Maybe you have heard of ‘The Iceman’ before? The Dutch extreme athlete and alpine climber Wim Hof is known for being able to withstand devastating temperatures for excessively long periods of time. Pictures depict him meditating peacefully in the midst of a snowstorm between icy mountains.
Within the past years, his approach, known as the Wim Hof Method, has gained increasing popularity. His technique incorporates three pillars: cold therapy, conscious breathing and commitment. Wim is convinced that with a continual practice, everyone is able to become more resilient towards the forces of nature through mind mastery.
Who is Wim Hof?
Wim Hof gained popularity for breaking several Guinness World Records linked to cold exposure. He is known to have climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in nothing but shorts and also attempted to do the same with Mount Everest, but didn’t reach the top because of a foot injury. Next to that he also ran a half marathon in the Arctic - barefoot(!), swam under a lake covered with ice and relaxed in a container full with ice cubes for a little less than two hours.
Sounds pretty crazy right? So why would we want to learn a technique from someone who seems like a daredevil with a strong wish to threaten his life? Well, Wim Hof actually doesn’t threaten his life.
Through the method he developed, we learn to control our breathing, heart rate and blood circulation.This boosts our immune systems as well as our physical, mental and spiritual health and resilience. The benefits will be experienced either way, whether or not you plan on exposing yourself to extreme temperatures.
Wim’s vision is a world without sickness, and through applying his method, Wim is convinced that anyone can tap into their full potential and achieve extraordinary things.
How does the Wim Hof Method work?
As stated above already, Wim Hof’s technique is based upon the three pillars of cold therapy, breath work and commitment. In essence, this approach will allow the practitioner to control the autonomous systems of the body. Who masters these, masters not only the mind but also becomes extremely resilient to diseases, stress and other environmental factors, while strengthening willpower.
Wim Hof breath work includes principles from the Tibetan Tummo meditation and yogic pranayama. However, Wim Hof’s approach also includes his unique practices.
Tummo is the Tibetan Buddhist goddess of heat and passion. Tummo meditation of the tantric tradition aims at gaining control over body processes and to increase inner heat. This can be especially helpful when being exposed to a cold environment to keep oneself warm and centered.
The basic version of Wim Hof breathwork can be broken down into the following phases:
Controlled hyperventilation: In this phase, practitioners breathe deeply and rhythmically for 30 cycles. Each cycle consists of the following: taking a deep breath in that fully fills the lungs and exhaling by passively releasing the breath (not actively!). Do this 30 times and keep a steady pace. It is possible to feel light-headed, electric or tingling sensations during the process.
Retention: After completing the 30 power breaths, take another deep breath in and breath all the air out slowly but completely. When you feel comfortable, hold the breath for as long as you can. Draw your chin slightly in to prevent air from coming in again. Focus on the sensations in your body and visualize yourself in complete alignment. You will be impressed by how long you are actually able to hold your breath. Do this exercise until you experience the gasp reflex on the top of your chest.
Revive: After the first retention phase, fill your lungs to full capacity with air again. Then, at full capacity, hold the breath once more for around 15 seconds and then let go. After this, you might experience a head rush sensation.
Do this exercise for at least three consecutive rounds. Regular practitioners also report seeing of colors, and the ability to direct their energy through their awareness, releasing tension and blockages in the body.
If you have no experience with the Wim Hof method and his breath work, we highly recommend you to visit a class with a trained practitioner. We offer Wim Hof breathing classes and meditations on a regular basis, which you are more than welcome to join.
What is going on in your body during the breathwork?
The increasing popularity of the Wim Hof method also gave rise to skeptics, doubting the effectiveness of Hof’s belief that through applying the method, anyone can live happier and healthier. However, his approach is scientifically backed up, explaining the effects the breath work and exposure to cold temperature can have on our body.
Hyperventilation, the first stage of Wim Hof breathing, has been proven to temporarily suppress the body's innate immune response, while increasing the heart rate and adrenaline levels. In an experiment examining the health benefits of the Wim Hof Method, participants were injected with a bacterium causing flu-like symptoms. Trained Wim Hof practitioners showed almost no symptoms. Because Wim Hof practitioners learn to control their immune response, they can consciously fight these bad bacteria.
Another conducted experiment demonstrated that the region in our brain controlling pain suppression, the periaqueductal gray area, is activated during Wim Hof breathing exercises. This explains not only why Wim Hof is able to withstand extreme temperatures, but it also shows how the technique can be used in combating other physical pain.
Other benefits of Wim Hof breathing
Additionally to the scientifically proven processes and benefits outlined above, practicing the Wim Hof Method regularly can lead to living a physically and mentally happier and healthier life. Students get sick less as their bodies are more resilient.
Others also report less stress and with it better sleep and an increase in energy. During a Wim Hof breathing session, you learn to control their sympathetic nervous system, which is activated in stressful situations. This way, they can consciously choose to not go into the fight-flight-mode when confronted with challenging situations. This develops more mental strength and focus.
In general, Wim Hof breathing leads to a happier mood, rejuvenation, access to higher realms of awareness and more clarity and connection to life. What reason would be there to not practice Wim’s technique?
Every Wednesday at 11:00 and twice a month on Mondays at 20:00 we have a Wim Hof Meditation & Breath Work class. But we also have a few amazing special classes available, check them out below!
Time to book your ticket and join us for the next session at The Conscious Club: http://theconsciousclub.com/book-now!
Written by Clara Malzer