Health Travel Magazine - Digest 2024

The Wonders of Wild Swimming

Wild swimming and cold water therapy have become increasingly popular ways to enjoy the great outdoors in recent years. If you’re thinking of taking the plunge, read our guide to the techniques behind this activity and its numerous benefits.

What is wild swimming and why is it so popular?

Wild swimming is an active form of immersion into the natural world. Swimming in bodies of water, including lakes, rivers and oceans, allows reconnection with the landscape in a way that has been lost. Gaining popularity in great strides after the instability of recent years, it has provided a means of spiritual inspiration as the strains of the modern world have given rise to an obsession with the healing properties of mother nature herself.

A popular figure in the world of wild swimming and cold therapy, Wim Hof is Dutch motivational speaker renowned for his abilities to withstand freezing temperatures and push the limits of the human body. He does so through the use of yogic breathing techniques. Similar techniques, such as the Indo-Tibetan tradition of Pranayama, have been established in numerous cultures and civilisations since ancient times. The Wim Hof Method has provoked the curiosity of the modern world and revitalised an interest in the mysteries of breathing as a means to spiritual and physical well-being.

What are the benefits of wild swimming and cold water therapy?

Of course, it’s intriguing. A change of scenery. A oneness with nature that we don’t experience in our day-to-day lives. However, the benefits aren’t confined to mere exploration. There are multiple physical and mental health benefits that can be deduced from wild swimming and exposure to cold temperatures. The long term physical health benefits of cold water immersion have been known for many years.

These include:

  • Strengthening your immune system
  • Improvement of blood circulation
  • ‘Cold adaptation’, allowing for a lowering of cholesterol and blood pressure
  • A reduction in body pains and inflammation

The mental health benefits that you may come across include:

  • Reduced stress and anxiety
  • Feelings of euphoria and achievement
  • A sense of community

What is the Wim Hof method and why is it so popular?

The Wim Hof model for holistic healing includes the wonder of cold therapy combined with ancient breathing techniques.

The goal is to access the inner power of our bodies and unlock our full biological and psychological potential with three simple steps.

Step One: Breathing

Although an instinctive and innate pillar of our everyday lives, we remain unaware of its enormous potential. With the right breathing technique, we can unlock a ‘treasure trove’, to use the words of Hof himself, of benefits. These include increased energy and reduced stressed levels, all from an increase in our oxygen in-take. To do so, a meditative position must be assumed, the most comfortable and individual to you, whether that be laying down or sitting. This is then followed by a series of deep, conscious breaths, usually around 30-40. In the final steps, inhale one more time and after you exhale, hold until you feel the urge to breath. When you do so, inhale and hold for 15 seconds, then let go.

Step Two: Cold Therapy

Cold therapy, in the Wim Hof method, takes the form of an ice bath or the exploration of the organic world. It is the second step of the method and is based on the science of cold temperature exposure as a means of healing. Scientists have found that the cold and frequent exposure to it can lead to an increased metabolism, reductions of inflammation and an easing of sore muscles. It is not by chance that high-level athletes use ice baths, for example, as a form of recovery after physical exercise.

Those that have participated in the Wim Hof Method have experienced benefits ranging from a relief of symptoms caused by autoimmune diseases to higher energy levels.

Step Three: Commitment

The final component, and arguably the most vital, is commitment. Without the dedication and perseverance to master the art of the breathing techniques and to endure the freezing temperatures of cold therapy, you won’t be able to reap the benefits of the method.

With these three steps, you’ll eventually master your own body and mind, pushing yourself to the limits of what you thought you can endure. This method is gaining increasing popularity as it provides an alternative to the modern pattern of living. A chance to slow down, breathe and heal. A far cry from the hectic life of the present, it provides escapism unlike any other.

Where to go wild swimming in the UK

The perfect place to dive in and try wild swimming, Scotland compliments the wonders of yogic healing with captivating landscapes and mesmerising wildlife. Try one of our wild Scottish retreats for a guided introduction to cold water exposure and the country’s abundant nature.

Wild Wellness in the Highlands

  • An exclusive adventure set in the Cairngorms National Park
  • Fuel the soul with a health-restoring Wild Swimming experience in a highland loch. Dips among magical cascading waterfalls and ice-cold pools can help you learn to control your breathing whilst escaping from the constraints of the modern world. Warm up by exploring local hillsides by foot and enjoy the panoramic views of the Spey valley.

Rewilding wellness retreats at the Gleneagles Hotel

  • The perfect weekend escape
  • Revitalise with age-old pranayama breathing techniques and master primal breathing control with the help of a resident yoga teacher. An immersive Nature Walk among native wildlife followed by the embrace of the ancient Japanese ritual of waterfall bathing provides the ultimate spiritual getaway.

If you’re ready to take the plunge and try something truly wild this year, get in touch with our Wellness Specialists by our online form or WhatsApp to begin crafting your retreat.