Years ago, a father instructed his son on the fine art of Dry sauna / Cold shower. The practice was taken on with enthusiasm as the father demonstrated how it was to be done. Over the years the son kept the practice up, especially during the winter months. People, generally, find ‘even’ the thought of putting anything on the skin that is less than ‘x’ degrees abhorrent. However, many studies show that ice baths / cold showers can be and are most beneficial to the body. This practice must be approached with a modicum of caution. Individuals with less than healthy hearts, or other less than optimal medical conditions, should obtain medical clearance before considering taking on this practice. Cold Immersion can be exhilaratingly pleasant.
The father instructed the son to start with warm water and eventually go to cold before returning to the sauna. Hot/Cold/Hot/Cold. This is an established practice within the ‘Dry Sauna’ / Cold Immersion regimen. Hot saunas, cold plunging, and hydrotherapy are simply extensions of health routines that have been practiced in Finland for a thousand years. The positive health effects have been recognized by the Nordic societies for ages. In terms of scientific evidence, there are many research studies that support the health benefits, as long as safe guidelines are followed, and precautions (are) taken. Although further research is always needed, the overall benefits are generally accepted.
This practice of cold immersion began in Finland. Saunas are part of a toasty tradition that is as entwined with Finland as the snow that falls there. Saunas originated as sterile ways to “wash up” before running hot water existed. But what about that cold plunge? It provides an equally extreme way to cool off. As the Finland tourism board describes it: “When you come out of the sauna, jump into a lake, or roll in the snow: making sure the snow is fresh and powdery. When you follow up a sauna with a plunge in cold water or snow, he explained, your adrenaline raises. Beyond adrenaline, Dr. Timmerman said the Dry sauna, Cold Plunge practice can improve pain mediation and modify the inflammation response from rheumatoid arthritis — a disease that’s often worsened by sauna visits that aren’t followed by some cold.
The, aforementioned, son has recently concluded a 16 week, one time per week, ice bath regimen. His living in the southern U.S.A., is a barrier to accessing iced over lakes or adequate snowfall into which one can immerse one’s self. In part, the series was was undertaken to obtain the inherent benefits. Yet, there is a mental component that is developed by immersing the body into cold water. The body, in cold water, is receiving an abundance of sensory input. This input leans inexorably toward ‘get the hell outta’ here’ / ‘there’. By calming the mind and coming into the breath, that input can be regulated. Yes, the water is cold but one does not ‘die’. Calming the breath has positive effects on the Vagus Nerve (Deep breathing activates specific neurons that signal to the vagus nerve to lower your heart rate due to blood pressure becoming too high) and places one into the ‘present moment’ state of awareness (kind of like ZEN Immersion)
The Sauna provides the health benefits of reducing lactic acid buildup in muscles, inducing heat shock proteins and human growth hormone, and releasing several other hormones like norepinephrine. The result of regular sauna use is a body that can endure more exertion and recover faster and may also be able to lower anxiety and sharpen focus. This segways right into the previously mentioned benefits of cold immersion. The hot and cold are a powerful combination. However, in choosing one over the other, the son would choose the cold immersion.
Let us just consider that the (human) body is a wonderful vehicle, With training, seeming insurmountable conditions can be endured as though they were minor inconveniences. The training of the body is, at the core, the training of the mind. The mind, once trained, is the conductor. When untrained, it is an alarmist. Dealing with cold conditions the mind. The son had been introduced to this wonderful practice. Though seemingly ridiculous (to many), there are those who (can) understand that this practice is not just for show. It is a viable discipline that unifies and benefits mind and body.
BTW – the son is the author of this article. Thank you.