“I think one of the most powerful things you can do while in the sauna or plunge is to let yourself be vulnerable,” Rachel said. “Instead of trying to steel yourself against the experience, or be tough, or resist it, just let yourself go inward and feel. Give yourself a few quiet moments to process whatever you've got going on in your life...so often we hold off our emotions or ignore them, because it's uncomfortable to feel.”
Rachel, a writer and yoga teacher from California, first learned about cold plunging as many others have, through seeing Wim Hof in the media. At some point, she and her friends began to enjoy post-hike nature plunges. She always felt so much better after a plunge.
But her first time doing full-on contrast therapy was when her friend took her to PLUNJ about a year ago. New to the sauna and cold plunge practice, she felt nervous, excited, and curious. Since then, she has visited a few times and always loves it, feeling great during and after every session. Having also tried cryotherapy before, Rachel finds sauna and cold water plunging to have a more significant impact for her.
“Sauna and plunging really helps me feel present in my body,” she said. “When I'm there, I've got nothing else going on. It's just the feeling of the heat on my skin or the intensity of the cold. There's no to-do list or sense of needing to accomplish anything. I can just be present and observe what's happening internally.... I can slow down, which is a beautiful thing in such a fast-paced, intense world.”
To Rachel, contrast therapy is powerful because it helps build mental and emotional resilience. It can feel slightly impossible at first, she said, but the benefits far outweigh the discomfort.
“In fact, the discomfort is where a lot of the benefit is found – being able to sit with what's happening, even if it's out of your comfort zone. Giving yourself time and patience as you settle into the practice is really helpful, and so is making a consistent routine so your body can adapt to the changes.”
Rachel has found other benefits through practicing contrast therapy, such as feeling grounded and relaxed. She spends a lot of time working on a computer and sometimes carries tension in her neck and shoulders, but after a sauna and plunge session, those sensations are usually gone. She also has a clearer and calmer mind and feels less irritable.
“I feel chill. Centered. Clear,” Rachel said. “I also sleep really well the night of a plunge and any aches and pains I may have been feeling in my body usually fade away after a session.”
Rachel appreciates the clean and simple aesthetic at PLUNJ, as well as the details that make it a streamlined experience from the moment you walk in the door. She loves the friendly staff who greet her with a smile and great customer service. To her, the sauna and plunge are at the right temperatures – intense and effective! Overall, she is grateful for the PLUNJ experience and believes it delivers results.
Rachel’s Advice for First-Time PLUNJers
Give yourself ample time before and after the session so that you're not rushing.
Show up hydrated.
Try being quiet in the sauna if you can. It can be tempting to chit chat but it's really powerful to sit quietly and just notice how your body is feeling, to focus your attention on your own experience.
When you're in the cold water, breathe! It sometimes makes it harder if you talk about how hard it is, try closing your eyes and slowing down your breathing.
If your hands hurt while you're plunging, feel free to hold them out of the water.
It's ok to feel nervous – this is a brand new experience! It does get easier over time, and it's well worth the discomfort. Trust yourself, you've got this!
Rachel believes that through treating the practice like a meditation, it really can help us as humans to go deeper inward and know ourselves in new ways. We can surprise ourselves with how capable we really are.
Rachel says that you may find moments in your practice where you want to give up and check out, but you don't. You stay. You breathe, observe, and notice.
“You find you can actually focus on your breathing and experience one thought or sensation at a time, rather than rush from one thing to the next,” she said. “Give yourself grace in those moments. Think kind thoughts to yourself, even if you're struggling.”
Rachel is a writer and yoga teacher based in Salt Lake City. She and her husband Henry love contrast therapy as a way to de-stress and relax. Rachel's wellness routine also consists of massage, yoga, energy work, writing, and walking. You can follow her story and get to know her more through her blog, www.aliveinthefire.com.