FULL BODY IMMERSION
This form of cold exposure has recently captivated my attention, as this approach to icing involves dipping your whole body into frigid ice-water. With this kind of exposure, you can start to tap into mental and systemic physiological effects of cold. State regulation plays a large role in the experience of dunking yourself into a tub of ice; state regulation refers to the mental and emotional feelings occurring before, during and after the cold water immersion. Anticipation of cold can cause anxiety and fear to take hold of you. This is when you can build mental fortitude and overcome these emotions. The whole point of getting into an ice bath isn’t to feel the cold, then run away. The experience is a chance to be in control of your body’s response to an uncomfortable stimulus. In the video below, you can observe my friend and colleague, Becky, gradually calm herself as she submerges into the cold water. She could have easily stepped in the water, felt how cold it was (and we put some fresh Wasatch powder in the tub, so it was cold), and jumped out saying “No way! I’m not doing it!” Instead, she utilized diaphragmatic breathing and a realization of being in control of her body to find a sense of calm.
THE MAMMALIAN DIVE REFLEX
I first learned about this reflex when I took The Art of Breath course. This reflex is present in all mammals and is a survival mechanism. When your head is submerged in water, the trigeminal nerve senses it and relays messages directly to the brain. Oxygenated blood is then preserved and shunted to the heart and brain via the vagus nerve. Obviously, submerging yourself underwater without oxygen for prolonged periods of time can be detrimental but short, controlled immersions can reward you with the benefit of tapping into your parasympathetic nervous system. For more about the parasympathetic nervous system functions, click on the button below.