I was on a Kundalini Yoga kick way back when one of the recommended practices was an ice-cold shower.
Since I am 70% Viking according to 23 and Me (I should mention that I am also 30% daredevil), I thought this might be a great thing to try for pesky knots that would build up in my muscles from overworking.
So I would rub a little coconut oil on my skin, hold my breath, and step into freezing $#@^ water and gasp. I cannot lie. The first shower was paaaaaiinful. So was the second. Here’s how that went.
I took ice showers every morning, but only warm ones at night. It took approximately one month before something bizarre happened: My body actually acclimated to them! Did I love them? I’m not exactly sure. But I did develop hardiness, and I really came to appreciate how they made me feel afterward…noticeably pain-free.
In Kundalini Yogic tradition, these showers are called “Ishnaan,” which probably sounds somewhat similar to the screams that will fill the shower the first few times. Hang in there, though. There are good, physiological reasons to torture yourself for a time.
Cold showers act like giant cups of freezing-cold coffee, only poured throughout the inside of your body, dilating your capillaries and moving your circulation like a firehose. When the chilly agua meets your flesh, blood will push to all of your organs to protect and keep them warm. As a result, the capillaries initiate a forceful flushing action that clears and strengthens system-wide. In fact, it will quite literally support and awaken your entire nervous system all in one great big gasp. Cold hydrotherapy trains your vagus nerve, reduces pain, builds hardiness, and reduces swelling and inflammation. Professional athletes have been onto this for years, but this practice has very tangible benefits for the rest of us too. And we can get those benefits without sitting up to our necks in ice cubes.
If you’re game to start dipping your toe into this practice for its many gold stars, here are some steps that you can follow:
- Rub some oil on your body first. Coconut or Almond Oils are great for this and won’t leave you feeling greasy afterward. I like to make little coconut oil bars for this that you can check out <here>.
- Wear light shorts that cover your thighs and are loose (no bike shorts). I actually do this practice without them, but the thinking is that the femur bone in your leg, which regulates the calcium-magnesium balance in the body, could probably be spared the shock. Cold river swimmers may disagree with that, but I’ll leave it up to you.
- Work your way in and out of the cold water until you begin to get used to it, and start with the limbs before dunking the trunk.
- Scream if you must to whatever Britney Spears tune you choose.
A couple of notes to add here: in yogic hydrotherapy practices, it’s recommended that women don’t do this practice while enjoying a visit with their Aunt Flo (menstruation). This instruction has less to do with male supremacy than it does with simply working with the unique cycles of the female body. Advice for pregnant ladies is similar; it’s recommended to keep the showers short vs. avoiding them altogether. No one wants an angry baby with a grudge later, now do we?
Ladies are also encouraged to use this quality time to massage breast tissue and expose the armpits to the cold as well, as it will significantly help to move toxins along in this area.
Naturally, there are some cautions to this practice:
The downsides can include hypothermia, frostbite, and it can potentially be hard on your heart if you’ve already got cardiovascular issues. However, there’s a fine line here. A cool shower can actually condition your vascular system, but an already over-stressed body doesn’t need more stress. Start slow, or instead of going full-Icelandic Freezing, move to “much cooler” water, as defined by you not shrieking so loudly. Check with your doctor or healthcare provider to see if this is a practice that might be unsafe for you to try. If you absolutely cannot bring yourself to take the full-on cold shower, try simply washing your hands, face, feet, and ears with a cold washrag. You can watch this lady while you’re doing it and pretend that you’re as tough as she is. Vicariously taking cold showers worked for me for at least 1 month before I actually womaned-up did the real thing.
Again. If you are healthy and with no outstanding issues, I can’t speak highly enough of making this a regular thing. If you experience nagging muscular knots, have difficulty getting going in the morning, want to have great skin, and want to explore the incredible resilience that this can create for you, you simply must give this a try for 2-4 months.
It’s pretty cool. And I mean that both literally and figuratively.
What is your experience with cold showers? I’d love to hear it! Share in the comments below!