A few weeks ago, I attended the world’s first Women’s Only Wim Hof Retreat run by Leah Scott. Scott is an accredited Snowy Mountains guide, certified Wim Hof Method Instructor, and mother of two.
She has taught with Wim Hof himself after turning to his method to conquer her own battle with anxiety, stress, depression and sleeping difficulties.
I happened to stumble upon her Instagram one day recently where she was promoting her upcoming retreat for women to learn the Wim Hof Method in a “safe and fun environment, in the spectacular Snowy Mountains of NSW”.
If COVID-19 has taught me anything, it’s that, for most of our lives, we are in constant comfort. It took a global pandemic to shake things up for me and I wanted to come out of it stronger and healthier — physically, mentally and spiritually.
So I took the plunge and booked a spot in the retreat.
Who is Wim Hof and what is the Wim Hof Method?
Wim Hof hails from Amsterdam and is known affectionately as ‘The Iceman’, due to his awe-inspiring ability to endure the extreme cold. He has climbed Mount Everest in only shorts and shoes and has swum underneath ice for 66 metres.
Hof attributes his seemingly impossible abilities to his own special methods of endurance, and by passing his teaching onto others, he is on a mission to help individuals to be happy, strong and healthy.
The Wim Hof Method is based on three pillars: cold therapy, breathing and commitment. The method has a host of benefits as stated on his website, some of which include increased energy, better sleep, lower stress levels, heightened focus, improved willpower, and a stronger immune system.
Experiencing the Wim Hof Method
Held over three incredible days at the luxurious Altitude 1260 lodge in the Snowy Mountains region of NSW, together with a small group of women, I learnt the Wim Hof Method.
During the first breathwork session, I had an out-of-body experience. As I closed my eyes and breathed in deeply, I saw colourful lights swirl upon me as I envisioned floating out of my body into the air. Physically, I had never been able to breathe so much in my life — it felt amazing! By the end of the retreat, I was able to hold my breath for an additional two minutes. An incredible feeling and a huge achievement for an asthmatic after only a few days.
In terms of cold exposure, the chill immediately struck on my first go in a frozen lake. I felt sharp, stabbing pains, particularly in my toes and fingers. To say I felt cold was an understatement; it was unbearable. After a few seconds, I quickly leapt out.
But something kicked in. I felt drawn to go into the icy water once again, this time with a new approach. The voice of our instructor echoed throughout my mind saying, “focus, just focus”.
Slowly I slid back into the water, focusing on long exhales as we had been taught. This time, I was able to stay in longer with a huge rush of adrenaline and pride kicking in.
Takeaways from the Wim Hof retreat
If you’d have told me a few weeks ago I would be able to submerge myself in ice water only wearing a bikini and climb Mount Kosciuszko in a sports bra and shorts, I would have told you it was impossible.
Yet the impossible became possible for me because I did it. The cold is a powerful tool to teach you more about yourself. It is through discomfort we learn more about ourselves and how we cope with difficulty in life.
I learnt to transcend my suffering through breathing and creating distance from internal chatter. In turn, I gained a newfound sense of confidence and resilience. Now I know that whatever life throws at me, I can handle it.
If you’re reading this with intrigue, my only advice would be to embrace it and explore it. I can’t tell you enough how much Leah Scott’s Wim Hof retreat has changed my life.
I have incorporated the Wim Hof Method every day since the retreat through morning breathwork and ice-cold showers. You can read more about the benefits of Wim Hof’s cold showers here. Go on, try it for yourself. You may surprise yourself as I did.