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Breathwork & Ice Bath with Jason Ryer of Zen Strength
Website:Zen Strength Location :Zen Strength, Mae Khua Mung Soi 2, Tambon Chang Phueak, Chiang Mai, Thailand Immersion Time: 13 minutes
Zen Strength Breathwork & Ice Bath I was pleasantly surprised to learn that there is a biohacker in Chiang Mai hosting weekly ice baths on Sundays at 10:30 am - Jason Ryer of Zen Strength. Hmmmm. Last time I did an ice bath at the Draper Startup House, I stayed on for 12 minutes. How long can I hold it this time? Moreover, part of Jason's event includes Wim Hof breathing before the ice bath.
What is Biohacking? Bio-hacking is a relatively new word describing someone who uses his body as a working lab to conduct unproven experiments - sometimes with ground-breaking results, sometimes with catastrophic results. They think out of the box and are somehow gifted in weaving different modalities together into a seamless functional singularity. Essentially, they are path-finders, inventors, creative artists, iconoclasts, innovative fringe-thinkers and body explorers. Depending on how powerful their results are, they can reshape the old ways of doing things, influence public thinking and redefine the mainstream. The world is more animated because of biohackers. Obviously, I define them with my bias along superlative lines.
Jason Ryer Zen Strength Jason is an American biohacker and adventurer who founded Zen Strength - a self-transformation center in Chiang Mai, designed to upgrade human performance to its highest level. Jason is a BULLETPROOF Human Potential Coach who relentlessly reads and puts into practice the best methods for biohacking health - weight loss, strength-building, detox and energy boost. He offers coaching and courses onsite and through his website - https://zenstrength.fitness. He is assisted by his biohacker partner, Amphika.
My Questions It was just me and Solene who came to the event. The venue was a rustic patch of green residential land that's well-suited for an indoor breathing exercise and outdoor ice-immersion on a one-man plastic tub. I asked Jason 2 of my most pressing questions about the Wim Hof method, hoping he could provide answers:
On the 30 breathing repetitions, why does Wim Hof strongly advise against completely emptying the lungs, when in yoga, it is advised to empty the lungs completely with no residual air? After all, residual air left in the lungs offers no more oxygen and worse, occupies space that could be used by oxygen-rich air.
According to Jason, Wim Hof did not make it clear why, but through other sources, he said the residual air (essentially carbon dioxide), is needed by the body to ironically increase the intake of oxygen. Although counter-instinctive, this is also explained by renowned yogi, Simon Borg-Olivier, who explained that in order for the body to receive oxygen, it has to trade its supply of carbon dioxide first. I still do not fully understand it, to be honest.
During breathwork, the chakras can be activated inadvertently. What if that happens and the student is not ready and starts freaking out? What should be done? This remains my apprehension, thus I only take advanced practitioners for intensive breathwork or advanced pranayama.
According to Jason, energy build-up will be felt by the student. Should it get overwhelming, it would be wise to back off.
Breathwork Jason explained the mechanics of the breathing - full breath but slower on the first round, progressing in pace with the subsequent rounds. Breathwork was done lying down. He played isochronic tones in the background (regular beats of a single tone inducing a heightened state of consciousness that corresponds with mindful breathing - as in this case) as an added biohacking measure.
Ice Bath As an added biohack, Jason added wire-grounding(to release on the ground, the body-voltage we've accumulated from EMF and other unwanted sources), magnesium chloride(magnesium nutritional supplement that is highly absorbable), and sodium bicarbonate(to keep the water clean) on the iced water. 3 sacks of ice were already in when I came into the tub, lowering the temperature down to a numbing 8 degrees. I immediately immersed my whole body with only my head above the surface. The initial plunge was the most difficult. It sent what felt like an electrical shock surging throughout the body, causing the mind to panic and cause a reflex-jump out of the tub. I had to fight against that reflex for the first 3 minutes until it became more manageable. I focused my attention within and observed the discomfort morph into piercing pain, then to uncontrolled body twitching and then to teeth chattering. Even though my mind remained relaxed and equanimous, my body was uncontrollably twitching. By the time I came out, I was already immersed 13 minutes. I started shivering after, which was expected.
13 minutes on the ice-bath at 8°
Post-Ice Bath Refreshments and Conversation Amphika graciously offered homemade mochi and a refreshing coconut drink for us. We shared ideas and experience as we warmed our bodies under the sun.
Ending Thoughts It was refreshing to meet new people who are into biohacking but not necessarily yogis. They provide fresh perspective and new narrative into something that is perhaps already familiar to me. As a biohacker myself, I appreciate Jason's added touch to Wim Hof's method (Isochronic Tones, magnesium/sodium bicarbonate addition, wire-grounding).
I've met other biohackers who are not even aware they are biohackers - they just have a constantly racing mind that connects the dots in their mind-space. They act upon their aha-Moments, blazing a path few would dare. The rest of us mortals enjoy living vicariously through their exploits.
Thank you Jason and Amphika for having me. I look forward to a continued connection.
Jason Ryer Zen Strength (May 25, 2021) Nice! Thanks for sharing this write-up. I enjoyed the style of writing... and your generosity in referring to our little cottage as "rustic"! Come on back any time!
(Jun 2, 2021) This was the first of a series of progressive pranayama yoga classes I taught at the park as a free public offering of Yoga in the Park - Chiang Mai. We're not even touching pranayama which is the yogic regulated breathing method. This class is as basic as learning how to properly breathe. Why? Because few people know how to breathe right.....more »»
(Jul 25, 2021) There was a big and idle blue drum at the hotel, and Alan suggested I do my own ice bath with it. The idea fermented. I cleaned up the drum and ordered 2 sacks of ice. I was testing the system but the neighbors joined in and so did some friends from yoga. The scene resembled a party.....more »»
Chiang Mai INFORMATION
Chiang Mai Map
Chiang Mai, Thailand
Bus Station Train Station Chiang Mai International Airport Nong Buak Hard Park - free yoga classes daily
Arun Dara Villa - 7 exclusive rooms, 1 swimming pool for every room, grand opening
Nawa Sheeva Hotel - big rooms, high ceiling, salt-water pool, restaurant, cafe
Nawa Saraan Hotel - low density (4 spacious rooms), stone garden setting, Koi fish pond, Old City location
Arun Suite - 3 bedrooms in a 3-storie guesthouse within Old City, ideal for families
Tawan Bike - motorcycle rental | +66 91 635 2863 | Si Phum, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50200
Chiang Mai FYI / Tips
crop-burning season in Chiang Mai is between late Feb to early April. But laws change everytime. This year, 2019, there is a 61-day ban on burning so the farmers started burning early. When my plane was approaching Chiang Mai on Jan 24, 2019, there was already a thick blanket of smog covering the entire city (and beyond). But within the city itself, you won't feel it (but that doesn't mean the air is healthy). To monitor air conditions in real time, refer to site: Chiang Mai Air Pollution: Real-time Air Quality Index (AQI)
hot season begins March and lasts until June
wet season begins July and lasts until September
best time to visit Chiang Mai is mid-September to mid-February - after the monsoon and before the burning
you have to try Khao Soi, this is north Thailand's culinary staple
the tourist area where most of the hotels, restaurants, ticket offices, tour operators are, is located in the Old City
to exchange your dollars to Thai Baht, the Super Rich Money Exchange give the best rates. There are many branches scattered around Chiang Mai
get a red cab (songthao) outside the train station for Baht 50 (instead of paying B100 if inside the train station) to Old City - if you haggle nicely enough...I did!
shared red taxi (songthao) - B30 standard fare plying all over Old City
for only B50/day, best to rent a bike to go around the Old City - it's a 2.5km2 with lots to discover
FREE daily yoga classes from 9:00am to 10:15am at Nong Buak Hard Park (southwest corner of Old City). Resident and passing-through teachers take turns conducting yoga classes.
Blues/Jazz Bars in Chiang Mai
North Gate Jazz Coop - at Chang Phueg Gate, great Tuesday jam session, Blues on Sundays at 11pm by the Chiang Mai Blues band
Boy Blues Bar - at the Night Bazaar. Mondays at 9:30pm is open mic
My Secret Cafe - near Wat Phra Singh. Tuesdays at 7:30pm for the changing front-act and 9:00pm for the Panic Band
Taphae East - 88 Thapae Rd. (just north of Night Bazaar). Fridays at 9:30pm by Chiang Mai Blues Band
Chiang Mai Cost Index
B60 Chiang beer
B250 1 hour drop-in yoga session
B200 one hour Thai body massage at WAYA Massage(highly recommended)
B50 noodle soup with meat
B40 pad thai
B30/kilo wash-only laundry
B50/kilo wash+iron laundry
B100-150 dorm bed/night
B250 fan room/night
B30 internet cafe/hour
B170-190 Movies Sat-Sun and public holidays
B130-150 Movies weekdays
B100 Movies Wednesdays (movie discount day)
B750 1/2 day Thai cooking lessons
B900-1000 1 full day Thai cooking lessons
B400 Muay Thai boxing ticket
B2500 starting room rate at the luxury hotel, Nawa Sheeva(highly recommended)
B450 bus, Chiang Mai to Bangkok
B160-180 bus, Chiang Mai to Pai
B1250 bus, Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang
B1650 slow boat, Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang
B210 bus, Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai, 3-4 hours
B360 Green VIP bus, Chiang Mai to Mae Sai (Thai border town for visa run to Tachileik, Myanmar)
B50 bicycle rental, 24 hours
B200 motorbike rental, 24 hours
B273 #51 sleeping train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
Book Online - direct booking with State Railway of Thailand. Best to register first. If going to BKK from CNX, click "Northern Line".
note -- big difference between booking direct with the State Railway and booking with an online 3rd party agent. 12GO was charging B1330 for the same trip that only cost me B941 with the State Railway.
note -- Oct 2022, I took the #10 Train from CNX to BKK, upper berth, 2nd class, a/c, sleeper, B941. The train was clean, fast, comfortable and modern. If you have heavy luggage that will cost more money in flight checkin, I would suggest this train. Otherwise, the flight now is so much cheaper it doesn't even make sense to take the bus or train.
Bangkok to Chiang Mai by Train from Bang Sue Train Station
How to Get a 60-Day Thai Tourist Visa and then Extend by another 30 Days
This process is BEFORE Covid 19. Not sure what it is now.
60-Day Thai Tourist Visa
NOTE: There is no need to go back to your country to get the Thai tourist visa. Any major city with a Thai Embassy will do. Apparently there is also no need to have an invitation from a Thai establishment to justify the visa.
Bring the following to the Thai embassy:
a) proof of money (bank statement will suffice)
b) flight booking to Thailand
c) onward flight back to your country from Thailand
d) filled-in tourist visa form
e) 2 passport pictures
f) hotel booking in Thailand (they didn't ask me for this but better be safe)
g) passport with at least 6 months validity
After handing over all the documents, they will ask you to come pick your passport with the visa the following day from 4 to 5pm. That's it!
NOTE: after 2 successful attempts, I was already questioned the 3rd time.
NOTE: When your 60-day visa is close to expiry and you want to extend your stay. No need to leave Thailand.
bring the following to the Immigration Office:
a) passport (make sure your Tourist Visa hasn't expired yet)
b) Baht 1900
c) photocopy of your passport + visa duration date stamp + TM6 card (white immigration card) and sign all the copies
d) completed TM7 visa extension form (available at the Immigration Office)
e) one 4cmx6cm passport picture
submit the above to the Front Desk. They will give you a stub with your number on it. Take a seat and wait for your number to be called
when your number is called, your picture will be taken. Then go back to your seat. They will call you again.
when they call you again, they'll give you your passport with your extended visa. That's it!
when there are no lines, the whole process can take only 10 minutes
arrive early - in case there is a snag (visa snag, documentation snag, transport ticket snag, etc.), you will have ample time to troubleshoot the problem if you arrive early (to the airport, to the bus terminal, etc.)
put detailed itinerary on the Calendar apps of your smart-phone according to timelines - this is where you do all your thinking and planning. Once written down, you don't have to think anymore while you are on the journey...you just follow the steps. This frees your mind for something else that might happen while you are already en route
avoiding scams - as a general rule, I ignore the touts or anyone I don't know who call out to me. The calling comes in many forms - "Hi! Where are you from?", "Excuse me! Excuse me!", "Where are you going?". I don't look them in the eye and I remain non-verbal with them. If you reply to them, you just gave them an 'in' to hound you. In order not to look rude, I smile and wave the 'not interested' hand to them, without looking at them.
power bank - hand-carry your power bank. Do not check it in. You can be called in when you are already inside the plane to go all the way to the loading dock so you can personally remove the power bank...and chances are, you'll have to surrender it to them. And you might delay the plane departure!