Why are people so obsessed with Ice Baths in Playa del Carmen and around the world?
I bet you’ve seen some of our posters around town, talkin’ bout ice baths in Playa Del Carmen. Or you’ve had a friend mention that they tried an ice bath. I’m almost positive you've seen someone on your Instagram story posting a pic of themselves submerged in ice.
Was your first thought something along the lines of, “What the hell!?”
We get it. Seems kind of crazy.
Just so there’s no confusion about what’s going on within the cold cult we’ve conceived, let’s talk about what really happens during our ice bath sessions in Playa del Carmen.
Before I get started, I just have to mention the community that has grown from this practice. From the people guiding the ice baths, to the other ice bathers, the community of Reconnect is something special. You know that feeling you get when you meet someone and you feel like you’ve known them for a long time? It’s like that, but with ice.
We have ice bathers from all over the world, people of all ages, from 10 years old to 80. I could really go on for days about all the amazing people I've met but I'll stop now and let you find out for yourself when you join us.
Why we start with breathwork
We begin each of our Playa del Carmen ice bath sessions with 12 minutes of breathwork to get the blood flowing and to prepare our bodies and minds for the stress of the cold. This breathwork consists of long, slow, deep breaths, a round of faster, but still full, breathing, and some breath holds. You don’t need to have experience in breathwork, we’ll be guiding you along the way.
I know the star of the show is the ice, but let’s talk for a second about how important breathing is and why we do it before the cold.
Have you ever been in a stressful situation, maybe a conflict at work, and you feel your heart rate increase? What does your breathing do? Does it become shallow and fast?
If the answer is yes, that doesn’t feel great. The fast, shallow breathing makes an already uncomfortable situation feel even more uncomfortable.
What if instead of the shallow, fast breaths, you took a couple of full, deep breaths before you faced the hard stuff? You’ve now activated the parasympathetic nervous system, which sends a nice little signal to your brain to say to the anxious, stressed-out version of you, “Hey, relax friend, it’s ok, you’re safe here. You can do this. And I love you.” Doesn’t that feel so much better??
Breathwork not only prepares us mentally for the hard stuff, it also prepares us physically. First, by prepping the nervous system for a physical stressor (hormesis). That ice is going to be cold. You probably feel a little bit nervous. Maybe your heart is racing a bit. You know what will help with that? Some long, slow, deep breathing.
Next, the breathwork connects our body to our heart rate. During our breath holds you're increasing blood circulation to the brain and during the paced breathing, you increase the circulation in your body. And last but certainly not least, you’re heating your internal core, making the ice seem not as cold and intimidating.
Our biggest tip for the breathwork at our Reconnect sessions?
Give it your all.
Maybe you’ve never done breathwork before. Maybe it even seems a little ‘woo-woo’ to you. Humor us and give it your all. Breathe with full deep breaths, from your belly, and put your focus and attention into what you’re doing. Breathe with energy and do your best on the holds, to go as long as you can without taking a breath.
When you reach a point in the hold that you think you can’t go any longer, hold on just a little bit more. We promise you, the breathing helps with the ice. You never know, you might be more ‘woo-woo’ than you think :)
Once we’ve prepared our body for the ice with the breathwork, now it’s time to take turns getting into the cold.
3.5 minutes of fun.
What happens in the ice?
This is the easy part. You just breathe. Long, slow, and deep. Inhaling and exhaling as slowly as possible.
Your first instinct when you sit down in the ice will be short, fast breaths. You’ll step in the water and gasp and if you keep breathing shallow and fast, your brain will tell you,”Nope, get out of there, it’s too cold!! FLIGHT!!”
But if you bring it back to the breath, the deepest inhales and exhales, after the first minute, you’ll find the sweet spot. The parasympathetic nervous system will send a special message to your brain, and your brain will tell that anxious version of you, “You’re ok”.
In and out, nice and slow. Maybe you put your hands in the water to see how that feels. Maybe you leave them out. During our sessions, you’ll be guided and supported through the 3.5 minutes in the ice, letting you know when you're halfway through and when you have 30 seconds left.
To be completely honest with you, it’s going to hurt a little.
The majority of our members feel the pain from the cold most in their feet. Partly due to the fact that the blood vessels in the wrists and ankles close down, sending excess blood to the core in order to keep us alive.
After your time in the ice, moving is incredibly important. You need to get the circulation going again. You can run down the beach, do sun salutations, push-ups, whatever you need to warm yourself and get your blood flowing to all your extremities.
And then the usual response we get is “Wow. That felt so damn good”. People laugh, they cry, they want to hug someone. That natural increase of norepinephrine and dopamine from the cold hits you and you feel so, so good. Most members experience higher energy and focus and feel more productive during their work day after the ice bath. If you’ve got sore muscles, it really hits the spot.
We recently polled our members about the benefits they’ve seen from their cold practice and the results were nothing short of amazing.
Mentally, 90% of our members saw a decrease in stress and anxiety. Of those that were experiencing depression, 100% saw a reduction in their symptoms. 77% of our members experienced improved focus. Physically, 48% of our ice bathers said they lost belly fat, the majority of those that saw belly fat changes were women.
You gotta check out these survey results!
While the benefits of this practice are unique to each person, they can be pretty astounding. There are so many to mention that Kevin wrote a whole article about it. The one thing across the board that can be agreed upon is that just like going to the gym and eating healthy, you aren’t going to see the results from doing an ice bath just one time. A regular practice is where you’ll see the changes.
Based on the research we understand, you’ll receive all the benefits from an ice bath by spending 2-3 minutes in the ice. We choose 3.5 minutes because we feel like it’s the perfect amount of time to get all you need from the cold.
We support you, we believe in you, and we are with you along the way, through the breathing and the ice. Whether it’s your first time or your 100th, we’ll be right there. And sometimes that’s all you need, is to know that you have someone believing in you while you do something that is physically and mentally challenging.
Please come see us and spend some time in the ice, Wednesday through Sunday from 8:30-9:30. We’re set up on a white sand beach in front of the Caribbean Sea, sitting in a tub of ice in Playa Del Carmen. If you have more questions about our sessions and the benefits of cold exposure, shoot us a message, we’d love to talk to you more about it.
A Playa del Carmen resident since 2013, Sarah has led and supported hundreds of people in the ice bath since joining the Reconnect team in November 2022. A lover of yoga and all things that involve finding inner peace, ice baths became her jam in 2021. Sarah is a true believer in the power of positivity.