Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll have noticed that people are slightly more stressed than they were in the not-too-distant past. The Coronavirus pandemic elevated the rate of stress and other mental health conditions among the general population, and those issues have only intensified in recent months in response to the Ukraine situation and the rising cost of living crisis. It’s fair to say that these are stressful and chaotic times that we’re living in.
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But happily, we don’t have to face life’s trials and tribulations alone. There are a host of tried and tested methods for reducing stress levels. These include things like taking a walk in nature, practicing meditation and doing yoga, all of which have been shown to have a positive impact on a person’s stress levels.
And then there are the seemingly more extreme, more effective stress-busting methods. The Wim Hof Method has steadily grown in popularity in recent years because of the many benefits that it brings to practitioners.
The practice has stretched far from its origins in the Netherlands to other corners of the world, including Thailand, where Kam, The Thai Ice Woman, has recently become the first Thai person — and the first woman — to be a Wim Hof Method instructor in the country.
Many people were drawn to Wim Hof when he shared his method with the world. But not everyone took the time to make it a fully-fledged part of their life. But that’s just what Kam did. She’s been practicing Wim Hof Method breathwork for more than three years as a regular practitioner. But she recently decided to level up her understanding of the practice and spent a lot of time studying everything there is to know about the Wim Hof Method, including the all-important cold exposure and mindset techniques that make the method so effective.
Her commitment to and understanding of the method led her to be given official Wim Hof Method Instructor certification. And with that, she became the first Thai Wim Hof Method instructor in the world. That means that a whole new population of people will be able to have a closer relationship with a technique that has already had a profound impact on the lives of many people around the world.
Kam’s achievements — and her name — may be new news to the majority of people around the world, but it’ll come as no surprise to people in her native Thailand, where she is already a well-known figure. She rose to prominence after completing a test of endurance that had many people in her country looking on with great interest — and just a pinch of bewilderment since the idea of cold baths was still a new phenomenon.
She undertook the challenge of taking zero-degree Celsius ice baths 100 days in a row. She was able to gain a large audience for her challenge by posting her journey on her Breath Inspired Instagram page. The fact that she undertook this challenge during the Coronavirus lockdown meant there were plenty of people who tuned in to see what she was doing — and the positive effect that the ice-cold baths had on her mental and physical wellbeing.
A Response to COVID
In uncertain times, people turn in all directions to try to find a solution that will help them to cope with the stress of the period that they’re living through. Some people began baking bread. Others played games online with their friends and family.
But Kam decided to do something else. She wanted to take the Wim Hof practices that she already knew one step further. She was always practicing the breathing technique, but now, faced with an uncertain future and more than a hint of fear, she decided to look at the more extreme parts of Wim Hof’s teachings: the ice bath.
And as she explains herself, she had a good reason for doing so. She was in a desperate position. “I couldn’t teach yoga; I couldn’t go to the gym. I was scared for myself, my family, and my friends. I think everyone was scared. I felt stressed all the time. My sleep was terrible. I didn’t know what to do.” Due to the restrictions, she had to close her Breath Inspired studio. Her passion, project, income, and way to connect with both herself and others were lost to her, and there was no indication of when she would be able to open it again.
Even her old tried and tested methods, such as meditation, failed to help her. Kam is a Buddhist and has been meditating since she was a child, but she soon found that that approach, which is usually so effective at helping people to unwind and relax, was no longer effective. Indeed, she couldn’t do it. While she could usually lock into a meditation session and reap the benefits, once the coronavirus pandemic hit, she found that she was unable to control her mind and that it was always racing towards the fear and anxiety that many people felt at that time.
Enter the ice bath. Wim Hof swears by it, but it’s something that Kam had never tried herself. Desperate times call for desperate measures. She says that as soon as she lowered herself into that freezing water, all the anxiety and stress that she felt faded away. The technique put her into an instantly meditative state, at a level that surpassed the state she could achieve through meditation. The ice-bath is one of three Wim Hof Method pillars — the others being breathing and mindset — that, when put together, can have a transformative effect.
She knew that she was onto something important. But if there’s one thing that we all know, it’s that there’s a big difference between knowing what’s good for you and actually doing it.
While the ice bath part of the Wim Hof Method may be tough for many people, it’s arguably more difficult for people that have spent their entire life in Thailand, such as Kam. After all, Thailand is a warm country. The change of temperature that someone like Kam would experience would be more extreme than the experience of someone from, say, the UK.
And Kam has good reason to know that: her partner is also a certified Wim Hof Instructor and happens to be from the UK. While people from colder climates rarely jump into ice water with enthusiasm, they do have more experience in handling chillier temperatures.
Kam did not have that experience. In fact, she hated the cold. And that’s something that makes her achievement all the more impressive. It’s one thing to do something because you suspect that it will make you feel better. But it’s another thing to overcome your fear or dislike of something in order to achieve those results.
We should make a point to really drive this point home: Kam didn’t only dislike the cold; she positively hated it. She says that she used to wear gloves when she was going to the cinema just to keep her hands warm. While it’s noble when everyone becomes a Wim Hof Method instructor, we think it’s slightly more impressive if the person had to overcome hardship to get there. And to some people, there’s nothing more difficult than voluntarily stepping into a cold environment.
Thankfully, the reward for doing so wasn’t just worth it; they were life-changing. We all hope that there’ll be some benefits to stepping outside of our comfort zone. But Kam didn’t just get a moment of positivity. She knew that she had found something that could have a hugely positive impact not only on her own life but on many other people’s lives, too.
The Impact On The Body and Mind
You may have heard of people talking about the benefits of ice baths. People that make it part of their lives are usually eager to tell others about all the advantages that it can bring, for good reasons: if taking an ice bath can make you feel much better about yourself and life in general, then it’s entirely possible that others will have the same experience.
The benefits that Kam experienced were in line with what other people experienced. She found that she was brought into an instantly meditative state. You can achieve a level of “zen-ness” within a couple of minutes of being in ice water, which is much faster than how long it would take you to reach the same state through conventional meditation, at least for those people who have less experience.
It’s not just the mental boost that attracted Kam to the ice baths. The physical benefits did, too. The best way to describe it would be like a rush of feel-good chemicals zipping around your body and mind. Kam found that she felt so good after her first attempt that she made it part of her regular daily schedule.
To take an ice bath just once can be a little daunting to newcomers. To sign up to do it for one hundred days in a row is something else entirely. But that’s just what Kam set out to do. She decided to document the journey on social media, which attracted the attention of many people in her country and beyond.
She understood that if something could make you feel amazing within a couple of minutes, then it’s probably worth pursuing. And over the 100 days for which she set herself the challenge, things only improved. There are plenty of benefits to doing something that improves your life just once; if you’re able to do those things again and again and again, then there’s no telling where it will take you. We’re all more likely to reach our highest potential once our mental and physical states are operating at their highest levels.
Kam says that she always viewed herself as weak. And, of course, how we view ourselves is hugely important; other people may see you as strong, but if you don’t have a high opinion of yourself, then life will be an uphill battle.
Kam’s ice bath challenge made her fundamentally change how she saw herself, with exceptional results. It’s not hard to see why. She says that stepping into the cold releases “a cascade of beneficial changes in the body and brain.”
Over time, this impacted how she saw herself. Suddenly, she wasn’t a weak, scared person. She was strong and fearless. That’s a dramatic transformation to undertake within the span of a few months. The effects of her challenge have stayed with her. She says that she no longer feels afraid; she’s strong, happy, and healthy. And that’s something that she wants to share with others, hence her decision to go deep into the world of the Wim Hof Method and learn how to share the gift with other people in her community and beyond. This is especially important to Kam, who recognises that the lack of access to Wim Hof Method materials (in the Thai language at least) and a stubborn cultural resistance to the cold has meant only a few Thai people have practiced the method.
So what does the future hold for Kam? She’s hoping to put her education into practice and share the gift of the Wim Hof Method with other people in Thailand. Her motivation for doing this is beautifully simple: she knows that there are many people living high-stress lives, and she wants to help those people to live calmer, happier lives.
It’s an opportunity that she’s relishing. While anyone can practice the Wim Hof Method, you do have to know how to do it. And so far, the majority of classes have only been offered in English and other European languages. Kam’s certification changes that. She’ll be teaching classes in Thai, which will allow people from all over the country to enjoy this profoundly impactful method. She already has some experience in making the Wim Hof Method available to her compatriots; when she was studying, she translated the method from English into Thai.
For Kam, a native of Nan in the north of Thailand, it’s another step in the journey that includes teaching pranayama and Buddhism meditation. For the people of Thailand, it’s an opportunity to make a significant improvement to their mental and physical well-being. They may not like the cold at first, but with Kam’s assistance, they’ll learn how to overcome the fear, just as Kam did.
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More information is available from Breath Inspired’s press contact, Patricia. To reach the company by email, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Breath Inspired’s postal address is No.30 Sukhumvit Soi 61 Klongton Nua, Bangkok, Wattana 10110, Thailand.