What is the Wim Hof Method?

by Carrinicole

Feel free to judge, but I first learned about Wim Hof breathing from Goop’s Netflix show!

The dynamic nature of this method appealed to me because I’m a physical person: I grew up playing sports, and continuing my exercise journey as an adult is an important part of my lifestyle. I’m also a jump in, all or nothing type person.

Seeing how the breathing affected the Goop employees, and their ability to jump into a frozen lake scared and excited me. It looked pretty cool, and I wanted to learn to feel comfortable doing that.

I also have other things going on in my life: a corporate job with a commute, and everything that comes with running a household. I work out, and already started meditating, so if I was going to add something else, it had to be quick and work with my schedule. 

The Wim Hof Method takes 15 minutes of my day in total, every day. 

There are three tenants with how it affects the body italicized: 

Breathing

Daily practice of the breathing technique, which takes me around 10-12 minutes:

30-40 quick deep breaths

    • Flushes your body with oxygen, alkalizing your system which reduces inflammation.

Take a deep breath, exhale, and hold until you need to breathe in

    • No oxygen is coming in, so your brain signals your body to activate your cells and blood vessels to react against this. Your body signals that it needs more oxygen.

Inhale again as deep as you can, and hold for 10-15 seconds 

    • The inhale floods oxygen through the body, releasing adrenaline. 

Repeat 3-5 times.

Cold Exposure

A 1-2 minute cold shower at the end of my regular shower. 

This tricks the body, switching on survival mode. You find yourself training your body to not do the shallow breaths your body inadvertently wants to do, but transitioning to deep breaths.

Commitment

Having the discipline to not cop out and skip days. 

Why Do This?

There have been several studies about how the method affects the brain, inflammation, and pain. 

The primary tenant – the breathing exercise – is essentially conscious hyperventilation. It produces an artificial stress response in the body, affecting your sympathetic nervous and immune systems. The sympathetic nervous system is our involuntary response to dangerous or stressful situations and sends extra blood to the brain and muscles. Therefore, by doing this exercise every day, you are building control of these systems in the body. 

A direct result I’ve seen is the progression of how my body feels during the breathwork. In the beginning I felt lightheaded and tingling in my hands up through my arms. This is the exact reaction my body has during a panic attack. Now I no longer feel those, I feel a sense of quiet, calmness and peace. My understanding is that I’ve taken ownership of those feelings, and they no longer belong to the panic attack. I haven’t had a panic attack since I started. 

The cold exposure has many health benefits – not only does it reduce inflammation (why many athletes do ice baths post-training), but it also improves immune response, energy levels and focus. I find that if I’m feeling anxious, a cold shower provides a reset for me. 

One of the biggest challenges we have as a society today is willpower. We’re constantly bombarded with distractions and shortcuts for our lives – social media, TV, advertisements, fast food, processed foods. Living a healthy lifestyle has almost become an act of rebellion, society doesn’t make it easy for us. This is why making commitments and sticking to them is not just important to Wim Hof, but to your health journey. 

Discipline is a domino effect: once you create a habit, it becomes part of your lifestyle. Then you can add another habit. Before you know it, you’ll feel less push and pull from the world around you, because you control your response to the world around you.

For more info, check out the their official website here

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