My Powerful Experience with Contrast Therapy

In the pursuit of holistic well-being, many turn to age-old practices that have withstood the test of time!

Among these, combining sauna and cold plunge stands out as a powerful ritual. Also known as contrast therapy, extreme heat followed by extreme cold provides physical, mental, and emotional rewards. I recently experienced my first exposure to contrast therapy at Kodawari Studios in Tampa, Florida, and it was truly transformative! I was excited to try this because I was intrigued by the hype surrounding contrast therapy. There is a lot of information circulating about how alternating between hot and cold offers profound benefits, including:

  • Improved circulation
  • Mood boost
  • Reduced chronic pain
  • Increased immunity
  • Higher energy
  • Reduced inflammation
  • Improved sleep
  • Expedited recovery 

Hot Therapy - Sauna Contrast Therapy Session - Heather Cold Therapy - Cold Plunge

 

I was ready to bring more of all of this into my life, so off to Florida I went! At Kodawari, there was a lead in each session who guided the group through breathwork, meditation, and conversation through thought-provoking questions. Here are the highlights I experienced during my journey, along with some challenges and how I overcame them:

  • New To Contrast Therapy: During the sauna portion of the sessions, a wave of comforting heat surrounded my body in warmth and relaxation. Muscles began to unwind, tension dissipated, and my mind followed suit, easing into tranquility. Stepping from the intense heat of the sauna into the icy water of the cold plunge portion was a shock to my system, awakening my senses and jolting my body into a state of heightened awareness. Initially, it felt uncomfortable, with a bit of tingling in my feet. As I acclimated to the water, it was invigorating.
  • Cold Water High: When I exited the cold plunge, I had a euphoric feeling often called the “cold water high.” The sudden cold exposure stimulates the release of endorphins, neurotransmitters acting as natural painkillers and mood enhancers.  This is one of the reasons that athletes (or anyone experiencing muscle pain) get amazing pain relief from contrast therapy.  
  • Social Connection: These sessions allowed me to create a great social connection with folks I had just met. The sauna and cold plunge experience fosters community and camaraderie, whether shared with friends or strangers. The journey through heat and cold creates bonds, especially with the built-in sharing component of these contrast therapy sessions. Many in today’s society feel more isolated than ever, so the opportunity to unite with like-minded people during the common pursuit of well-being is vitally important.
  • Regulate Metabolism: After undergoing contrast therapy, the body burns calories as it works to regulate its temperature–this can potentially lead to a temporary boost in metabolism. It felt amazing to tuck into bed; I can’t remember the last time I slept so soundly and comfortably or woke up feeling refreshed and rejuvenated! 
  • Ultimate Detoxification: Contrast therapy has detoxification effects by stimulating circulation and promoting lymphatic drainage. I experienced these healing effects with minor discomfort. On the third day, I woke up with aching joints due to inflammation. Although cold exposure is known to be beneficial for reducing exercise-induced muscle soreness and for people with inflammatory conditions, I was uncomfortable for a few reasons. I realized that I had done four saunas in two days, was not properly hydrated, and my body was detoxing too quickly. A great way to stay hydrated during sauna sessions is to include electrolytes in your water ~ lesson learned! 

Transformative Healing of Kodawari 

When my time at Kodawari ended, it was safe to say that I was addicted to the contrast therapy sessions and SO excited to begin practicing regularly at Release.  

Incorporating these practices into your routine can unlock a multitude of benefits that extend far beyond the sauna walls or the icy waters of a cold plunge tub. It teaches us the importance of balance and resilience as we navigate the extremes of temperature. In this contrast, we find a metaphor for life itself, where challenges are met with courage and adversity is embraced as an opportunity for growth.

So, embrace the heat, embrace the cold, and discover the transformative power of sauna and cold plunge for yourself.  

I hope to see you in the Release Contrast Method Sessions at Release Boston!