I came across an interesting article depicting some of the ancient spiritual practices of the Shinto a couple of years back. The article explained how Samurai warriors ritualistically took part in Misogi, an ancient Shinto spiritual practice that involves bathing in cold river water every morning. Forget your morning cup of coffee, that's an early morning practice that will surely wake you up.
Ancient samurai warriors would start their day by pouring buckets of cold river water on their heads every morning as part of the Shinto spiritual practice called "Misogi". The samurai warriors believed the cold, clean water cleansed their spirit, helping them start their day fresh and spiritually cleansed from the day before.
Then I discovered there were several other articles basically praising the beneficial effects of cold water showers. Some of the benefits include strengthening immunity, deepening breathing, improving blood circulation, improving hormone production, increasing energy and well-being, and healthier skin and hair. I even began looking into the human anomaly that is Wim Hof, the Dutch "Iceman," that has swam in the Arctic, climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in shorts and sandals, ran a half-marathon barefoot across Finnish snow in subzero conditions, and has spent almost two hours in a tank of ice water by applying his meditative techniques, resulting in his ability to regulate his internal thermostat.
After reading about the health and spiritual benefits of cold water, I decided to start my own personal practice by beginning to take cold showers after my post-yoga, peppermint-and-eucalyptus-infused sauna sessions. I got into the habit of doing this and made an effort of implementing cold water showers into my daily routine. The effects it began having on me were immediate, and are definitely worth feeling for yourself if you aren't already doing cold showers.
The initial shock the cold water gives your nervous system wakes your mind and body up. And after a prolonged period of time of being under the water your system adapts to the cold and you actually begin to warm up from the inside out. This process is known as thermogenesis. Your body begins to produce internal heat, and in turn gives you a surge of energy, and even increases your metabolism. (Cold-water showers as the next diet fad?) I began to realize that cold showers were indeed living up to the hype in multiple areas of health and well-being. The practice even expands itself philosophically, and instills in you the notion of simply knowing what you need to do when you need to do it: turn the water dial all the way to cold and just deal with it. "Just do it."
"Try and meditate now," a portion of my psyche communicated to myself as I shivered uncontrollably. So after about thirty seconds of desperately trying to adapt to this irrational environment, I began to flush out my mind of its erratic thoughts and uncomfortable sensations—striving for only one eternal second of Samadhi, would be enough to last me a lifetime. About 90 seconds in my mind climaxed in a moment of total surrender and oneness with the Source of the Hudson River. I drowned myself beyond the rational.
As soon as my mind came back into play I snapped out of this six-second samadhi and my body began to shiver and shudder again. I decided I had enough fun for a week and walked back out of the lake feeling reborn. The windless, sub-freezing air felt like it was hugging me as I came back on to shore. I stood there in my re-birthday suit feeling my mind as clear and clean as the water in the lake. (I'm sure if somebody were to pass by this isolated spot they would confusedly scratch their head wondering why there was a naked man overlooking the lake in the middle of November.)
This brings me to a perfect video clip example of what I'm writing about. Below is a clip from the Vale Tudo documentary, Choked, in which the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu legend, Rickson Gracie (widely recognized as the greatest Jiu-Jitsu practitioner of all time), submerges himself in cold, mountainous river water three days before a big Vale Tudo fight tournament in Japan. You'll notice the effects the cold river water has on this modern day Ninja-Samurai. He illustrates the pleasurable feeling of surrender and near-death he felt in the water, along with the feeling of being "reborn."
Enjoy the video. And maybe you'll decide to get into a cold shower and sauna marathon this weekend? Develop your nerve force. Peace.
The cold is clean, it's purifying, it's a great energy, and it builds your nerve force—vital power. And over time as you get more and more into it, you realize that the best high isn't drugs, that best high isn't alcohol, the best high isn't super foods, the best high isn't super herbs... The best high is jumping into ice cold water. When you get out you can't even believe what's going on in your body.
...That's how you build up that nerve force. Then you start to actually have strength in your skin, your tissue, your nerves. You have the ability to withstand it.
There are certain foods like sweet potato that won't allow itself to be genetically modified. It's anti-viral down to the DNA level.