These Icelanders skip the hot springs for ice baths

Using slow, deliberate movements and deep breathing, bathers immerse themselves in the waters of an ice-covered lake in southwestern Iceland. 

While others might opt for the soothing hot springs for which the country is famous, this hardy group prefers an ice bath, all in the name of wellness.

The temperature above the frozen lake of Kleifarvatn, one of the country’s deepest, is minus six degrees Celsius (21.2 degrees Fahrenheit). 

Equipped with an axe, Andri Einarsson, the co-instructor on this unusual seminar, cuts a hole through the sheet of ice covering the lake, located less than an hour’s drive from the famous Blue Lagoon geothermal spa whose milky blue waters average 38 degrees C.

Up on shore, the group of about 15, who have come from the outskirts of the capital Reykjavik, is getting ready.  

Clad in puffer jackets or thick sweaters, the participants warm up with a series of movements and breathing exercises reminiscent of the traditional Maori haka war dance.

“They were just working on getting the system ready (for the cold), challenging their mind, just tapping in and doing what we call the ‘brown fat activation’,” Einarsson tells AFP.