Updated: Oct 20
It sounds like a form of torture, or perhaps, a few moments of madness.
Submerging your body in to freezing subzero waters, for minutes at a time, all in a bid to treat a string of diseases and conditions, and to perhaps live a little longer.
Used by US Navy Seals and professional athletes, the method sounds far from tempting, but it's quickly gaining popularity. And that's in part because of Dutchman Wim 'Iceman' Hof, which hundreds of people around the world are travelling to West Poland to experience.
Mr Hof says his therapy involves a three-pronged combination of breathing, cold exposure and meditation, and that the calming effects could work as a cure for depression and anxiety, to inflammation and perhaps even cancer.
"Over time, we as humans have developed a different attitude towards nature and we've forgotten about our inner power," Hof explains on his website, according to Business Insider. "This is the ability of our body to adapt to extreme temperature and survive within our natural environment."
The 'Iceman' says for the past few decades he's been called everything from "crazy" to a "fraud", but says since catching the attention of scientists in Amsterdam, there's now hope his theories could hold some merit.
"At Wim's insistence, they [scientists] injected him with a toxin that should have given him a fever," Sunday Night journalist Steve Pennells said, adding Mr Hof volunteered himself to science to prove his therapy had health benefits.
"His unique approach to health meant he could control his immune system, which up until then, they believed to be physically impossible."
Speaking to Mr Hof's response to the toxin injection, Professor Peter Pickkers — an expert in Experimental Intensive Care Medicine — said he was surprised by the results.
"We compared his [Hof] response to over 100 healthy volunteers that participated in previous trials," Mr Pickkers said.
"What we found is because his pro-inflammation was much less … it seemed that he was able, by this technique, to suppress his immune system.
The test was repeated with volunteers and those who used Mr Hof's techniques had much milder symptoms.
Professor Pickkers said the study meant there could be evidence to prove "it is possible to influence a persons immune system willingly".
"That's really, really new," he added.
Mr Hof says the first thing to master in his technique is getting the breathing right.
The technique takes practice and involves completing a series of about 30 active, deep breaths in, followed by passive breaths out. The best way to start, he explained, is laying down flat. The process enables the participant to take in more and more oxygen with each breath and being able to inhale deeper and deeper.
Mr Hof says the process is calming and when combined with subzero exposure, can assist with increased metabolism, improved sleep, sharpen focus, reduce inflammation.
The "disciples of the Iceman" claim the remarkable results are what keep them coming back to areas such as West Poland, and submerging their bodies in to the freezing waters.
However, it doesn't get any easier.
"It feels so good," one of Mr Hof's followers said.
"You get a clear mind and it just feels good in your body. You feel warm, actually."
If you want to learn more about the mental and physical health benefits related to open water swimming and cold exposure, feel free to join our ICEWIM Facebook group.
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This article was first published on https://www.nzherald.co.nz/travel/news/article.cfm?c_id=7&objectid=12222412