The Wim Hof Method


The Wim Hof Method. It’s everywhere I turn lately. You would think that we all know how to breathe for our own good and well being but this guy takes it to a whole new level. I first heard of it just over a year ago in Kauai. My daughter’s dear friend had gone on a trek in Poland. He spent several days mastering the techniques and even posted video of it on his instagram. At first glance, I thought “Those young whippersnappers.” Ok, I didn’t actually think those words but you get it. There he was in single file formation with 15-20 other young men without their shirts on hiking up a blizzard-ous (exaggeration admitted, but snow covered none-the-less) mountain.

To me, I like my comfort. I don’t mind the whole breathing thing, because hey, I like living. Admittedly, I already knew that mindful breathing done well (as in yoga) can be incredibly powerful and energizing. If I were to make an analogy, there is kindergarten (everyday breathing), middle school (yoga class), college (meditation/yoga), and a masters level (Wim Hof).

I do however, particularly like that the Wim Hof breathing method can be done lying flat on the ground. But the cold! The cold is not my favorite thing in the world. In fact, when I got off the plane in Kauai a year ago, that same friend’s parents picked me up and the ice bath randomly came up in conversation. They were saying how my own daughter’s first ice bath was 23 minutes. I’m thinking, don’t people die after three minutes? I mean what??? They said, you’ll love it and I said, “YOU love it. I’ll watch. Contempt prior to investigation, much?  

Wim Hof submerged in ice

Wim Hof Documentary

Then recently, a dear friend with some immune issues texted me the link to a mini Wim Hof documentary and asked me what I knew about it. I watched it. I was impressed by it. He spoke about his beloved wife and her journey and how he was inspired to create this and how the science community is enthralled by the method and results. I then remembered my introduction to it and I was a little embarrassed that as an “open-minded” person, I had jokingly dismissed it and thereby missed an opportunity to learn, immerse myself (quite literally) and experience something unique and powerful.

What exactly is the Wim Hof Method?

The three pillars of the Wim Hof Method are: “breathing technique, cold exposure, and cultivating the mindset that allows you to incorporate these into your daily life.” It is designed to train your nervous system, your immune system, as well as your cardiovascular system. The breathing optimizes energy flow, and helps you find a natural balance in your body.

Controlled hyperventilation

The first phase involves 30 cycles of breathing. Each cycle goes as follows –  take a powerful breath in, belly, chest, head. Fully filling your lungs. Gently release the breath, but not actively exhaling. Repeat this cycle at a steady rapid pace thirty times. Hof says that this is a form of hyperventilation and may lead to tingling sensations or light-headedness.

Exhalation

After completion of the 30 cycles of controlled hyperventilation, take another deep breath in, and let it out completely. Hold the breath for as long as possible.

Breath retention

When strong urges to breathe occur, take a full deep breath in. Hold the breath for around 15 – 20 seconds and let it go. The body may experience a normal head-rush sensation.

These three phases can be repeated for three consecutive rounds.

Well there you go. Simple. It actually is. The problem is that people rarely take the time to truly breathe in a way that is oxygenating and healing. We take it for granted that since we are still breathing in and out, our body is getting what it needs.

The Body and Breath

Let’s look at what happens in the body with the human respiratory and circulatory systems. They work together to supply the body with oxygen and get rid of waste carbon dioxide. Both systems work together seamlessly “to absorb oxygen from the fresh air to red blood cells and transfer it to all parts of the body while absorbing carbon dioxide from the body and releasing it into the air.” So if we are breathing in a mindful and deep way, our bodies are oxygenated and the toxic carbon dioxide is dealt with. If we are not, our systems are more acidic and out of balance and therefore more susceptible to ailments.

Conclusion

The Wim Hof Method is asking us to breathe. It is cheap and it is free. Fresh, life giving air. But how many of us breathe deeply and well consistently? Most of us spend the majority of the day at computers or desks or in our cars sitting and breathing shallowly. We are not oxygenated for our optimum health. Yoga and meditation are beautiful, accessible and popular vehicles to assist in healthy and optimal breathing where the Wim Hof Method is like meditation on steroids for me and requires no commute to a studio or mountain top. The results are immediate and palpable. I highly recommend you give it a try. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

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