When it comes to our health, we might feel like it’s all largely out of our hands. But from what we put in our bodies, down to the subtle rhythm of our breath, everything is a lot more connected than you think.
Your breathing rate and pattern is a process within the nervous system that you can control to some extent to achieve different results. You’re probably unaware of your breath most of the time, but through practice you can gain a greater awareness of it and learn how to manipulate it to your advantage.
Who Is Wim Hof And What Is His Method?
And that’s how we get to our protagonist, Wim Hof. Also known as The Iceman, Hof is on a mission. And it’s not about the breathing techniques he’s developed for his superhuman resilience to extreme cold. The ones that have earned him 25 world records; the ones that have earned him fans and followers across the world, from the likes of Oprah and Rick Rubin, to Tim Ferriss and Laird Hamilton; the ones that have inspired Hollywood to make a new film about his life.
These self-taught techniques are merely tools. Wim’s mission is to free the mind, recognise and overcome our limitations, and creatively express ourselves with our natural gift: our bodies.
Wim uses three techniques: breathing control, extreme cold and mindset, together called the Wim Hof Method. The first two deliver extraordinary health benefits (Wim scientifically proved this in 2012 becoming the first person to show he could directly influence his autonomic nervous and immune systems) by increasing our oxygen intake and enabling us to train our circulatory systems to run more efficiently. These, combined with a strong mindset and performed simultaneously, enable us to influence and direct our nervous and immune systems.
The benefit? We’re able to consciously increase the amount of adrenaline released into the bloodstream, which means we can fight infections when we need to. Also by decreasing the volume of immune proteins in the immune system, it could potentially be helpful against autoimmune disorders (when our bodies ‘trick’ themselves, and self-attack). This is genuine, from-the-inside-out self-healing.
Wim Hof’s Signature Breathing Exercise
This is the start of the Wim Hof Method. Wim’s enthusiasm is infectious, his feats are undeniable, if sometimes mind-boggling, and the breathing exercise outlined does create a sense of calm, clarity and energy that inspires a curiosity to the power of the body and the importance of how we breathe.
Give it a go, that is the key. It is recommended to do this practice on an empty stomach. In his book, Hof recommends doing this right after waking in the morning.
Step 1 | Get Comfortable
Sit in a meditation posture, or whatever is comfortable for you to expand your lungs freely without any feeling of constriction.
Step 2 | 30 Power Breaths
Imagine you are blowing up a balloon. With your eyes closed, inhale through the nose or mouth and exhale through the mouth in powerful bursts. Keep a steady pace and use your midriff fully as though it is a balloon. Repeat this steadily 30 times. You might experience light-headedness and/or tingling sensations in the body.
Step 3 | The Hold – Retention After Exhalation
After the 30 rapid breath cycles, draw the breath in once more and fill the lungs to maximum capacity without using any force. Now, let the air out and hold for as long as you can without force. Hold the breath until you experience the gasp reflex.
Step 4 | Recovery Breath
Inhale to full capacity. Feel your chest expanding and when you are at full capacity, hold the breath for around 10 seconds and this is round 1! This cycle can be repeated 3 more times.
Step 5 | Enjoy the feeling
Having completed the breathing exercise, take your time to enjoy the feeling afterwards. This feeling will be more and more like meditation.
This is the entry into the Wim Hof Method, take your time recovering from the breathing exercise. After doing the breathing exercises and when you are feeling comfortable, you can start taking the cold shower.
During step 3 you can add push-ups or yoga poses as you hold your breath until the gasp reflex. Notice that you are stronger without the air than when you would normally breath. The body has been fully oxygenated by the power breaths.
Lat thing: be consistent – these exercises are extremely powerful when done consistently and with intent.
For the full breathing course, including cold showers and thermogenesis, go to www.wimhofmethod.com