At the end of a leafy garden behind a terraced house in Kingsthorpe stands a little temple of spiritual healing. It’s open to any who are foolhardy enough to take on its challenges.
Named after the Greek god of wind and winter, Boreas Healing teaches controlled breathing and cold exposure to treat physical and mental ailments. Launched at the start of summer, it has already gathered some loyal disciples.
I joined a small group this Sunday to see if one afternoon’s training could really prepare me to bathe in ice.
My guide for the day was Daniel Beckitt, one of only a handful of instructors in the UK to have learned the Wim Hof method from the Dutch extreme athlete himself.
To the uninitiated, Mr Hof is famed for climbing Mount Everest in nothing but his shoes and shorts along with 25 other extraordinary records - from running Arctic marathons to spending longer than anyone else in an ice bath.
His ability to withstand extreme cold, he attributes, to his unique breathing technique - which we were about to learn.
In his training with Wim Hof, Daniel endured gruelling tests of endurance, hiking nearly naked up frozen mountainsides and swimming rivers in winter. He shouldn’t still be alive, but he hasn’t even lost any fingers or toes – I made sure to count.
Daniel talked about how the techniques had cured his own lifelong asthma, and helped him overcome his inner demons. He explained the principles behind the method, with enough science to please my sceptical side.
After the theory came the practice.
In the cosy studio, we learned to saturate our blood with oxygen. The moments between needing to take breaths stretched ever longer. In those silent pauses, I took notice of every muscle from my scalp to my toes, and let any tension go.
After lunch, having stripped down to a pair of trunks, I stepped out into the autumn chill. Until now the ice bath had been a distant concern in my mind, but suddenly it was my turn!
As I lowered myself in, my instincts told me to clench – my fists, my stomach, everything else a man can clench. But the secret is to relax.
Don't fight the ice, we were instructed, you cannot beat it.
Relaxing, surrendering, I felt the cold but it didn’t hurt. Instead it made me aware of all of my body, and my breath, and I felt a sense of peace.
Our aim was two minutes in the ice. Armpits deep, I hardly noticed time passing, until I was told I’d been in for three.
The Boreas Healing workshop was a strange but beautiful experience. Some found it powerfully emotional.
It may not be for everyone, but if you need healing and invigoration in your life, in a way you've never tried before, find out more at www.boreashealing.co.uk