Unlocking Health and Wellness Through Natural Biohacking

May 29, 2023

Martin Kuchynka

Discover the transformative potential of sun-gazing, sauna bathing, and cold exposure for optimizing your body and mind while promoting physical and mental well-being.

What we’ll talk about

The very important thing for us is exposure to heat / cold, which is basically natural biohacking. We will talk about sun-gazing, or how to gradually adapt to the cold, or about the benefits of saunas (use of extremely high temperatures). The practice has been prescribed as a cure for depression and low mood, as well as a variety of health conditions by some ancient healers.

Sauna bathing, i.e. exposure to extreme heat followed by cooling, has its origins in the Nordic countries, where there was a long-term lack of daylight during the polar night. The sauna ritual then partly replaced the missing sun and made it possible to strengthen health. Sauna use can reduce the risk of neurodegenerative and cardiovascular diseases, as well as improve physical and mental health. Sauna use has a positive effect on hormonal balance and insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism.

There are two types of fat in the human body – classic white and brown. Cold exposure leads to the activation of brown adipose tissue, which has a significant influence on the metabolism of blood glucose and the level of free fatty acids in the blood. It could potentially play an important role in treating obesity and getting rid of subcutaneous fat.

Natural Biohacking: Heat and Cold

Lifestyle optimization is a big theme of the whole AboveYourLimits lifestyle. It is not only about diet, training and supplementation, but also about the environment in which you sleep and spend your free time, in which environment you work, what other substances you ingest and what your habits and bad habits are.

In terms of body transformation and health optimization, the most important thing for us is exposure to heat / cold, which is basically natural biohacking, where we use nature to our advantage. You probably started working on this since establishing the morning routine, so now we will talk more about how to work with sun-gazing, how to gradually adapt to the cold, or about the benefits of saunas (use of extremely high temperatures).

Introduction to Natural Biohacking

We are going to talk about some of the most effective strategies for transforming your body and improving your overall health, next to the adjusting your diet and training, will be using sunlight and extreme temperatures (whether hot or cold).

As you already know, it is extremely beneficial to use them both as part of your morning routine and also at various times during the day to promote fat burning, energy and mood, and performance. 

Sun-Gazing: Harnessing the Power of the Sun

Sun-Gazing Explained

Sun-gazing is an ancient yogic meditation and energy practice brought up to date for the modern world by Hira Raten Manek. However, this technique also appeared in Tibet, Egypt, among the Aztecs and a number of other ancient civilisations, who felt a subtle connection between the energy of the Sun, the Earth, and their own body.

I have been practicing this technique myself for over a year, based on new scientific knowledge that led me to it without knowing that it has been practiced this way for thousands of years.

How to Practice Sun-Gazing

   - At sunrise or an hour before sunset, when the solar spectrum contains little UV radiation, you look toward the sun.

   - You are not looking directly at the sun (which is really only possible when rising on the horizon above the sea or from a great height), but a little sideways.

  • The goal is not to look at one place, but to gradually expand your attention (try to perceive central and peripheral vision at the same time).
  • Start with 10-20 seconds and work your way up to 1 minute.
  • Sungazing is suitable for both sunrise and sunset.
  • According to tradition, it is best to sit on the ground in a Turkish seat, or stand with bare feet on the grass, which creates a connection to both the sun and the earth (but to my experience not neccessary).

Remember that this is not a classic meditation or sun salutation, and is mainly about looking towards the Sun and expanding your attention.

Sun-gazing was prescribed as a cure for depression and low mood, as well as a variety of health conditions.  You might think that this is pretty esoteric bullshit, and that UV just damages the eyes, but in reality, science are starting to pay serious attention to the sung-azing and its positive effect.

Benefits of Sun-Gazing

  • Increased motivation and good mood, due to the influence of the morning sun spectrum (primarily red, infrared + UVA), there will be an increased synthesis of dopamine and serotonin.
  • Hence the traditional remedy for depression and bad mood, which most often appear in the dark part of the year.
  • Serotonin, which is produced in the morning, then turns into melatonin after sunset.  So watching the sunrise can greatly improve your sleep and overall health.
  • In addition, the sun also helps create endorphins, which makes that good feeling.  It is not surprising the sun is observed not only by people around the world, but also by animals.
  • Exposure to the sun then actually suppresses appetite, and further activates the metabolism and allows us to burn fat more efficiently for energy (hence probably the impression that it replaces food), which is why exposure to the morning sun has been linked in research to weight loss (even regardless of calorie intake).

Sauna: The Health Benefits of Extreme Heat

The Origin of Sauna Bathing

Sauna bathing, i.e. exposure to extreme heat followed by cooling, has its origins in the Nordic countries, where there was a long-term lack of daylight during the polar night.  The sauna ritual then at least partly replaced the missing sun and made it possible to strengthen health.  It wasn’t until modern science began to discover that saunas have an effect not only on “sweating” or apparent detoxification, but on overall health, including the psyche.

If your goal is to change your physique or loose fat tissue, sauna could be beneficial through several mechanisms. Though, I have to mention that sauna will not melt the fat because of high temperature and then miraculously evaporate (you would be surprised how many people really think so).

Regular sauna bathing will help you to support metabolism, detoxification and hormonal balance, which are one of the main factors affecting your ability to efficiently use energy, thus storing or breaking adipose tissue. Together with the reduction of body inflammation, you can create more favourable conditions for burning fat, increasing muscle mass. Moreover, in the same time overall improvement of health, which goes hand in hand with it.

Effects of Sauna Bathing

  • Reducing body inflammation – which can manifest itself in the improvement of whole range of symptoms or diseases. Decreased markers include CRP and C-reactive protein. 
  • Reduction of the risk of sudden death – in long term, saunas have role in reduction of civilisation diseases and cardiovascular diseases. 
  • Reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease – in the long term, it results in lower blood pressure, improved blood flow and vascular elasticity, similar to exercise.
  • A reduction in the risk of neurodegenerative diseases – this manifests itself not only as a result of a reduction in body inflammation and an improvement in blood flow (which helps break down beta-amyloid plaque), but also, for example, with regard to an increase in the production of BDNF.
  • Improving cognitive performance – sauna, or  exposure to high temperatures stimulates the body to produce BDNF – a protein involved in increasing neural plasticity, but also in the ability to regenerate muscle fibers.  The effect of sauna use can thus be traced not only to the improvement of cognitive performance, but also to better regeneration and physical performance and a reduction in the risk of neurodegenerative diseases.  In addition to BDNF, norepinephrine (effect on concentration and attention) and prolactin (effect on the growth of the myelin sheath of neurones, which leads to an improvement in the health of the nervous system and the brain and its faster functioning) are also released during sauna use.
  • Improving physical performance – sauna use has an effect on the release of growth hormone, BDNF and acetylcholine, which can manifest itself in the ability to restore muscle cells faster and regenerate, in the long term at the same time producing greater muscle strength and performance.
  • Improvement of hormonal balance – in addition to increasing growth hormone production and positive effect on insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism.
  • Detoxification – due to increased sweating, a whole range of toxic substances are removed from the body, mainly heavy metals, but also bisphenol A, PCBs and phthalates.
  • Improvement of mental health – sauna use helps reduce side effects and markers of depression, such as decreased appetite, body inflammation, increased soreness, and more.  In addition, if the sauna is done correctly, it leads to the induction of a blissful feeling that few people have the desire not to repeat again. Behind this is the release of endorphins and the effect on the opiate system of the person.

How to Do it

Similar to cold exposure, you need to gradually get used to sauna bathing and exposure to high temperatures in general (it does not have to be a true Finnish sauna, but perhaps a steam room or infrared saunas, but the mentioned health benefits are overwhelmingly based on observing the use of a classic Finnish sauna).

Keep in mind that you should not force yourself into anything and take the recommended sauna times as indicative, as something that you must work towards gradually. Many people have the need to compete with advanced individuals, which often ends in fainting and nausea at best, or simply collapse at worst.

Ideally perform 3, at maximum 4 cycles (the fourth one usually leads to a lot of fatigue for most people). One cycle should be 15 min long, but keep in mind that you can start at lower time. Preferably visit sauna in the early evening, as you will be fatigued.

Cold Exposure: Activating Brown Fat for Metabolism

Understanding Adipose Tissue

Few people know that there is no such thing as fat.  There are two types of adipose tissue in the human body – the classic white, which in large quantities makes us fat and unhealthy, but there is also brown, which we have a large proportion of in the newborn age and a certain percentage of which persists into adulthood.  Brown fat performs a different function than white fat – it plays an important role in thermoregulation (which is its critical function right after birth) and is also involved in energy metabolism.

The Role of Brown Fat

In adulthood, the proportion of brown adipose tissue is really small (only a fraction of the original amount), but if specific conditions are introduced, it is possible to ensure the conditions for the formation of new cells brown adipose tissue. These are then scattered in the white adipose tissue (sometimes you may come across the term beige adipose tissue) and can to some extent change the rules of the game of fat metabolism.

Cold exposure, leads to the activation of brown adipose tissue and has a significant influence on the metabolism of blood glucose and the level of free fatty acids in the blood.  In practice, there may be an increase in insulin sensitivity and overall efficiency of metabolic processes.  Meanwhile, brown adipose tissue activity decreases with how much classic white fat we have [R], so its stimulation could potentially play an important role in treating obesity and getting rid of subcutaneous fat.

Cold exposure as a basic step to stimulate metabolism

Going to toughen up, whether in the shower, the river, or the ice tub, probably doesn’t sound like a very tempting offer.  The encounter with ice water in many people causes feelings of extreme disgust, gasping for breath, or even anger and downright offensive reactions.  But if you overcome the initial displeasure, don’t jump into hardening with straight feet and get used to the cold slowly, you will start to feel the first benefits.  Some immediately, others come after a certain time.

Benefits of Cold Exposure

  • Optimising the circadian rhythm and improving sleep.
  • Activation of metabolism and fat burning.
  • Better mood and overall mental state.
  • Reducing body inflammation.
  • Immunity support.
  • Improving cognitive performance.

But everything can’t work as it should, you need to start lightly and be consistent, especially if you are not a fan of the cold and it could easily discourage you.

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