You may have heard the name before and if not, a quick web search will reveal his 26 World Records and the “method” that is on its way to becoming the hottest new bridge between mindfulness and physical well-being.
With his thick Dutch accent, long hair, beard and hardened face, Wim Hof is the archetypal outdoors-man. Known more prominently in publications and online as The Iceman, Wim’s ‘method’ has allowed him to achieve incredible feats including: standing fully immersed in ice for 1 hour and 52 minutes, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in 2 days wearing nothing but shorts, and recently running a full marathon in the Namib Desert without any water, under medical supervision.
"Through breathing, commitment and focus, Wim believes his method has the ability to treat and/or alleviate symptoms of illness, including but not limited to: clinical depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, diabetes and cancer."
Wim developed his remarkably straight-forward and easy method after his wife committed suicide in 1995, having battled depression for most of her life. Through breathing, commitment and focus, Wim believes his method has the ability to treat and/or alleviate symptoms of illness, including but not limited to: clinical depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, diabetes and cancer. If this seems like the stuff of woo-woo, it may be of interest to note that science community is beginning to look at Wim with a watchful and shocked eye. In fact, Wim works regularly with scientists to prove that his method works, frequently turning cautious skeptics into unintentional believers and supporters of The Wim Hof Method. Journalist, Scott Carney, even set out to debunk the method only to learn the technique and become a regular practitioner of it.
His many accomplishments and the increasing support of the science community beg the question: “What exactly is the Wim Hof Method and how do I do it?”
“The breath knows how to go deeper than the mind.” Wim Hof
The Wim Hof Method is a breathing exercise not unlike the ones used in Kundalini Yoga and some forms of meditation. There are many variations, but the standard, as taught by Wim, involves three distinct phases (*a warning not to abuse the method – it’s not about how long you can hold your breath, whether you can do it in an impressive pose, or how impressive you are doing it. Abuse the method and you run the danger of passing out and depending on your environment, this can be dangerous. Do not attempt near bodies of water, or hard surfaces where you could hurt yourself were you to pass out. Use the method properly and you will discover amazing results):
Controlled and Steady Breathing
Breath deeply, fully, filling your lungs and then exhale, without forcing, simply by releasing. Repeat this steadily and at an even pace 30-40 times.
On your last exhalation, take another, final deep breath in and release, exhaling completely. Hold on the end of the exhale. Be present. Notice the sensation of your body. Stay in this state for as long as possible.
When you feel the intense urge to breath (don’t push it!), take a deep inhale and hold for 15-20 seconds, then release.
Repeat all phases a total of three times.
Wim has decreed that his method allows him to manipulate his nervous system to withstand extreme temperatures which, in turn, allow him to reach a deeper state of calm, peace and serenity. Set the cold showers aside, the breathing feels good! And it’s worth doing for that alone. As someone who has been trying The Wim Hof Method daily for the last three months, I can attest to the psychological and physical benefits of a daily session like the one listed above. I’m eager to share my findings with others and so here are 3 reasons why you might want to try The Wim Hof Method today:
1. It Feels Amazing
In case everything I mentioned above doesn’t already suggest that! You’re giving yourself a natural high and the physical sensations after one round of the method are rejuvenating and energizing. When I started the method I told myself I would do the breathing only. Coupling it with a cold shower (for the complete method) seemed a bit much to me. I love warmth. After two weeks of doing the breathing, I became so entranced with how good it felt that I quickly began searching for ways to capitalize on this feeling. I now do a cold shower almost daily after finishing a 15 minute round of Wim Hof Breathing. Not only does my mind feel focused and my mood happier, my body feels healthier, stronger and better suited to deal with extended endurance. Whether you tack on a cold shower to your breathing exercise or just stick with the lung-work, you’re going to feel great. Your mood and focus will increase, providing you with better tools to approach the day.
2. Forget That Cup of Coffee
I’m a regular coffee drinker and love all kinds of Joe; espresso, french press, brewed, drip, lattes etc… I’m also very quick to say I’m not addicted. “I just drink it for fun.” Anyone who says this more than once a week, as I do, is probably lying to themselves. Yet I’ve found, in doing the Wim Hof Method, I can go days without brewing a pot of coffee or drinking tea or any form of caffeine. In fact, on days where I’ve woken up particularly groggy, I have been shocked to explore how I feel after doing three rounds of breath work. My fatigue immediately vanishes and I feel ready and motivated to take on the day.
3. Apps Make It Easy
Wim Hof has made it easy for you to get on-board with his breathing technique. A free-app (aside from minor in-app purchases) is available in your App Store. With it, you can keep track of your progress, breath retention (you’ll surprise yourself with how long you can go without air in your lungs), general notes and video lessons/additional exercises provided by Wim.
Of all the reasons to practice The Wim Hof Method, perhaps the most important is that you owe it to yourself to find what feels good—as any yoga instructor will point out in their class. If you’re doubtful of the method and its effects, do some research; read up on the science behind why it seems to work. But at the end of the day, reading is knowledge, wisdom is doing. Wim is quick to point out that anyone is capable of the records he has broken and he works hard at pushing the boundaries of the human body. While I’m not ready to stand in an ice bath for over an hour, I do feel healthier, happier and more laser-focused since starting the breathing. That’s enough for me. Take 15 minutes, a few days a week, and give yourself the pleasure of trying The Wim Hof Method. Practice in a safe area (not recommended in the shower, bath, pool or while driving), and explore the levels of peace and stillness proper breath-work will provide you.
If Wim’s contagiously enthusiastic personality isn’t enough to get you started, take it from me. The Wim Hof Method works and will jump-start your day and mood in an invigorating way.
Happy breathing, folks!