On the menu this evening… Oxygen!

Sometimes a sudden awareness of something catches one by surprise…

While I’ve been saying for years that oxygen is our greatest ‘therapist’ at Spa Eastman, it is only recently I’ve begun to realize that oxygen is indeed our primary  ‘food’! Unfortunately, we take it so much for granted that we forget its power and how essential oxygen is to our overall health.

Although for some 50 years, I’ve adopted a diet-oriented approach, to give my body the nourishment it needs and eliminate what it does not need (or that could cause it harm) I never for a moment thought that being truly aware of the importance of oxygen could upend my daily life to the point that it has changed my relationship with my body.

Just like I never imagined that one day I would prioritize breathing over food itself, without diminishing the sensual pleasure I get from eating.   

Conscious breathing

Certainly, I enjoy the practise of ‘cardiac coherence’, (it balances the nervous system and counters stress) as well as guided pranayama breathing, but the ‘Wim Hof Practise’ makes me feel very different. This makes me deeply and intimately connect to my body. I sense the oxygen nourishing my being at a profound level, right down to my cells. 

By studying the work that Wim Hof had experimented with for some four decades, I came to the conclusion that it was possible to oxygenate one’s body to a profound level, increasing our feelings of happiness and pleasure by overcoming internal tensions – often the result of biochemical factors or linked to traumas or entrenched attitudes from the past, perhaps even handed down from generation to generation.  

Interestingly, controlled hyperventilation, followed by prolonged periods of holding one’s breath, allows the body to be deeply  oxygenated and puts you into a meditative state.

I came to the understanding that breathing, which comes so naturally to most of us, has a powerful impact on our body. I decided to go back to the source, in the sense of thinking of that very first breath, which awakened our senses as we came into the world. I subsequently accorded breathing its rightful place, as a ‘food’ essential to my well-being.

Oxygen has become the prime nourishment for my cells…The result? Not only is it the optimum ‘fuel’ but it also counteracts any potential acidity in my body.
Love at first sight

Wim Hof’s research and the science behind it, resonated with me right away. I particularly liked his straightforward approach to sharing his techniques and not wanting to be thought of as some kind of health ‘guru’. As I practised his breathing exercises, I instantly felt the impact of the oxygen on my body.

There are a number of versions on the Internet, but this is the closest to Hof’s approach :

  • Take 40 breaths, then hold for 60 seconds
  • Take 40 breaths, then hold for 90 seconds
  • Take 40 breaths, then hold for 120 seconds
  • Take 40 breaths, then hold for 150 seconds
  • Finally, take a cold shower to optimize the effects of the technique.

Interestingly, controlled hyperventilation, followed by prolonged periods of holding one’s breath, allows the body to be deeply oxygenated and puts you into a meditative state. It calms the mind, making it easier to meditate or to undertake work that requires intense concentration.

And then….

The breathing exercises end with a cold shower. Why? The cold increases blood circulation by stimulating the flow along the thousands of kilometers of tiny vessels that lie under the surface of the skin. That, in turn, oxygenates our cells.

And guess what? The more you do these breathing exercises, the more you’ll want to continue doing them! You’ll ‘rediscover’ your breath and will begin to approach it with a feeling of humility, kindness and love. You’ll become one with it and realize that our breath has been with us throughout our lives, until the point at which we die. When we allow ourselves to be ‘at one’ with our breath and tuned in its effects on our body, we experience a deep sense of peace.

And throughout the day….

The effect of the breathing exercises continues throughout the day. It becomes easier to meditate. The brain quietens down. You start to control bad habits such as procrastination – putting off until tomorrow, what should be done today….

You can also take breathing breaks from time to time, to ‘top up’ your oxygen level. That helps to manage your emotions and heighten your awareness of what is going on around you – something we all aspire to.

When a feeling of happiness becomes deeply entrenched

I consequently incorporated this breathing ritual into my daily life, because I realized the positive impact it had on my well-being. Nobody wants to feel bad. Happiness, on the other hand, is hard to resist and it’s easy to make it a priority.                

Oxygen has become the prime nourishment for my cells….The result? Not only is it the optimum ‘fuel’ but – among many other benefits – it also counteracts any potential acidity in my body.

I came to understand the powerful impact that our breathing (and thus oxygenation) can have on the body and so I gave my breath its rightful place as the source of ‘food’ essential to my well-being.
Oxygenation – is the greatest therapist!

This practice could be compared to the awareness you can employ when eating food slowly and deliberately, but there is one major difference. I’m not referring to the sensory delights one experiences when tasting delicious dishes, but rather something that is more subtle, more fluid – namely oxygen, so essential to our lives.

Personally, thanks to the greatest ‘therapist’, i.e. oxygenation, I am less affected by stress. I feel more joyful, more alive, and more able to take life as it comes…I feel that I’m part of a movement much bigger than myself – a movement that embraces the entire world!

This article first ran in the December 2020 issue of VIVRE magazine,
an international publication devoted to improving quality of life.
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