What if I told you that using our soap will change your life? I’m sure you would accuse me of overly-ambitious salesmanship. Now what if I mentioned it was not actually the soap per se, but some other factor in the showering process? That it was a particular type of shower. A cold shower.
The first thing you might think of when I mention cold shower is a cure for an overactive libido. But there are also many health benefits of cold water exposure. Among them are improved circulation, reduced inflammation, elevated mood, and increased fat burning.
Now what if I told you that a cold shower was one piece of an integrated wellness regime that, along with breathing, yoga, and other exercises, allowed to you to unlock incredible powers of healing and resilience? It turns out a Dutchman named Wim Hof has developed such a program after decades of study, practice, and experimentation.
The first time much of the world heard about Wim Hof was on Joe Rogan’s podcast. Joe Rogan is a comedian and martial artist, and his podcast covers pretty much whatever he wants to. The memorable image from the Wim Hof episode is of this animated old hippie (Wim) with an accent and something about breathing exercises. And then Rogan, making a quizzical face while holding his breath at the end of one of the breathing sets. I think I heard about Wim Hof first from an esoteric meditation blog, which was not as much fun as the Rogan episode.
The first part of the Wim Hof method involves a breathing exercise of about 30 quick deep breaths followed by a period of holding your breath with no air in the lungs. You do this for a handful of cycles. The combination of hyperventilation and then holding the breath is a secret formula that greatly increases oxygen in the body, while also spiking adrenaline and speeding up the metabolism to produce more heat. It is similar to the Tibetan Buddhist tummo technique. You know, the one used by the monks who sit out on a frozen lake and dry sheets with their body heat.
Cold Water Exposure
A second piece of the Wim Hof method is cold water exposure. It’s hard to say which came first, the breathing or the cold. As the story goes, one day when Wim was 17, he decided to jump into a frozen pond. He did it every day thereafter. But what isn’t usually mentioned is that he had been doing yoga, karate, meditation, and generally seeking, the way a few sincere teenagers do, so he had a bit of training to begin with. Gradually, with more experience in the cold, he noticed the way it made him naturally want to breathe, and this further deepened his practice.
Wim has broken several records, mostly involving cold exposure, even climbing Mount Everest wearing only shorts! Recently there has been a lot of scientific study regarding his training techniques. In the simplest terms, they expose the body to a bit of stress, and the body adapts and becomes more resilient. Some of the benefits listed on Wim Hof’s site include help with stress, sleep, athletic performance and recovery, creativity, and focus.
One of the most important benefits of the Wim Hof method is that it helps to reduce chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation can result from inflammatory agents in the body’s tissues that fail to clear, or from disorders where the immune system mistakenly attacks the body. Chronic inflammation had been linked to cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, and even depression. Fast deep breathing, such as in the Wim Hof method, can lower inflammation by releasing anti-inflammatory agents such as adrenaline. But the cold exposure also reduces inflammation by shrinking capillaries and stimulating anti-inflammatory cells, while inhibiting the pro-inflammatory cells.
After reading the section above, you would probably guess that the Wim Hof method’s combination of breathing, cold exposure, and focus can play in important role in reducing muscle soreness and improving athletic recovery. It’s also not surprising that such training methods can improve athletic performance as well. The Wim Hof method’s website claims it can increase “strength, speed, agility, stamina, willpower and confidence,” and at least one pro MMA fighter trains in the method. Sports such as freediving and open water swimming would obviously benefit from cross training in the WHM. I’ve also found several blogs about cycling, in which cyclists talk about using the Wim Hof method to gain more energy after hours of hard training.
My Experience with WHM
I experimented with the Wim Hof method last fall and winter, and again this year. In the short term, the techniques seem to give you a “high,” the same sense of tingling and wellbeing that usually takes much longer to achieve through yoga or energy work. Long-term, I was able to gradually increase the amount of time I could hold my breath and tolerate cold. I also started cycling this summer and did a couple of arduous backpacking trips. Strangely, when jumping back into intense cardio training, my lungs felt fine, probably because they were already strong from the breathing technique. But my heart rate still shot way up, and I had to train a bit to get to the point where it didn’t feel like it was going to explode out of my chest! Another interesting benefit was that I started developing a strange, almost superhuman sense of confidence. It was probably due to the adrenaline that spikes during the breathing technique. I found that I was eager to charge ahead to face life’s challenges with a breathy sort of zeal. I’m sure it was annoying to my friends.
Metaphor Organic Soap and WHM?
So now it’s time for the sell. How does our soap perform in cold water conditions? The short answer: just fine. Based on my experience, it takes all soaps a bit longer to dissolve in cold water, so that means you’re going to need a bit longer to get the job done. Which means you’ll be cold for longer than you might expect. If you’re still working up to it, take a hot shower and then turn it cold at the end. Or turn off the water when you lather. I’m sure we could design a soap that would rinse 15% more quickly and then sell maybe 5 of them. Metaphor Organic, the official soap of the Wim Hof method? Probably not, haha. But it gets the job done. We’ve always said that taking a shower with handmade organic soap can be a transformative experience. But until now, we were joking!