Self-care can look a lot of ways and given that it’s a HUGE component of what I preach to my patients, I’m always looking for new ways to practice it. November was a month of embracing the cold in an effort to heal my heart, improve my health, and go deeper into connection with my intuition... you know... so I can consistently become a better human and physical therapist :). A few Saturdays ago I dove (well gracefully stepped into) the cold when a patient asked me to join him for a workshop hosted by Wim Hof, aka the Iceman. The Wim Hof Method uses a combination of breath-work, cold-exposure, and mindset training in an effort to maximize health, happiness, and connection with Presence and Love. My patient asked me to join him because he has had years of chronic pain management in traditional settings and is now starting to embrace that there’s a lot more to feeling well than what we might have been told by western medicine.
After a morning of breath-work aimed at honing our innate abilities in shifting our own physiology (watch Wim’s videos… the research is incredible!) I submerged myself neck-deep in an ice bath alongside 1500 other brave souls. I HATE the cold, but I’ll try anything once in the name of self-improvement! My breath was literally taken away as was the voluminous constant mind chatter that so often keeps me (and my pelvic floor patients) stuck in our dysfunctional patterns. For me those patterns have been grief and depression and severe fatigue lately. The breath-work and the cold that day helped to remind me that sometimes our nervous systems need a safe shock (a positive stressor) to reset and restore themselves to find balance at that healthy, happy place. After the first 5 seconds I could hear Wim asking us to elongate our exhales and slow our breath. It took all my concentration to get centered and focus on my breath out, but as I did I began to come into my body like I haven’t done in quite some time. I noticed surges of warmth from deep within where my warm blood met the environment I usually run from. I leaned into the practice for a little over a minute, I let the cold penetrate me, I felt my heart beat in my chest, I noticed my pulses in my limbs, and as I felt the sensation and feelings the quietness in my mind became easier and easier to access. I stepped out of the bath pulsing with a vibrant Aliveness which gradually shifted into a calm centered state for the rest of the evening.
I continued my journey with the cold the following week as I traded my flip flops for UGGs and headed to Minnesota for John Barnes’ Myofascial Release: Unwinding course. While I did bundle up during the 6 degree mornings in Minnesota I noticed that my relationship with the cold was different than before. Instead of bracing against it (as I often do with situations I’m uncomfortable with) I let myself feel it and by doing so a sense of ease became present in my body.
I’ve been practicing myofascial release for a few years now along with a variety of other manual therapy techniques and have found it to be very effective in treating chronic pelvic pain and other pelvic floor dysfunction. It’s effective because it’s one of the most subtle and effective ways to feel the connection of our physical and energetic/ emotional bodies- that alone is self-care! This specific myofascial release course offered more practice in letting go as we spent all weekend getting quiet, listening to the places within our bodies (physical, emotional, and energetic) that felt stuck, and moving through those places with authentic motion to heal. It was deeply emotional work and a reminder that the fascial system is so important to our health and really the key access point to mind-body wellness.
The Wimhof Method and Myofascial Release have all sorts of physiological benefits, but the teaching is really about finding the place within yourself to quiet down, listen and feel. Within that space at the very core of You sits the access to healing, your intuitive voice which is so incredibly great. There are many ways to practice finding this voice, but I can tell you with first-hand experience that we all need to find SOMEWAY to tune into this frequency if we have any hope for healing ourselves, our communities, or our planet.