What is the Wim Hof Method?
The Wim Hof technique has become increasingly well known in the self development and wellness circles. Thanks to the a number of scientific tests on Wim and subjects that Wim trained for several days, his technique and system have gained robust scientific backing that is rarely witnessed within holistic health systems or theories.
The system involves breathing techniques, meditation and cold exposure.
The breathing techniques are said to be incorporated in order to increase blood oxygen levels (I’ve tested this with a monitor and it does indeed work), and increase the alkaline ‘levels’ of the blood/body too. I’ve seen this disputed a number of times, with people saying that it’s not possible to make the body more alkaline, but who knows, it certainly doesn’t seem to do people any harm.
Wim Hof Breathing Technique
1 Round of Breathing =
30 Deep breaths in, with 30 ‘small’ breaths out. Breath in using the stomach muscles and then the chest muscles, taking in as much air as possible, then breath out ‘normally’ to reset your stomach to breath in again.
After the 30 breaths, hold the final breath in for as long as possible.
Finally, when you can’t hold your breath any longer, breathe out, then one last time, take a big deep breath in and hold for 15 seconds.
Repeat this for 3 to 4 rounds:
30 Breaths with emphasis on the inhale
Hold for 15 seconds.
Wim Hof Cold Showers
So, the other main part of the WIm Hof Method is gradual cold exposure.
Start off by having your normal morning shower, then for 30 seconds at the end, turn the shower to the coldest setting.
In week 2, increase this to 1 minute.
In week 3, go to 3 minutes.
Then by week 8 you want to be jumping straight into a cold shower for 10 minutes.
By week 10, you should add some ice baths.
Health Benefits of Cold Showers and Ice Baths
Cold exposure has anti-inflammatory benefits, it aactivatesthe autonomic nervous system and is said to increase the functioning of the immune system. It also increases brown fat cells, helping you to cope with the cold in general, and also boosting your metabolism.
There is also limited research to show that cold showers can actually lower stress and fight depression – study here:
Exposure to cold is known to activate the sympathetic nervous system and increase the blood level of beta-endorphin and noradrenaline and to increase synaptic release of noradrenaline in the brain as well. Additionally, due to the high density of cold receptors in the skin, a cold shower is expected to send an overwhelming amount of electrical impulses from peripheral nerve endings to the brain, which could result in an anti-depressive effect.
There are lots of studies showing that cold exposure influences the nervous system, which has led to the hypothesis that it could work as a treatment for chronic fatigue.
Cold stress has also been shown to reduce the level of serotonin in most regions of the brain (except brainstem), which would be consistent with reduced fatigue according to animal models of exercise-related fatigue. Finally, exposure to cold increases metabolic rate and transiently activates the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis as evidenced by a temporary increase in the plasma levels of adrenocorticotropic hormone, beta-endorphin and a modest increase in cortisol. The increased opioid tone and high metabolic rate could diminish fatigue by reducing muscle pain and accelerating recovery of fatigued muscle, respectively.
Wim Hof Meditation
This is ‘third eye’ meditation. Once you have finished your rounds of ‘power-breathing’, focus on the space in between your eyes and meditate on this for 5-10 minutes.
On a final note, as a pansy office worker, I think the cold showers alone are of benefit – I need some physical stress and ‘hardship’ and it’s also good for mental toughness to voluntarily jump into a freezing shower. I’ve also bought an o2 monitor that you place on your finger and can see the o2 levels of my blood going up during the power-breaths – good stuff!
I imagine that the breathing techniques are also good for asthma – and the strength of the respiratory muscles. (on a side-note, I had bad asthma until I gave up dairy).
Don’t do the power-breaths in the shower, in case you pass out! Do the power-breaths and meditation together, but keep the cold exposure separate.
You can do the course here, or you could just write down a plan in your diary of when you’re going to do your power-breathing and cold exposure and build it up to 10 minute showers by week 10.