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Ice baths for the mind and body break heat of UAE desert

Reuters

Posted at Jun 28 2021 10:41 AM | Updated as of Jun 28 2021 11:27 AM

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A drone photo shows participants in an ice bath therapy session at the desert near Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, June 25, 2021.Rula Rouhana, Reuters

Benoit Demeulemeester, a former banker and executive coach, takes an ice bag ahead of an ice bath therapy session at the desert near Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, June 25, 2021.Rula Rouhana, Reuters

Participants dipped their hands in ice during an ice bath therapy session at the desert near Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, June 25, 2021.Rula Rouhana, Reuters

A participant prepares to get into the ice bucket during an ice bath therapy session at the desert near Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, June 25, 2021.Rula Rouhana, Reuters

Benoit Demeulemeester, a former banker and executive coach, helps a participant to breathe as she sits in an ice bucket during an ice bath therapy session at the desert near Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, June 25, 2021.Rula Rouhana, Reuters

Participants stand during an ice bath therapy session at the desert near Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, June 25, 2021.Rula Rouhana, Reuters

Participants stand upon their arrival before an ice bath therapy session at the desert near Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, June 25, 2021.Rula Rouhana, Reuters

Benoit Demeulemeester, a former banker and executive coach, helps a participant as he sits in the ice bucket during an ice bath therapy session at the desert near Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, June 25, 2021.Rula Rouhana, Reuters

Benoit Demeulemeester, a former banker and executive coach, talks to a participant as she sits in an ice bucket during an ice bath therapy session at the desert near Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, June 25, 2021.Rula Rouhana, Reuters

A general view shows participants in an ice bath therapy session at the desert near Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, June 25, 2021.Rula Rouhana, Reuters

SHARJAH - As the morning sun bakes the orange dunes of the UAE desert, a man lowers himself into a tinkling tub of ice.

Weathering such extreme discomfort is an attempt to boost the body's immunity and connect with an inner strength.

"The temperature difference increases your immune system," said Benoit Demeulemeester from Switzerland, who runs the ice bath and breathing sessions in the United Arab Emirates. "You stress your system for a short period of time, which makes you stronger."

Emirati participant Marwan Abdelaziz, sitting in the orange basin of ice in swimming shorts and sunglasses, said: "The beginning is a bit scary: you want to get out, you can't control your breathing. But now I am ok, totally fine."

Abdelaziz entered the bath with a grimace, but held his breath calmly as directed by Demeulemeester, who coaches participants on breathing techniques.

"I am a passionate hot and cold person ... I like to take people out of their comfort zone and give them an experience of body and mind, (to) reconnect with nature," Demeulemeester said.

Cold water immersion and breathing techniques have been made popular by Wim Hof, a Dutch cold water enthusiast who holds several world records for cold exposure.

Hof has developed his own methodology, with similarities to ancient Tibetan Buddhist breathing techniques, comprising breathing, cold exposure and commitment.

Old, young, athlete or non-athlete, the techniques are good for everyone, said Demeulemeester, a former banker and now executive coach who uses Hof's methods in his practice.

Looking out over the rocky outcrops of the desert, participant Reza Tirgari from California agreed the beginning was the hardest part, but then the benefits came.

"You realize that your mind is more powerful then your body and your mind controls your body. You have to make your body obey your mind - that's the secret," Tirgari said.

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