What if we told you that there is an exercise therapy that claims it can “reignite our age-old natural defense systems – the glowing, dormant embers inside our DNA”?
Sounds intriguing, right?
What if you were then told that it was about immersing your body in ice water?
Enter the Wim Hof Method, a practice of breathing, cold exposure, and meditation that claims to improve physical and mental well-being. Wim Hof - yes, he’s a real person – is a Dutch extreme athlete who is known for his death-defying stunts like swimming under ice caps, running sub-zero marathons wearing nothing but shorts and s immersing in ice water for long periods of time. He has won several Guinness World Records and has been featured in a Netflix series called The Goop Lab, about Gwyneth Paltrow’s wellness business. The Wim Hof Method is a practice of breathing, cold exposure, and meditation that claims to improve physical and mental well-being.
And in Sarasota, holistic practitioner Brock Cannon, a certified Wim Hof instructor, brings the method to the community, even though we don’t have frozen lakes or icy oceans. (Today, for example, the temperature of the Gulf of Mexico is 88.5 degrees Fahrenheit.)
Cannon, who moved from Santa Barbara, Calif., to Sarasota in June, grew up as a professional mountain biker and ultramarathon runner, but it wasn’t until three years ago when he battled mental health issues, that he discovered the power of cold.
One day, while visiting his hometown in Utah, Cannon went for a run in the snow early in the morning. Afterwards, he had the sudden urge to jump into the nearby frozen lake.
“It was like instinct,” he recalls. “When I came out I felt alive, full of energy and all my anxious thoughts were gone. I wanted to start over.”
Cannon searched frozen bodies of water for the rest of his trip until his wife suggested he get professional training in the art of cold therapy. It was then that he discovered the Wim Hof method.
So why is the cold so beneficial for our body?
“Exposure to cold for two to three minutes can help reduce inflammation and may improve circulation and the process of vasoconstriction/vasodilation in your arteries,” Cannon says. “It can help boost immunity and is beneficial for people with autoimmune diseases.”
Although discoveries about the benefits of cold therapy are limited, the practice has been used by Finnish and European civilizations for centuries. The Journal of Applied Physiology published a study in 2020 that found exposure to cold can increase the body’s energy expenditure and utilization of glucose and fatty acids in healthy individuals. There is evidence to suggest that it may also help people with diabetes and obesity. In 2021, the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that cold therapy had a positive effect on the cardiovascular system, particularly on lipid profiles and blood pressure.
However, not everyone can practice cold therapy. If you have heart disease or are prone to seizures or fainting spells, this is not recommended. Talk to your doctor before trying a session.
Cannon likes to focus on the mental benefits of the practice. He says cold exposure recharges your nervous system and brain, increasing adrenaline, serotonin and norephineprine, which help improve mood. He has trained people who have seen reductions in depression, anxiety, and stress. It also teaches a concept called hormesis, which is subjecting your body to short periods of stress that can build mental resilience.
Wim Hof instructors can be found all over the world, but Cannon is number one in the Sarasota-Manatee area. He has already organized several training sessions in town, which were sold out. Cannon thinks Sarasota is a wellness hub, and we’re becoming increasingly curious about alternative healing methods.
“Every time I host a session, using my 100 gallon tub filled with ice, people hesitate, but after a minute of getting used to it, they don’t want to come out,” Cannon explains. “My job is to help them slow down their breathing, calm down and submit to it.”
Breathing is an essential part of the method. Hof created a practice that draws on ancient yogic teachings, where you inhale and exhale forcefully for 30-40 times quickly, then hold your breath, then release with a big exhale. The process causes hyperventilation and creates an almost psychedelic “high” in the body, inducing relaxation. It can be repeated three times. Cannon says he does it every day to calm the mind, and after breathing and getting into an ice bath, he doesn’t even need coffee to start his day.
“This method reminded me and anyone who practices that we can do hard things,” Cannon says. “We can overcome emotional obstacles and fear in life, and improve our well-being.”
If you are curious about the benefits of the Wim Hof Method and want to work with Cannon, he plans to hold several more trainings. You can make a reservation on their website. For more from Cannon, follow him on Instagram @iambrockcannon.