Benefits of Breathwork and Ice Baths

Regular Breathing And Cold Exposure Produce A Very Powerful Cocktail Of Health Benefits.

Breathwork is a key practice for regulating the autonomic nervous system, which controls our fight or flight response. By enhancing the response of the vagus nerve, breathwork activates the parasympathetic nervous system. This activation not only calms the body’s immediate stress responses but also physiologically soothes and stabilises, leading to a state of relaxation and reduced physiological stress.

Breathwork practices contribute to a range of health benefits, including alkalising blood pH and exerting an anti-inflammatory effect. These practices can elevate mood, reduce anxiety, boost immunity, and enhance creativity and confidence. Combining regular breathing techniques with cold exposure amplifies these benefits, creating a potent health-boosting regimen.

Stress often leads to fast and shallow breathing, limiting oxygen intake and triggering the body’s fight or flight mechanism. Purposeful, deep, and slow breathwork communicates to the brain that all is well, allowing the body to relax. This conscious effort to regulate breathing can effectively counteract stress and anxiety by reassuring the body it is safe, thereby normalising bodily functions.

Deep breathing practices offer significant physical health benefits, including balanced blood pressure, improved deep sleep quality, and reduction of PTSD and trauma symptoms. Enhanced respiratory function and a stronger immune system are also key outcomes, along with the effective release of stress hormones, contributing to overall physical wellbeing.

On an emotional level, breathwork can lead to fewer feelings of depression and anxiety, improved mental focus, and a decrease in addictive behaviours. It facilitates emotional healing, allowing scars to mend and fostering a more positive life outlook. Participants often experience increased contentment and joy, marking a profound impact on emotional health.

Cold Exposure & Ice Baths

Although it’s collectively viewed negatively, stress is not inherently bad. In fact, stress not only has the potential to be good, it is absolutely necessary to get better in any domain of life.

Cold Water Immersion (immersed in water of below 15oC up to the neck) or any form of cold exposure, introduces a good stress, hormetic stress, to the body. This helps your body to better adapt to bad stress, or ‘distress’ (caused by inadequate sleep, emotional stress, chronic disease, work issues, traffic etc.). There is also a big cascade of hormone, immune, and neurotransmitter effects that can have a positive impact on the body over time.

Proponents such as Wim Hof, also known as ‘The Iceman’, became famous for the skill he has developed in handling extreme cold and the array of benefits this has created in his autonomic nervous system and immune system.

Simply turning the shower to cold for as little as 90 seconds (build up from 15 seconds gradually) can have immediate benefits.

Many of our clients now only have cold showers as a matter of course. Ice Baths are a more ‘intense’ practice but provide considerable benefits; not least of all the mental tenacity to withstand the cold which combined with breathwork can be remarkable. By example, students on our Mindset Bootcamp start at around 2-4 minutes on day 1 and most surpass 8 minutes on day 4 with many lasting 15 minutes in 6oC water!

I am an accredited ice bath coach, and while a very safe practice, we always consider client’s safety paramount and run our sessions accordingly.

Benefits Include

Potential benefits of alleviating the symptoms of depression and anxiety, although this is still being established in research. 
Anecdotal evidence has suggested that cold showers can help to alleviate depression. The proposed mechanism for this is that cold exposure leads to a release of norepinephrine into the bloodstream. Norepinephrine is a hormone and neurotransmitter that is involved in focus, attention, and mood — low norepinephrine can lead to ADHD and depression.

Cold water immersion can trigger a floodgate of mood-enhancing chemicals in the brain by awaking a natural ‘fight-or-flight’ response. 
This response to ‘environmental stress’ conditions our brain to cope better with the stressors of everyday life and helps decrease the production of inflammatory cytokines which are linked to anxiety and depression.
By exposing your body to colder temperatures, you’re able to build up a higher tolerance to stress.

With an exposure to physiological stressors, the ice bath method challenges your body to function beyond its comfort zone, hence its direct effect on immune function.

Not only that, but the body sets off a response to the nervous system affecting oxygen intake, which helps deliver an increase in energy.

With an exposure to physiological stressors, the ice bath method challenges your body to function beyond its comfort zone, hence its direct effect on immune function. Not only that, but the body sets off a response to the nervous system affecting oxygen intake, which helps deliver an increase in energy.

Cold water immersions have been shown to trigger ‘recruiting’ which means your body can take white fat cells and turn them into brown fat cells.

Unlike the tissue in white fat cells, the tissue in brown fat cells converts energy into heat. It’s a process called thermogenesis, and it’s been shown to help with metabolic function, blood glucose levels, and the prevention of weight gain.

Doing ice baths over time may help your body transform from the inside-out, with more of fat cells that burn energy to generate heat and less fat cells that store energy to be released as a back-up in case your body needs it. Just imagine your body helping you maintain weight for a change instead of working against you!

Rest habits are triggered and regulated by the brain and the nervous system and ice bath therapy has been shown to have a direct effect on both. After the initial cold water temperature shock, your body is able to calm down and becomes more resilient to changes in our environment. This translates into you building up a higher tolerance to stress by regulating your cortisol levels helping improve the symptoms of depression and reducing the instance of sleep-related disorders. 


Please note: We acknowledge there are many scientific studies supporting the health benefits of breathwork and cold exposure. We have provided a few easy to read links below but are not affiliated to any author or organisation.

Cold Water Exposure

Susanna Soberg Study – 11 minutes cold water exposure per week.

Benefits of Cold Water Immersion
Benefits of cold water immersion (CWI)

The 6 Proven Health Benefits of Ice Baths – GoodRx

4 Proven Benefits Of Ice Baths + How To Do Them At Home | mindbodygreen


Breathwork: What Is it and How Does it Work? (

Breathwork Benefits: The Science Behind The Practice | mindbodygreen