When we experience a stressful situation, one of the first things disrupted is our breath. In fact, it has been said that many (or most) of us, don’t know how to breathe ‘properly.’ Uncanny, that something so precious is given such little thought. The Wim Hof technique is nothing new, however Benjamin Berry of the Conscious Club is ‘breathing’ fresh air into the concept with the ice bathing and, as the hinterland folk do so well, a strong sense of community fostering positive mental and physical outcomes for all.
In line with Mental Health Awareness Month, we chat with Benjamin on the extended benefits of ‘breath and ice.’
M+E: Talk to us about the Conscious Club, its frequency, main objectives, the change you hope to make and the people you attract?
BB: The Conscious Club is our twice weekly meet-up for people who have either completed one of my breath and ice workshops, or who have practiced the Wim Hof Method themselves and are confident with ice bathing.
The club was created with the sole purpose of building connection after the disconnect we all faced during the last few years, and we attract all kinds of people – there is no target market or ideal participant. If you can breathe and want to connect with people in your community, you are welcome.
There’s something very special about starting your day before the sun rises, knocking out half an hour of powerful breath work and having an icy dip all before most people have risen out of bed.
M+E: You combine ice (or cold exposure) and breath work, what are short-and long-term benefits of each, individual practice and then the strength of combining the two?
There are so many benefits to the Wim Hof breathwork, and it’s personally where I felt the most impact to my life when I started on my own journey. In short, we alkalise the blood which gives our body a chance to rest and repair, and we spike a cytokine called Interluekin-10 which is our body’s anti-inflammatory warrior. The physical benefits to this are wide ranging, but we’ve found through peer-reviewed studies that this has a tangible benefit to people who suffer from any form of inflammation (from chronic injury, acute illness to chronic disease).
The breathwork also has a profound effect on your mental state, with most people reporting that their experiences range from a general increase in wellbeing and happiness, to states of extreme bliss and euphoria.
We ice bath to put our body into a deep state of stress, and we move through that stress by controlling our breath. When the body passes through that state of stress (which it will!), we learn to trust our body and learn how the mind really isn’t the one in control. This corresponds to all parts of life that we experience stress, anxiety and fear in. Usually, the first thing to go in these situations is our breath. This then heightens the body’s reaction to the situation in a negative way. We learn how to master this by continually getting cold and moving through these states.
The ice also has many physical benefits including reduced inflammation in the body, increased dopamine (one of the best and most potent ways to access this chemical in the body), and building strength in our immune system.
M+E: May is mental health month! How does breath and ice work support our mental health, and what are some immediate changes/shifts we may notice after a session?
BB: Immediately after a few rounds of the Wim Hof Method breathing, people commonly gain a sense of clarity – like the noise of the outside world (career issues, relationship troubles, financial concerns etc.) seems to disappear, or that the path to overcome these issues is suddenly clear.
I also noticed complete strangers wanted to connect with each other more so after the breathwork, as if the practice had brought the group closer. Again, this sparked the creation of the Conscious Club.
Acutely, if you are sick (and inflammation is a cause or symptom) or injured, you may notice that your condition has changed or improved from both the breath and the ice. It can take a few sessions to really tune into the body to understand what the changes are related to. For instance, people with injuries often feel a burning sensation at the injured site during the breathwork, but afterwards feel a loosening and decrease in pain at the same site.
Longer term, you will most likely feel benefits in your physical health through a stronger immune and cardiovascular system, a heightened sense of wellbeing and an increased ability to cope with stress and anxiety.
M+E: What are some other practices you incorporate into your daily/weekly routine to support mental health?
BB: I regularly exercise with a group of men. We avoid gyms and do this on the beach at sunrise twice a week, with the one simple rule of “no judgement”. This group also acts as a Men’s Group where we celebrate our accomplishments, share our struggles, support and elevate each other to be the best men we can be.
I like routine, and it helps keep my mind in check too. I try and find something “hard” to do each day (an ice bath, exercise, a run etc.). I prioritise family time with my wife Olivia and our two daughters. And I spend a lot of time in nature.
M+E: You’re based in Byron Bay, what are some of your favourite places to frequent, to feel good mentally and physically?
BB: We are spoilt in the Northern Rivers for natural beauty, relatively uncrowded places, and great food options. My lifestyle is based around nature, and I love the expansiveness of the hinterland and the hidden waterfalls. I surf anywhere between Ballina and Byron Bay.
Follow @solhouse.studio | @maurieandeve