Ian Hart is the fitness and wellness expert who went through a devastating illness that forced him to rebuild his health from the brink of death. He shares the mindset and the techniques that helped him recover his health in his new book, Healing Hacks: Bring Your Body Back to Nature. In this interview, Ian shares his wisdom on how to plug back into nature–mindfulness, breathwork, nutrition, and more, even psychedelics.  As he shares the most effective methods he’s found for healing, he also shares the shift in self-belief that is necessary to begin the journey. I was inspired by our conversation and I’m excited to help share Ian’s wisdom on hacking your health.

Emily Gindlesparger: All right, Ian, welcome to Author Hour. I’m so excited to talk to you today about both your own personal journey through health and wellness and about your book.

Ian Hart: Thank you for having me, I’m excited to talk about it.

Emily Gindlesparger: Your book kicks off really dramatically with telling your own personal story of having a huge health crisis, hitting rock bottom with that, and then figuring out ways to rebound and recover your health. Give us just a brief overview of what happened that landed you in the hospital?

Ian Hart: Yeah, I ended up in the hospital. I had been dealing with health issues for two years. They were very serious health issues that I didn’t know what was really happening. Lots of pain, lots of discomfort, and no one could give me answers until finally, I ended up on the floor with a twisted intestine. I was taken to the hospital and almost died from what was going on. So, from that point, I made a decision that I was going to try and heal myself naturally after I was told that I needed $1,800 a month medication, and the medication wasn’t even guaranteed to work. I made the decision that I was going to go the holistic route and I began that journey by reaching out to holistic doctors and that started the journey.

Trusting Yourself

Emily Gindlesparger: That’s such a huge leap of faith to go from taking western medical advice to take the medication, to decide that your body’s going to heal itself. How did you know that was going to be the right path for you?

Ian Hart: Well, there was a lot of fear around it and the medical community is pretty good at creating fear because they told me I’d have this issue for the rest of my life and that I needed the medication and that medication was going to help me. You believe all these people but luckily, I had had a lot of experience in the health and healing realm already. I figured out that I barely knew anything at that point later on, but I decided that I trusted my body, I trusted other people I’d spoken to that I can heal naturally and I decided to just go that route and I followed my intuition–really that is what it came down to ultimately.

Emily Gindlesparger: That’s incredible. The second chapter of your book, once you start talking about really pivoting to healing naturally, it addresses the mindset and mindfulness piece of how to really think about your body and think about returning back to nature. How did you learn the importance of mindfulness at the beginning of your own healing journey?

Ian Hart: Yeah, that’s a neat question because I don’t think I had any mindfulness at that time. I think I was just trying to survive and all the mindfulness that I had achieved previously was literally gone. I mean, my brain was swollen, I was in pure misery, I had to work very hard at it to find any type of relief.

It wasn’t until years later that I started to realize that that was part of the mindfulness. Mindfulness was part of it, and I had to really work at getting back to where I was pre-sickness. I had to dig my heels in and work very hard at it and mindfulness was essential in me getting out of the complete darkness.

It’s kind of tough to say, I don’t know if I answered the question exactly but I used a bunch of different techniques and meditation, breathing, anything that I could use literally. I tried anything and everything. There was this book called The Healing Codes that was about saying mantras and medicating and using your body kind of like Tai Chi. At one point, it clicked, I started to get momentum and I started to feel a little bit like I used to feel previously. It just expanded from there.

Emily Gindlesparger: What kinds of mantras or self-talk was most important to you at that time?

Ian Hart: Well, I explain in the book that I’ve used self-talk before I got sick when I was in my early 20s and that seemed to be very powerful for me. I had no idea what I was doing when I did it. I just did it because I wanted a better life and I’d heard about the power of words and so I started to research and I came across a certain book called The Power of Your Subconscious Mind. A buddy told me about it and the book had a mantra specifically for healing. I actually put it in my book, Healing Hacks, because it helped me. It spoke to the subconscious mind about how my body was healing, it was naturally healing itself, it had all the mechanisms necessary to heal itself.

I started to speak to the subconscious mind in that way as a tool to start believing that I could get out of this situation naturally–that my body was healing itself and that I was giving it everything that is needed to nourish the body, to detoxify, and heal.

Emily Gindlesparger: Of the broad categories of hacks that are discussed in your book, you go over breathwork, nutrition, movements, detoxing, nature absorption–kind of like being out in a natural environment–and you also talk about psychedelics. What was that journey like exploring each of those areas?

Ian Hart: Well, looking back at it, I was trying to claw myself out of the rabbit hole but now, the journey itself was, in a way, I would say exciting because I was really learning at a foundational level how health works. I learned it like it was a life or death, and so I learned it at the foundational level. As I was clawing myself out, I was really seeing firsthand how powerful certain things were.

I was just picking and choosing what to use and trying everything and then saying, “Wow, this works really well. This is working the best out of everything.” What are the lowest hanging fruits that will maximize people’s results in the shortest period of time and the easiest way and that’s what I try to do. It was exciting.

You know, I’m still not 100% out of the dark, I’m still healing. So, I’m still testing all these things and actually expanding on some of the stuff that I put in the book. It’s been exciting because there is an unknown element of it. Yeah, it’s just part of life–here I am, this is where I’m at, where do I want to go? How am I going to get there?

Then trying to hack the way to where I want to be through all these tools that other people have told me about. Also testing out new things as well and that’s what I put in my book. It’s been an exhilarating time, it’s led me to where I am today, and I’m super grateful for that whole process.

I wouldn’t have all the knowledge and the tools that I have if I didn’t have this deep wound that was both emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually.

Emily Gindlesparger: Yeah, there is that beautiful Joseph Campbell quote–I’m reminded of that quote when I think of your journey where he said, “Your greatest power lies next to your deepest wound.”

Ian Hart: Absolutely.

The Power of Breath

Emily Gindlesparger: Or your greatest gift, yeah. Your book obviously is a really thorough dive into all sorts of the most powerful practices that you discovered during this time. Which ones do you want to call out to listeners as being the lowest hanging fruit that you discovered first or that you saw made the most impact?

Ian Hart: Yeah, I always bring breathwork into it because it’s the simplest, easiest thing to do that anybody can do everywhere and it’s actually essential for every part of the cell in the body. Breathing is life, right? You could call it chi. It’s the energy that you’re bringing into your body and that’s one thing that I always bring up. I was an athlete. I’m a trainer, so I knew all about breathing and I understood breathing for maximum performance and stuff like that, but I never knew about it on the level that I’m going to speak about it now.

That was when I had brain damage, I had neurological damage, and all these issues, anxiety, depression because of it. That when I took deep breaths in and kind of squeezed oxygen to my head and started doing deep breathing and practice. I started to feel these sensations real-time in my body and in my head. Because of the damage, I have this weird scenario where I can actually feel the cells and what’s happening to the cells while I’m doing things. And so when I started doing breathwork, I realized that this is very powerful.

I started to dive deeper into it and then that led me to finding Wim Hof. Then I became a Wim Hof instructor. With Wim Hof, there are many different various types of breathing and there’s more and more coming out daily, but Wim Hof was somebody who has been promoting this stuff for 30 years.

He had deep experiences as I did, and I recommend the Wim Hof method to almost anybody and everybody. One, because it has a specific formula, it’s easy to follow, it gets the maximum results and it’s actually fun to do and it’s proven by science. Now, we have all the science necessary to back up what is actually happening when you do the breathwork.

Emily Gindlesparger: Obviously the science is really in-depth but give us a little bit of an overview or a preview of what’s really going on in the body when we’re doing breathwork?

Ian Hart: Yeah, there are so many things but I’ll give two powerful things. Last year, three scientists won the Nobel prize for their work on hypoxia. Hypoxia is when you have reduced oxygen-limited oxygen. One of the benefits of the Wim Hof method is that you hyper oxygenate the body through breathing and then you exhale all the oxygen out. And then you hold your breath on the exhale with your lungs empty and you hold it, not forcefully, but you hold it as long as you can. You’d be surprised how long you can hold it after you hyper oxygenate the body and what that does is the oxygen levels go super high while you’re breathing.

When you exhale and hold, the oxygen level starts to slowly go down and CO2 goes up. You go into a hypoxic state, it’s called intermittent hypoxia. Intermittent hypoxia is proven to increase red blood cells. When you increase red blood cells, you increase the hemoglobin, the hemoglobin is where the oxygen attaches and then that circulates throughout the rest of the body. The more oxygen you have for the body, the better the body functions. Plus, you become more efficient at utilizing oxygen, which really is the name of the game when it comes to being optimal at anything.

Any athlete is going to win, who is more efficient at utilizing oxygen. They’re going to be able to run further, faster, if they can utilize oxygen more efficiently. That’s one of the benefits.

Another major benefit is when you exhale and hold, you also stimulate the fight or flight in a way that’s beneficial for the immune system. The body always wants to be breathing and consuming oxygen and so when you’re not doing that, your adrenaline spikes because you’re in the fight or flight mode. It spikes greater than when you’re going to do bungee jumping for the first time. This isn’t scientifically proven but, in my experience, what it does is it helps the body balance itself out. So, if someone has a parasympathetic dominant system, it will help them balance out and be more sympathetic–the sympathetic dominant, which is the fight or flight and the parasympathetic is the rest and digest.

They will stimulate more of the sympathetic and then when those systems balance out, it helps balance out the rest of the body. This is beneficial for autoimmune diseases. People’s immune systems, all of a sudden, if it’s hyperactive, it now brings it down. If it’s under-active, it now raises it up. That hasn’t been tested but this is just my experience of what I felt and then also what I’ve seen throughout the years of doing it.

We know you can influence the immune system, that’s proven through science, but the balancing is, in my opinion, and experience, it’s also proven to influence the autonomic nervous system.

Those are the two top benefits, the others are that inflammatory markers go down, detoxification, and then the whole list is long and numerous.

Emily Gindlesparger: Yeah, that’s incredible. You spoke a little while earlier too of being able to actually feel some of that work and some of those sensations in your own body, what does that feel like?

Ian Hart: I don’t know if it has to do with damage to the cells that I had or one of the things I mentioned is a buildup of mucus in the body. I was so overcome by mucus that I could actually feel the cleansing of the cell, and when I do something like breathwork, I can literally start to feel the cells vibrate. Or if I use pulse electromagnetic therapy, which is a frequency, I can literally feel where the damage was or where I had issues starting to vibrate on a certain level.

I can feel it firsthand in my body. I ask other people and they say, “No, I don’t feel anything,” and I say, “Okay, must just be a weird issue that I have,” because I never had that before when I got sick.

I never felt these things. In a way, it’s been a gift because I can tell things that are helping me and things that are destructive or deleterious to my body. I’ll be able to eat a piece of food and if my body doesn’t agree with it, these cells will shake. So it’s on that level where I’m able to feel it. It’s been a blessing and a curse. It was a curse, now it’s a blessing.

Back to Nature

Emily Gindlesparger: You discovered the hacks that you list in your book through your own journey through profound illness. At the same time, the hacks are really about bringing the body back to nature. So, you talk in your book about how those are really helpful for athletes. They’re helpful for anyone who’s ever felt dull or as you say, ‘dis-eased’, with the hyphen in the middle. Lack of ease in their lives. Tell us a little bit about how people can take these learnings that you took from your own sickness and apply them to everyday life that’s less dramatically ill?

Ian Hart: I talk a lot about food and I was talking about the parasympathetic nervous system which is rest and digest. In today’s society, there’s not a lot of activation on the rested digest and so, we’re eating food that is hard to digest, a lot of processed food, a lot of preserved foods, and then we’re not activating our digestive system to absorb those foods. So, one of the things I recommend is doing breathing before you actually eat and also, changing your thoughts about the food. Instead of just shoving food down your throat unconsciously. And then going back to work without thinking about, “How is this food affecting me?”

You can change the process and the assimilation and the effects that the food is having on your body. Think about just the act of getting food now. Most people aren’t hunting their own food, they’re just going to the store, they’re getting food, and there’s a disconnect with the food on a mental level and spiritual level. As opposed to somebody who 150 years ago, is kissing the wife goodbye, going out to hunt for two weeks or whatever and then bringing the food back, skinning it, cutting it up, cooking it, and then finally hitting the plate. The level of awareness and respect and gratitude that there is for the food that’s on the plate, versus where we are today.

Also, the act of going out into the wilderness and hunting and being connected with the Earth and being connected with nature is actually the healing part of it. I always like to bring those two together. The more we are connected with nature, the more we understand where our food comes, the better we feel about it, and the more grateful we are.

There’s a spiritual connection and there’s also a mental shift. When you change your mental attitude, it changes the chemicals that are produced in your belly and the digestion is altered dramatically. So that’s just something very basic and simple when you sit down to a meal, you breathe, you have gratitude, and understand that this is not like how it used to be. We live in a society where there is a lot to be grateful for and there tends to be a lack of gratitude, I think now, but the gratitude itself changes how you digest the food.

Emily Gindlesparger: And tapping into gratitude and even just being mindful of taking a few extra moments before eating or before doing any particular activity, all of those things help us tap into that rest and digest system. They literally calm us down.

Ian Hart: Right.

Emily Gindlesparger: I am always fascinated to hear about the retreats that you run in Costa Rica. So, you talk in the book about this Costa Rican treehouse that you bought when you were inspired to return back to nature in a really big way. Tell us a little about that journey to get the treehouse.

Ian Hart: Yes, so I started my business. I was sick on every level, I just wanted to escape. I wanted to run away but I have this calling that I needed to be in the jungle or in the rainforest or just in nature. At that time, my sister sent me a link to this treehouse community. As soon as I saw it, I thought, “All right that is where I am going.”

I hadn’t taken a vacation in a long time. I knew I needed a lot of healing. I went there and as soon as I got there, I felt a million times better. I was sleeping better, I felt more relaxed and I thought, “Hey, this place has the possibility that I can have a treehouse here.”

There were lots open, I inquired about it and surprisingly, I was able to purchase a lot and build a treehouse there using the money from my business that was starting to grow. Then I incorporated it because my business is named EarthFIT, and it was in direct alignment with everything I was already doing. Little did I know that I’d be writing a book about bringing your body back to nature. It all tied together in a full circle.

Emily Gindlesparger: And today, you still run retreats out of your treehouse, as I understand it, and bring groups there to do these healing hacks, do the breathwork, and other modalities of healing.

Ian Hart: Yes, about twice a year we do it at the treehouse. It is super high-end camping because we are connected with nature, but we are in a luxury treehouse with hot water, toilets, and nice bathrooms. But you are literally in the middle of the jungle and you are hiking back to base camp where we go to this place called the Ran Show. We do movement, exercises, mental exercises to help people align themselves with their soul purpose and get more clarity, more direction in their life, so people can have breakthroughs and large periods of growth in a short period of time.

It is pretty profound when people show up to a place like that, they show up as a different person. When you are doing the same thing over and over again in your office, daily, you tend to react to the environment. When you show up in an environment that’s like it is in the jungle, you show up as a different person and you have the ability to make dramatic shifts in everything in your life in a short period of time.

So that is the goal when we use all of these hacks. It’s an amazing experience. We are going to be doing it at luxury places as well. So, we are going to have the Rough and Rugged, which is a treehouse community–it is not very rough and rugged, but it is a little bit less luxurious. Then we are going to be doing it at super high-end places in the future not too far from the treehouse community.

Emily Gindlesparger: Describe some of the transformations you’ve seen as you’ve had people come to the treehouse and put into practice all of the techniques that you described in your book. How do you see them change over that short course of time?

Ian Hart: Oh man, it’s amazing. People start to let the walls break down that they put up over the years and they let that childlike innocence come back to them. Part of what we do is we try to play. People don’t play enough, and they don’t do things that make them happy and bring them joy. So, that is part of what we incorporate into it and with the breathing, most people don’t realize the impact that breathing can have.

There is a saying that ‘the issues are in the tissues’, meaning that’s in our actual tissue–our emotional problems are in the tissues in the body and when they are trapped in the tissues they can actually be released through breathing. When we go deep into breathing and oxygen hits these places where trauma or emotional issues are trapped in the body, they can be released and people can relieve depression, anxiety, detox, and just feel like they are on a pink cloud.

We see people coming there depressed, unhappy, disconnected, and leaving there with joy, peace, happiness. The goal is to try to help them take that state and find it and bring it wherever they go. And then be able to find it at will anytime so that they can re-shift that focus back to what they found when they were here in Costa Rica.

Emily Gindlesparger: How have you been able to do that in your own life?

Ian Hart: It is a practice and that is what we teach. So I have been able to do it through teaching others and I found that through helping others–actually I would say it forces me to do it because I have already been doing it, but it helps me take it to the next level. I have to practice what I am teaching to be able to give it away. My cup has to be full so it is overflowing to give to other people.

That is why I do what I do. I do these retreats to take people who are even one-tenth of where I was in terms of unhappiness, sickness, pain, and suffering and help them feel better about themselves or make a shift–realize that what they are doing in their life isn’t what they want to be doing and that they are meant for something else.

Powerful Tools

Emily Gindlesparger: Teaching what you learn. Of all of the healing hacks that you have in your book, I imagine that some of them have changed in importance for you over time, depending on where you are in your healing journey. What is the most important or most impactful healing act for you now at this point in your life?

Ian Hart: I still do Qigong daily and breathe work daily. Actually, I should say I do movement, breathing, and Qigong, all in combination every morning no matter what. Nutrition is a huge part of what I do. One of the things that is not in the book, but just for the listener’s maybe, is one of the most profound cleansing processes that I just found out recently. It is called Kambo and it is a medicine that helps cleanse the body. I talk about cleansing in the book through castor packs and nutrition.

Kambo is something that I have done recently that helped take my cleansing to the next level and break up the mucus.

I am continuously learning and continuously doing and expanding on what I have already built, maybe in preparation for part two. Most of the hacks that I have put in the book I am doing already, and I continue to do. Breathe work I would say is always going to be on the top of the list and it will always remain there. It will never shift because it is vital to everything that we are doing. So, movement, breathe work, and energy work, Qigong is also a combination of breath, movement, and energy.

Emily Gindlesparger: In one of the final chapters of your book you described the role that psychedelics have played in your healing journey. What have you learned from that?

Ian Hart: Yes, so psychedelics, are a powerful tool to help cleanse and also kill trauma and are the mirror of what’s wrong, what is going on with you, that may be emotionally or mentally. So, a lot of people like to hide from their problems and what it can do is reveal them and help you cope with them and be confronted by it. Therefore, when you are confronted with it, you can heal it rather than avoiding it. So that is one of the components of psychedelics.

If I am talking about ayahuasca, ayahuasca is alkaloids. I talk about acids in the body, which break down the body. So, when we put alkaloids in our body it helps to release the acids and get the mucus and all the gunk out of the body. Emotions can create these acids and I think I have that quote in the book that is something like, “Anger is an acid in the body,” which is true. It can help flush those emotions out of the body. I think it is one of the fastest tools to heal if someone is ready for it, I should say. And that is not to say that psychedelics don’t actually just heal you, you still have to do work, if that makes sense.

Emily Gindlesparger: Absolutely. How did you know that you were ready for that step?

Ian Hart: Well, for anybody listening to this, my experience and what I have heard from tons of other people–and this is my experience–is that it kept coming up in conversations. I kept finding more and more awareness of it. They say it calls to you, specifically ayahuasca, that it calls to you. You know when it’s time and you know when you’re ready.

That is something that I experienced, and I have heard other people say it. Usually, on your healing journey, you’ll start to come across people who talk about it or who mention it. It’s becoming more and more mainstream and it can be used as a tool to potentially heal a lot of what we are seeing today–there is a lot of pain and anger and suffering. It is a powerful tool. Again, it is just a tool to help people recover from some of the past trauma, from all the gunk and toxins that have been put in the mind and the body. There are many different types. In the book, I talk about ayahuasca, and psilocybin which comes from mushrooms, and a few other psychedelics. Ayahuasca tends to be the one that people get called to.

Emily Gindlesparger: Outside of psychedelics, people have this resistance to awareness. You write about this in the book, that people don’t really realize how dis-eased they feel, how out of touch they feel until they’ve begun the healing journey and really started to see what a new normal could be, and how much better things could be. Describe a little bit about some of the journeys that you’ve seen with people you’ve worked with developing their awareness.

Ian Hart: I talk a lot about the ego in the book and how my ego got me where I was. I ended up so sick.

The ego is necessary. It is a conduit from our consciousness to the reality that we see, but it can be our best friend and help us along, or it can be super destructive. Part of the ego’s job is to prevent us from pain and so when something is painful to look at, we tend to say, I don’t want to look at it. We shove those feelings down.

Maybe we have resentment to a parent or a loved one and we just didn’t cope with it, we pushed it down. When we start to look at those things and those emotions, they have a certain vibration that they hold with them and they actually can affect the brain on a magnetic and frequency level. So, when we take psychedelics, or even through breathwork, we release those emotions. Sometimes we can do exercises to cope with them and deal with them.

When you release those emotions once and for all, you are now at another level of consciousness, and the ego starts to be more helpful and conducive to life.

I have seen a lot of people, myself included, have dissolving of the ego, which creates more oneness and less separation. We are all connected and the more connected we feel to other people, the more we can see ourselves in other people, usually, the better our lives will be because we will have more empathy. We will have more compassion and that is what life is all about. It is actually about connection with others. So, it is really profound when we see those things happen to people when they let go of old traumas from the past. They let go of old resentments and anger and that can be done through breathwork. Psychedelics take it to a new level and there’s a lot of other things that I mentioned in the book as well. It can be life-changing.

Emily Gindlesparger: That’s incredible, thank you. So, writing a book is such a feat, congratulations and I am so grateful that you have been able to follow up on your promise to yourself to teach others how to do this deep healing work. If you wanted people to take away one or two things from your book, what would they be?

Ian Hart: Well first off, I have to say I had a lot of awesome help in getting my book out there. The main thing that I want people to get from the book is hope and being empowered that you are 100% responsible for your health. No doctor, no one else is going to help you do it, and once you take full responsibility with where you are at with your life and you accept it and move forward, that is when you are going to start to see the healing. As soon as we are blaming people or playing the victim, you can’t heal from it.

You are actually living in the problem rather than the solution. So that is what I want people to get out of this. Be empowered–you are an amazing miracle healing machine. The body naturally heals on its own when it is given all the stuff that it needs. If you are deficient in certain things and you give it more fruit and vegetables, which have more vitamins and minerals, the body will start to have chemical responses and reactions that spark the healing mechanism.

So, that’s the main thing I want people to have, to take their power back. The doctors can be helpful and, in many situations, especially traumatic situations which I talk about, like tearing my peck off the bone and getting it reattached, that’s great.

Other than that, you are in control of your reality. The things that are going to be the most powerful are connecting with nature, eating good clean healthy food, getting enough sleep, and rest. Also, exercise and movement, breathing and detoxing, and elimination and so those things are going to be your doctors better than any doctor that you ever visit. So, that’s what it comes down to. The medication won’t save people. It can help in certain scenarios, but this is what it is all about. The more people get connected back to nature, back to their spirit, the body will just heal on its own if we get out of our own way.

Emily Gindlesparger: Well Ian, this has been such a pleasure. That is really fantastic, and I am so excited to help get that message out there and help people begin that journey. Again, your book is called Healing Hacks: Bring Your Body Back to Nature, and besides checking out your book, where can people find you?

Ian Hart: Yes, so one thing we didn’t mention is I specialize in back pain relief–healing back pain relief. I have been doing that for over 14 years now and we have an online program, which in combination with some of the stuff I mentioned like breathing, helps people heal their back, improve flexibility, get taller or better posture. That’s at backpainrelief4life.com. That is the number 4, backpainrelief4life.com and that is one place they can find me.

That is one of my main websites. I have My Back Pain Coach on Facebook or mybackpaincoach.com as well. Yeah, you can find me on Facebook at Ian R. Hart or EarthFIT as well and then at Instagram @ianrhart, and those are the main places you can find me.

Emily Gindlesparger: Fantastic, thank you so much, Ian.

Ian Hart: Thank you, I appreciate it.