A Cold Water Breathe

Updated: Nov 15, 2020

I did a cold water breathe last night and the experience was amazing. A fellow breathworker and I took it in turns to breathe in our bathtubs on Zoom. We both found it to be a very helpful and insightful process, and were so glad we did it, even if we had wondered what on earth we were doing, and had much resistance around getting into a cold bath, especially on a Friday night after a busy and full on week. Well, it was a Friday 13th in 2020.

We started with 10 conscious connected breaths, before getting in. Then, slowly slowly, continuing the cycles of the conscious connected breath, with the support of the unwavering presence of my companion, I submerged parts of my body into the half full bath. It took about 15 minutes to put my body underwater to the point of leaning back in the bath. Gentle conscious connected breathing all the way. I then stayed there for about another 5 minutes before sitting up. I didn’t want to get out for a bit longer, and carried on breathing leaning on my knees, until I was ready to talk and get out, get warm and comfortable, and complete integration. During the whole experience, my body was going through some strong processing. I experienced shivers, strong trembling, calm, relaxation, heat, laughter, tears of sadness, fear, pain, joy, and pleasure, discomfort and comfort.

Each breath out allowed me to surrender a bit more… Each breath in, to embrace the now.

I was reminded how in each moment there is a death and a birth, an opportunity to let go and choose again.

It was important to feel, what my fellow breathworker called, ‘the edge’. It was essential to experience the ‘boundaries’, where the cold water met my physical body, showing me a limit, to be respected and held, to relax with and into, a safe container, and in this way it became a threshold, and ultimately a portal.

Whilst warm water rebirthing can be about processing and integrating experiences, feelings and beliefs connected to our birth, cold water breathing is often connected with death.

I have been facing the fear of my own physical death recently, due to my body giving me some strong messages. Perhaps with the current 'Covid' and environmental crises, and other things, many of us are taking the opportunity to face this fear, and are perhaps thinking about death more? I know it has been more of a thing in my life since becoming a mum 9 years ago! It was perfect timing, as ever, to do this cold water breathe. I now really feel more ready and prepared for the time when I die and leave my physical body. And I feel more up for LIVING, now! During the breathe I felt so much appreciation for my amazing body, and all it does, and all it carries and has carried and all the incredible experiences it has enabled me to have, and will enable me to have in this life. As is common with experiences of breathwork, with this cold water breathe I feel a leap in my ability to embrace life in its fullness, the darkness and the light, the fire, the warmth, the coldness and discomfort, to be and feel safe in my body, to be with the sensations and feelings, all of them. I felt some sadness at the recognition of how much of my life I have lived ‘out’ of my body, as a coping mechanism, but so grateful to have been learning how to inhabit it fully now with breathwork and also somatic experiencing. I feel immense gratitude to and am in awe of my body, my home. And a fresh desire to look after it well.

This was my second cold water rebirth session, the other being with a group, on an AIR Rebirthing training week, in the sea in Devon. I had gone in up to my ankles and stayed there for a long time, with the waves rolling in in time with the breath, and it had also been a profound and beautiful experience of embracing death in its many guises.

During the first lockdown this year, with our feet in a cold stream, I did 10 conscious connected breaths together with my 8 year old son and his Dad. The difference in the vibe before and after was palpable, transporting us to a place of total peace. I felt a real (and rare!) oneness with them, and the stream, trees and plants around us. After years of turmoil between us, those lockdown months were a healing time for us as a family, and had presented us with opportunities like this one.

All-season conscious breathing in cold water is something we do on AIR Rebirthing training/retreat weeks and I love experiencing that with the AIR family. All my life I have been blessed with swimming in the seas, lochs, rivers and lakes with family and friends, but it has mostly been a summer thing! This breathe has helped me to now propel myself into the rivers and streams and seas over the winter, for good mental and physical health! Slowly, gently, I can’t wait.

Air ‘Sacred Heart’ module, February, 2017. Battisbourgh House, Devon.

Here is a link to an article by Tilke Platteel-Deur with notes on how to do a cold water rebirth and some case studies.