Out of the comfort into the ice
My semester abroad in Sydney turned out completely different than expected. A journey of gaining a new body awareness through the Wim Hof Method and meeting the Ice Man in person.
Arriving in Sydney
Not long ago I arrived in Manly, a beachside suburb of Sydney in Australia, located at the northern beaches. I moved into a house just a few minutes away from the ocean and the little town centre. Strolling around the house I discovered something that I never expected would change my life. A white chest freezer with a little stool in front of it. Out of pure curiosity, I lifted the top and there was just water in it with floating chunks of ice. Why would anyone have a broken icy chest freezer in the house?
Ice bath in the snowy mountains in Australia, 2019 Pic: Will Solis
Not paying too much attention to my discovery, I went to a yoga class at Power Living in Manly. I rolled out my mat and had a look around to see who else was practicing with me. My gaze wandered across the mats and got stuck on a man in the corner. A tall, blond young man with two large tattoos on his chest and thighs, radiating powerful energy. The class began, 60 minutes of Power Vinyasa Yoga to calm the mind through demanding asanas led by breath. I opened my eyes after the Savasana, the end relaxation, let my eyes wander over the faces in the room, but the young man was no longer there.
On the way back I walked along the beach, up the stairs back to the house in a street with a stunning view at the International College of Management (ICMS), where I enrolled to study one semester of journalism. The waves looked as though they would be fun to surf. I went to my room to put my wetsuit on, took a sip of water in the kitchen and suddenly he was standing in the kitchen. The man from the yoga class, now smiling at me saying: “Hi, I am Johannes, your flatmate”. Slightly overwhelmed I introduced myself as well and he invited me to go to Shelly Beach later for ice baths, cacao and acro yoga. After some good waves at Manly Beach, I made my way to Shelly beach to meet up with him.
There was a group of people at the small, sheltered beach cove with shimmering, clear turquoise water. They were dancing, playing the drums, drinking cacao and plunging into little pools with ice cubes in it. My head still didn’t make the connection to my discovery earlier. I was just watching with fascination at how calm the people remained sitting surrounded by ice without any shivering or discomfort. They were staying in the cold water about for 2 minutes, coming out with an uplifted energy and began to move in a squat position, pushing their arms side to side to heat their bodies. I was excited but still not comfortable enough to try it myself. Johannes gave me warm cacao. But it didn’t taste like one that I would have at home. It had a deep chocolaty, lightly bitter and very smooth taste. It is ceremonial grade cacao from Keith’s Cacao made in Guatemala by the chocolate shaman Keith.’ explained Johannes. Ceremonial Cacao is roasted lightly and contains Theobromine that potentiates the release of dopamine, the ‘pleasure’ hormone. After a few sips, I could feel it. I felt happy and my heart more open to connecting to the people around me.
As the days went on I slowly began to settle into Sydney, adapting the Australian lifestyle more and more. For me, that meant doing Yoga early in the morning, surfing, hanging around at the beach and drinking coffee besides studying. One morning I went into the basement to get my surfboard, next to the mysterious chest freezer. But this time it was open and Johannes sat in it with his eyes closed, breathing quietly between the chunks of ice. I waited until he came out of the water to get to the bottom of the mystery of ice bathing. However, when he was out the first thing he did was jump on the trampoline
cacao and celery juice we sat down at the kitchen table to finally dive into the ice topic.
Johannes on the trampoline in our Manly shared house, 2019
“Okay, Johannes you are a health nut, I mean who drinks celery juice for breakfast with a cup of Cacao instead of Coffee. After doing yoga at 6 am and freezing your body. Why do you do all of this?’’, I asked.
“These simple, but powerful practices brought me back in touch with myself. I have a daily routine of breathing and cold exposure to be on top of myself on a daily base. You should try it’’
A few days later I was sitting in the car with Johannes driving up the east coast of Australia to Coffs Harbour. He taught a Wim Hof Method Fundamentals Workshop and I was going to experience my first Wim Hof breathing and ice bath. On the way we packed up the car with heaps of ice bags, the cold air from the back made me shiver a bit, though it made me even more excited for the upcoming experience. We arrived at a house in Coffs Harbour that had been turned into a yoga studio. Johannes filled inflatable pools with water, put up posters with information about cold exposure, breath
work and rolled out yoga mats.
The first participants came into the room, sat quietly on the mats and waited for the Wim Hof workshop by Johannes Egberts to begin. 20 excited eyes were starring at Johannes as he welcomed everyone and started the workshop. First, we formed a circle so that we could all see each other. Everybody introduced themselves and had a different reason for being there. Some told fascinating stories. A man in his fifties got very sick and started to practice the method and it gave him hope and strength to keep on fighting. Some shared of their struggles with medical conditions, depression or trauma that brought them here. Some came out of pure curiosity and excitement to learn about something unknown. The workshop created a safe environment for everyone to open up, share and experience the capability of their bodies
I revealed that I have Hashimoto Thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease of the Thyroid causing inflammation in the body, fatigue, depression and many other symptoms. An autoimmune disease is when the immune system confuses something natural in the body as an invader, then it attacks and attempts to destroy it. The body starts to attack itself from the inside out. This is where the Wim Hof Method could potentially bring relief. People suffering from chronic inflammation have used this alternative approach to manage unwanted inflammation and suppress an overactive immune system. Over the past years I tried medication, different diets and sports but nothing made me feel completely healthy.
Could the Wim Hof Method have the key to get my body back into a strong, healthy and happy state? Or at least hand over some control back over my body functions?
In the first place I had to learn what the method was. As far as I knew it was a practice based on th