again, it’s like yoga! You don’t want to skip shavasana – the relaxation part. Once you start feeling cold, it’s time to go home and have a warm shower.
5. Hot shower. It’s ultra indulging to have a hot shower after the cold bath. The shower is probably gonna make you feel like new born. Enjoy the comfort feeling, the creativity boost and amazing mood! Total wellbeing. Luxury.
6. The rain and the run. Sometimes it‘s grey and rainy outside, a typical stay in bed weather and the last thing you could think about is to get out and have a cold bath. At these cases it‘s really great to go and have a quick run. Running makes you warm very fast and gets all in you moving. It constantly changes your mood as the endorphins flows in the blood stream pretty fast. The great thing is that after 15 or 20 minute run you suddenly love the idea of jumping in the cold water. Bathing in the rain is one of the biggest treats! The water feels warmer then usually and the feeling afterwards is just pure magic.
7. What do I need? You don’t really need so much. Most of the time I just bath naked or in my underwear since the places I choose are mostly without people. I often forget my towel too but it’s nice to have one, so that you can dry yourself and have something warm and soft around you while you relax. In winter you should be more prepared. Some people use special shoes or even gloves which they can use in water because feet and hands are the parts which usually freeze most. Also, bring some warm clothes and shoes which are easy to get into and make sure that you remember where you put your them! It’s quite horrible when you start freezing after you bath and can’t find your clothes! I am talking from experience here.:)
8. Bring a friend. Sometimes it’s really nice to do cold bathing with a friend. It might be even more fun. You take care of and challenge each other and share the experience. Also if you are doing this for the first time, it is a good idea to be with someone. On the other hand, once you feel you’ve got this, I definitely recommend to go and cold bath by yourself from time to time. This gives you even more space to turn your cold water dip into a more internal experience and really connect to what is happening to you.
9. Bring a warm drink. In a case you want to bring your cold bathing experience on more luxurious level, you can have a termos with warm coffee, tea or hot chocolate to get warm and cosy. Obviously, this is extra appreciated in winter. You can find the recipe for medicinal hot chocolate here.
10. What to avoid. There is a couple of things which you might want to think about before you go for your ice bathing. If you feel sick and cold, you don’t wanna go and challenge the body even more. (I still believe that it might actually make you fit but it is probably a better idea to use ice bathing as a prevention of cold rather then a cure.) Another thing you want to avoid is to freeze too long. Specially in winter months, don’t wait too long with getting dressed. Don’t let yourself trick by the ecstatic feeling of warm and comfort, right after you got from the water. It feels like you could stay there forever but its not true!:) Also, in winter, make sure that you are not too far from a warm car or another warm place.
11. Always listen to your intuition. I believe that deep inside we always know what is right. The body always knows what is best for us and tries to communicate the message. Sometimes we listen, sometimes we choose to ignore it, sometimes the reason manages to convince us that the opposite is true. I have a good experience with trusting my feelings and intuition and I like to use it in ice bathing too.
12. Experiment with timing and places. Sometimes it is really nice and exciting to try bathing in different weather and places. The most moody and nostalgic weather can provide you with the best bathing experience ever and elevate your mood up to the sky! I love so much bathing in the fog. It feels super mysterious and beautiful. Rain is also great, or even snow for the more extreme situations. Obviously you want to avoid dangerous situations like storms or wild sea. Using the common sense is always a good idea here.
There is so many beautiful settings and places which invite you to dive in the water. Sunrises, sunsets, places you love. In my experience, I remember a certain place even better when I bath there. It is like you are taking the place in with the whole body, literally.
13. Just do it and see! Some people might say: No, way, I am freezing already while reading this post. Brrrr! Well, sometimes I do too! Sometimes I think: now I would not get in that water even for 100000 crowns. It differs all the time. The truth is, I am hooked. I am hooked on the amazing feeling of presence, freshness, clarity and joy which ice bathing gives me again and again. Also, I believe that whenever we try something new or get out of our comfort zone, we learn about ourselves, we become stronger and the comfort zone becomes larger. I believe that human nature likes to explore and experiment. This feeds our curiosity and makes us experience life as it is – mysterious and exciting.
I hope this post was in some way useful and inspiring for you. I really enjoyed sharing my thoughts on this topic with you. If you give it a try, let me know how it went in the comments below!