OTTAWA -- It's minus 12C and the beach at Centennial Park in Smiths Falls is covered in snow, perfect conditions for Jarryd Lee.

Lee has been taking cold water dips in the Rideau River since last March. In the summer, cold showers and ice baths suffice.

However, on a sunny Saturday in January, Lee wades right into the river and immerses himself in the frigid water for over two minutes.

"It feels good, it’s a little bit like the pain for pleasure," says Lee, who comes down to the river multiple times a week. "You definitely get used to the sensation of being in the water, but the water is always cold. The nice thing is even though the air gets colder, the water stays the same temperature."

The cold water dips are a form of meditation for Lee, but the yoga enthusiast has also come to find that the immersion in the cold water has been a great stress reliever for him during this pandemic year.

"We haven’t been able to get out as much and it’s fun to do something new," says Lee. "After you get in the cold water and you get back out, you can feel your body, it’s a little more open and there’s a lot of chemicals that really flood your system."

Lee says the trick is to go into the water nice and slow rather than taking a full plunge.

"I wouldn’t recommend someone for the first time just to hop right into the river. Start with getting your hands cold and your feet cold."

Lee says he only needs to spend a couple minutes in the water to get what he needs from it. He also says that his health and breathing practices over the years has helped his body fight off any colds or sickness he might get from being in frigid water in the middle of winter.

"Well the body will get used to or adapt to any stimulus you keep giving it, cold being one of them," says Dr. Gordon Giesbrecht, a professor of Environmental Physiology at the University of Manitoba and a specialist in cold stress on humans.

"If you’re young and healthy, and you go in for a couple of minutes, no longer than five minutes at a time, and you’re wading in slowly, certainly it’s not going to do any damage."

Giesbrecht also says the threat of hypothermia is not something Lee would ever have to worry about. "It’s going to take you at least half an hour to become hypothermic if you stayed in the water up to your neck that long."

Lee is a former yoga teacher. With the pandemic all but virtually shutting down group fitness classes, he turned his attention to starting his own coffee roasting business. It is a new venture for Lee that certainly brings new stressors to his life.

"When you’re in the water all you’re thinking about is breathing and staying in the moment. You’re not thinking about your coffee roasters or your small business or whatever."