ENCINITAS — Wintertime in Poland’s ski villages finds most visitors bundled up head to toe in parkas, scarves and any other warm piece of clothing they can stuff in a suitcase.
But on a visit in January 2017, La Costa resident Reis Paluso could pack a little lighter. He was there to climb a mountain — a nearly two-hour ascent — in nothing but his shorts.
“It’s a bustling little town,” Paluso said. “You got all these people watching this group of shirtless weirdos walking up a mountain.”
This was part of a retreat for the Wim Hof Method, a mindset and style of breath work that uses cold exposure to control our basic nervous system. Developed by Wim Hof, a Dutch athlete nicknamed “The Iceman” for his feats in the extreme cold, this method has been studied and validated by scientists around the world. On Oct. 6, Paluso is holding a workshop instructing people in the method, and he says the science is a huge piece of how this practice is taught.
“You feel this stuff in your body, and then you look at graphs and charts,” Paluso said. “Then you can start manifesting this stuff as you’re doing the exercises.”
His adventures may sound extreme, but Paluso is just an average guy, pursuing two start-up businesses and raising two little girls with his wife. The Wim Hof method is not his full-time gig, but a way for him to disconnect from the noise of life. He said it sharpens his mind body connection — a phenomenon that some of his students have also observed.
“You get in the cold water and it shuts off all your thoughts right away,” Lance Mann, trained by Paluso in the Wim Hof Method, explained. “I pursued it for self-discovery and self-development.”
Mann is 17 years old, and started with the method at just 15. He went on the Poland retreat with Paluso this February, and he was the youngest person to ever participate.
“I had the mindset and the community around me,” Mann said. “That held me up and kept me going.”
Leucadia resident Justin Ternes has also practiced the Wim Hof method with Paluso. As a
physical therapist, Ternes appreciates the science behind the method and enjoys how the cold exposure calms down his body and mind.
“I had a more calm demeanor and more focus and attention as a result of the ice bath,” Ternes said.
Wim Hof’s feats are pretty impressive. He’s climbed the world’s tallest mountains in just shorts, run a marathon in the desert without water and been submerged in ice for nearly two hours.
Still, Hof firmly believes that anyone can do this — and Paluso uses his workshop to reiterate this. In four hours, students learn the technique and science, and discuss it. His first workshop in December 2017 had just 12 students. Recently, he’s had up to 42 participants. The Wim Hof Method is also big in the surf community, which is part of why Paluso said he believes it blends well with the lifestyle in North County.
“It really fits the mold for people who are open to new things, that are into alternative healing — people who want to push the boundaries and do cool stuff,” Paluso said. “I think it’s the nature of where we live.”
Reis Paluso’s Wim Hof Method workshop will be held at Gather Encinitas on Saturday, Oct. 6 at Gather Encinitas from 1 to 5 p.m. More information is on his website, www.weareboundless.life.