Vancouver men are taking the plunge, going without clothes in the rain

Yoga instructor Will Blunderfield leads a class at the Vancouver Buddhist Temple in January 2013 as part of a fundraiser for the Fukushima Yoga Project.

Jason Payne Jason Payne / Vancouver Sun

Vancouver men are getting naked in the rain. Every Wednesday in Lynn Canyon, and some Sundays near Kitsilano Beach, Vancouver’s cold-plunge kings toss their bathrobes, their flip-flops and their inhibitions, and take to the waters.

Preparation matters: They sing, they breathe, they chant and they do pushups. Then they plunge.

One guy yells “shrinkage!” and the laughter skitters like the flocks of Coots across the waters of English Bay. Joyful sounds, joyful souls.

Will Blunderfield, a popular Vancouver yoga teacher and singer, whose goal is to make alternative spiritual music as popular as Michael Buble made swing, is leading today’s cold plunge. The 20-minute dips are “clothing optional,” but for Blunderfield, who also teaches naked yoga, getting naked adds to the benefits — even though posting about the process has got him in a kerfuffle with Facebook and Instagram.

Blunderfield said that while some organizations misunderstand the nudity — he recently got booted from the 3HO yoga community for teaching loin-cloth-free classes — the trend, and the community, are growing.

He sees getting naked as a form of emotional strength training that can help with body dysmorphia and anxiety: “It takes a lot of vulnerability and strength to show up naked among a group of strangers.”

What makes it healing, says Blunderfield, is that you get to drop your pretences along with your drawers: “Nobody looks like a model. We are all just people.”

Every Wednesday at 7 a.m. he and co-organizer Natalia Anja meet with about 30 regulars in Lynn Valley to breathe, meditate and take a clothing-optional plunge.

Plunger Ryan Yada, who brought his three kids to frolic in gumboots along the shore during Sunday’s plunge, has organized his own early morning group in West Vancouver. You don’t have to get naked to join in, but Michael Hoche, 59, who arrived by car wearing just a bathrobe, a bathing suit and a pair of Crocs, happily tosses everything off.

For me, it’s cold-water therapy,” said Hoche.

Cold-plunging burns calories, increases metabolism, improves discipline, releases endorphins, decreases inflammation and boosts your immune system, said Blunderfield. Cold-water immersion, or the so-called cold-water cure, has been practised by many cultures, including the Romans, Egyptians and the yogis, and some research suggests it can even have a positive effect on depression.

Josh Dittmar, 26, said cold-plunging is “a way to sharpen my life and enjoy it more.”

“You can feel your cells light right up,” said Sam Wyllie, 35. “There is a huge rush, you feel really alive. You just breathe through it and it’s great.”

Eddie Schlagintweit, 26, said: “The feeling that people are looking for when they buy a Venti Starbucks latte is what cold-plunging gets you. And it’s free. After plunging I am in the best mood, and I can go all day.”

When the plungers get out of the water, chatter and rub down with towels, one thing is clear: Whatever happened in the cold water has changed them. Despite the gloom of the rainy day, the mood feels aerial, warm and ecstatic.

Karolena Benkavova, 30, a cold-plunger who came to support her husband, said, “It’s always scary and it’s not comfortable at all but it is training that you are not limited in your life at all. The limits are only in your head.”


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