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Back at Beaverbrook, the Wim Hof Method is being taken up at its luxury workshops. The eponymous Dutch founder is renowned for his ability to withstand freezing temperatures and has made headlines for climbing Mount Everest wearing just shorts and shoes, and running an Arctic half-marathon barefoot in the snow. Hof believes that cold water healed him from grief following his wife’s suicide in 1995. ‘It brought me back into reality,’ he wrote.

Following a light deli lunch with the other participants, Alex, a certified Wim Hof Method instructor, guides a group of eight through an hour of dynamic breathing exercises (an integral pillar of Hof’s method) involving deep, strong breathing and holding the breath. The theory is that once a person can take full ownership of their mind, they have the power to withstand extreme temperatures.

The cold water follows. A rolltop bath filled with ice is prepared in a quaint courtyard adjacent to one of the spa’s treatment rooms. As the rest of the group look on, the first inductee swiftly clambers in wearing just a swimsuit. There is a sharp sting as skin meets water, the body stiffens and the breath becomes short and rapid. Here, the trick is to slow down and focus on your breathing, ignoring the urgent desire to get out. Time moves glacially, but the sensation eventually becomes more manageable and respiration steadies. Suddenly, one’s focus is solely on the ice: internal chatter and daily worries fade into oblivion. After two minutes (the goal set by Alex), you’re instructed to climb out: the euphoria that follows is undeniable.

As for the physical benefits? Anecdotal evidence suggests they range from easing Parkinson’s symptoms to improved circulation, enhanced cardiovascular health and blood pressure reduction. As Hof says: ‘There is a natural power in the cold; when we embrace it is when the magic happens.’

£195 for a one-day Wim Hof Method retreat;

This article was originally published in the August issue. Subscribe now to get 3 issues for just £1, plus free home delivery and free instant access to the digital editions.