Reis Paluso was beginning to taste success. A husband, father and partner in two growing business, the California surfer-turned-serial entrepreneur seemingly had life all figured out.
“I started a social media agency with my business partner who I met while working at Reef,” Paluso recalls. “I was married, had kids and started another business.”
While things seemed to be great from the outside, inside a storm was brewing. “I realized that as my responsibilities increased, my personal time decreased,” says Paluso who felt his sense of purpose slipping away despite his business success.
Wanting to help her husband recapture some of the joy that was missing in his life, Reis’ wife Daniella guided him to long-time friend Luke Wientzen, a California-based movement instructor and breath coach.
“The experience that I had in that first breathing session with Luke hooked me,” says Paluso. “We breathed for about 30 minutes and I touched a place that I hadn’t been able to reach on my own. I felt high, energized, and so at peace — all at the same time.”
Taking the Plunge
It was around this time that Paluso discovered Dutch extreme athlete and health innovator Wim Hof while listening to a podcast. Paluso was immediately drawn to Hof – a magnetic personality who attributes his superhuman athletic abilities to a unique regimen of cold therapy and breath work.
It wasn’t long before Paluso dove headfirst into Hof’s 10-week online breath work course which he quickly devoured in just 10 days. “The feeling that I had after every breathe was just magical,” he says. “I was connected to this power that I never really knew was there.”
For Paluso, the course reignited a connection to something deeper inside of him that had been lost amidst the burgeoning chaos of life. “It was a transformational experience,” he fondly recalls. “I jumped all in after that.”
Paluso became just the latest in the long line of disciples of Hof, known affectionately as the “Iceman” for his supernatural ability to withstand freezing temperatures. An extreme athlete, Hof made a name for himself by breaking a number of inconceivable world records, including climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in nothing but shorts, running a half marathon above the Arctic Circle barefoot and standing in an ice-cube filled tub for 112 minutes.
The chief tenet of Hof’s philosophy is that the human body can be made more resilient in the face of physical and psychological stress. The Wim Hof Method uses a combination of cold therapy and breathing to improve immunity, optimize performance, relieve symptoms of chronic disease and build resilience against defeating mental health triggers.
The Wim Hof method has been clinically studied with the results published in PNAS and Nature. In 2011, a Radboud University (Netherlands) study showed that by using his methods, Wim was able to voluntarily influence his autonomic nervous system – something which until then was thought impossible.
Off On a Wim
Shortly after finishing the online course, Paluso made a decision that would alter the trajectory of his life: he would go to Poland to train with his mentor. Before he knew it, Paluso found himself on a frozen mountaintop at -15C in Poland wearing just his shorts during one of the most transformational weeks of his life.
“Whether I knew it or not, that trip to Poland was the beginning of the end of my part in my first business.” Paluso shares. “My passion for the marketing parts of my life were decreasing. Instead, I wanted to be on the side of helping people with whatever they were dealing with in life — all through breath.”
It was during that trip that Paluso began to reconnect with the joy and sense of purpose that had been missing from his life. He knew that Hof’s cold therapy and breath work practices were something he needed to share with the world.
“Getting into the discomfort helped me realize how powerful I actually am. It created a space for me to learn that if I can do something uncomfortable – whether that’s getting into a cold shower or an ice bath or anything else that’s uncomfortable – maybe those things don’t have to be so impactful. If I can explore it more, push myself a little bit more … well, I’ve found that on the other side of that discomfort? That’s where the magic is.”
Having spent his professional career connecting people to one another, the experience made Paluso realize that he could use his skills for a higher purpose. “Something just felt right and good,” Paluso reflects on his time in Poland.
It wasn’t long after that his trip he decided to bring the skills he learned in Poland back to his home state of California.
Despite the success of his social media company, Paluso began to feel that his work was contributing to the loop of stress, comparison and consumerism inherent in today’s technology. Ironically, in his free time Paluso found himself teaching practices to deal with the exact issues that his business was creating.
“The alignment was just not there,” Paluso reflects.
That’s not to say it was easy to walk away from a business that Paluso started from the ground-up. It was a two year battle — one in which Paluso says he found himself extremely unhappy.
“I didn’t really see a way out,” he said. Answers about how to leave his old self behind and earn a living in the world of breath work alluded him. It wasn’t until a business coach suggested that he sell his stake in the business that Paluso was finally able to make the leap.
It wasn’t overnight, but once the deal to sell his part of the business was finalized, Paluso says he finally felt free.
“I totally understand where people get stuck,” Paluso observes. “Our lives has all these loops we get into, and it’s so easy to stay in that loop. The hard part is breaking out of it. And, it starts with feeling your feelings. Then, it’s about taking little steps in the direction of what feels good.”
Out from under his social media agency, Paluso did what all great serial entrepreneurs do: start a new venture. Along with author Kimberly Ann Johnson, Paluso started Our Breath Collective –a first-of-its-kind subscription-based virtual breath work community that offers daily breath practices, workshops and trainings to people all over the world.
“If we use breath as a tool, particularly in a very controlled way, we can alleviate uncontrolled stress,” says Paluso. “We learn the ability to redirect. The ability to determine how we respond to stress. The breath is such a gateway tool for that.”
A certified level 2 Wim Hof instructor, Paluso encourages his students to take responsibility over their own mental and emotional health. He knows it may just take one breath work session or a single cold therapy experience for people to see how they can potentially unlock their own highest potential.
“This really fills my cup up more than anything I’ve ever done,” says Paluso who has found a true sense of purpose in his work.
At some of his larger community cold therapy gatherings, Paluso notices people coming in nervous and uptight. “Half the people say, ‘I can’t do an ice bath,’ or they’re totally terrified. They don’t think it’s possible. Yet, every single person does it and then they realize, ‘Okay. I get it. I can do this.’”
For Paluso, it’s about pushing your mind and body past its pre-conceived limits. Only then, does the real breakthrough occur.
“I’m not special,” says Paluso. “I’m no different than anyone else who shows up at my workshops. If you put your mind to it, you can do anything.
Maybe the biggest thing Paluso has learned from Wim Hof is that stress, both mental and physical, isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
“Unfortunately, for most people, the second we’re hit with discomfort, we say: ‘I’m good.’ But what happens if you push, even just one tiny step? What happens if you keep taking these steps? Your capacity, your expansion, happens from there.”
Paluso’s life has been all about the small steps leading up to the present moment. It was a long and sometimes difficult road to get where he is today, but by mindfully stepping into discomfort, he has decided to be the author of his own destiny.
Today, Paluso is thriving in his new venture bringing breath work to the masses. Following his joy has brought purpose and lightness back into his life.
“I was just reflecting on all this with Daniella. I really love my life now and what I’m doing. I’m doing something that’s really helping people.”
The Next Chapter
With his own well-being front and center, Paluso finds he’s able to be a bit more playful. He recently bought a passenger style Ford Transit – a long time dream and his first dip into mobile living.
“I always knew I wanted one, so when my car lease was up, I finally said, ‘Let’s do it.’”
His two young daughters love the extra bench seats he personally installed and the large windows that allows the sun to soak in during long road trips. Reis personally hand-made cushions for the bed – a detail he is quite proud of.
“This is the first of many,” Paluso says with a tinge of excitement. “It’s something I’ll have in my quiver from here on out.”
Despite finding peace, it’s not surprising to learn that the serial entrepreneur continues to push his boundaries. Whether that’s helping to co-found an organic skincare line or expanding his breath work teachings – Paluso knows that the only way forward is to confront the unknown with a sense of lightness .
“We take things so seriously. If we like something, if it’s more playful inherently, we’ll eventually know when it’s right for us. It’ll stick. It’ll work. If it’s still playful, then you know that’s really it.”
In the end, Paluso believes that you should simply give yourself the permission to explore and try new things. “Because fuck, we all deserve it.”
Learn more about Reis Paluso and his new breathing venture at Ourbreathcollective. New customers can enter the code “REIS” at checkout for $10 off first month!
You can follow Reis on Instagram @reispaluso