Have you ever heard of Wim Hof, also known as the Iceman? I had only become familiar with the Wim Hof breathing method and cold therapy a few weeks ago. I must say that I was intrigued by the benefits of the Iceman breathing method. What found out in the past weeks is the Wim Hof Method cold hold the key to survive extreme cold if stranded during winter.
I was browsing YouTube when I came upon a vice documentary called “Inside the Super Human World of the Iceman.” The thing is, however, is that Wim Hof is not superhuman at all. Anyone can learn his basic breathing methods, and he goes on to prove that in the documentary.
The question a lot of skeptics are probably asking themselves is if the Wim Hof method actually work? It does because I’ve been following it for a few weeks and I am blown away by the effects.
Wim Hof’s motto is: “What I am capable of, everybody can learn.” With the Wim Hof Method (WHM), he teaches people around the globe, from regular people like myself all the way to celebrities and professional athletes. He shows us how to control our body and mind to achieve extraordinary things.
Before I go into details about how to learn the Wim Hof method, I will provide a bit more information about who this guy is and why he began the journey of becoming the “Iceman.”
Who is Wim Hof
So who is Wim Hof? Wim Hof is Dutch extreme athlete best known for the impressive amounts of world records he holds regarding cold exposure; That is where he got the nickname “The Iceman.”
Born on April 20, 1959, he is the father of six children, four of which are from his first wife who tragically took her own life in 1995. Wim’s journey in the realm of cold exposure could be directly correlated to his wife’s death.
I remember listening to a lengthy interview of Wim Hof on the Joe Rogan podcast not too long ago. Wim said that his breathing method and cold exposure helped him immensely in overcoming depression and the hard times of raising 4 of his children alone.
Hof says that his “Wim Hof Method” can help in treating symptoms from ailments such as multiple sclerosis, arthritis, diabetes, clinical depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and cancer.
The Origin of The Iceman
Wim Hof’s nickname ‘The Iceman” came from his many great achievements such as the Farthest Swim Under the Ice; Because of the Wim Hof Methode, Hof can keep his core temperature from decreasing into a hypothermic state.
Most people’s body would go into hypothermia within minutes in this type of condition, but Hof was able to avoid this entirely. He’s also able to comfortably hold his breath for the duration of the swim, another benefit of his breathing method.
Another Guinness World Record Wim Hof held was for the longest time endured fully covered in ice. As you can see in the Image, his body is submerged in ice, and he’s able to stay in there for an incredible 1 hour and 53 minutes. Don’t try this at home; I certainly won’t be.
In my opinion, his greatest achievement is climbing Mount Everest wearing only a pair of shorts and boots, nothing else. He mentioned on the Joe Rogan podcast that the only reason he even wore footwear was that it was a requirement. He needed to be wearing spiked boots because of the risk of slipping. Slipping along the edges of Mount Everest would inevitably lead someone to their death.
He did also admit that he realizes that the human body is not made to climb Mount Everest wearing only shorts and boots.
Another one of his many accomplishments is running a half marathon in the arctic circle barefoot. Hof also climbed Mount Kilimanjaro more than once wearing only shorts.
Learning The Wim Hof Method
My journey of discovering the Wim Hof Method began a few weeks ago, and I am still surprised at how easy I can get myself in the meditative state to withstand the cold.
The Wim Hof method three main components
Take in between 30 and 40 deep breaths and then follow each breath by exhaling. The important thing to note is not to fully exhale the air out of your lungs, exhale as you would normally.
After exhaling your final breath, hold your breath for between one and three minutes. Before I began the WHM, I could only hold my breath for no more than 30 seconds. Now I can easily hold my breath for two or more minutes after the final breath.
When you feel the urge to breathe you need to inhale fully and hold for 15 to 20 seconds and then let the air out of your lungs naturally.
Depending on how many deep breaths you took and how long you were capable of holding the exhale, the final breath should give you a significant head rush.
You should repeat this process at least three times. I usually repeat the breathing exercise either four to five times. It is all depending on how much time I have and how I feel physically and mentally.
You will know if 30 breaths are enough if you feel your fingers tingling and other tingling sensations throughout your body. If you don’t yet feel a tingle at 30 breaths, go all the way up to 40 breaths.
The Immediate Effects of the WHM
Once round one is complete, you will feel more mentally alert than before you began the breathing exercise. This alertness effect comes from stimulating the endocrine system.
Something about the Wim Hof Breathing Method causes the body to receive an uptick of adrenaline and noradrenaline to an above average level. This would imply Hof’s breathing method is creating a kind of fight or flight response within the body.
Changes in the Body During the Iceman Breathing Method
One change the WHM cause is your PH level. The reason your body’s PH levels increases are because breathing deeper than necessary means you exhale a lot more carbon dioxide than you usually would when breathing normally.
Your blood will temporarily become less acidic and more alkaline. The increase of PH levels in the blood only lasts for approximately 80 seconds.
Making your blood more alkaline can have impressive results when it comes to athletic performance and cold resistance. On a different note, however, alkalosis can lead to constriction of the brain’s blood vessels, and contribute to calcium reduction which could increase nerve and muscle stimulation.
Increased alkaline is the reason your fingers will begin to tingle while performing the WHM. Some people could also experience cramps or muscle spasm if they perform the deep breath step for a more extended period, I have not had that issue.
Another side effect of exhaling so much carbon dioxide is that the majority of your oxygen becomes stuck in the blood. The reason for this is carbon dioxide is what releases oxygen from the blood so your cells can absorb it.
After the 30th Deep Breath
After the 30th deep breath, you hold after the exhale. Holding your breath will enable the carbon dioxide to increase and extract oxygen out of the bloodstream directly inside the tissue.
Since there is no new oxygen entering your lungs while you’re holding your breath, your blood saturation will begin to drop. One of the outcomes of this is that your body will start to adjust more rapidly to low oxygen environment like the top of a high mountain.
This is how people following the Wim Hof Method can climb tall mountains like Mount Kilimanjaro in record times. Mountain climbers would typically have to climb the mountain at a slower pace to avoid acute mountain sickness because the body needs to adapt to low oxygen levels at higher altitudes.
How to Adapt to High Altitude Using the WHM
The reason people practicing the Wim Hof Method can adapt to high altitude environment and climb mountains in record times is because of an Erythropoietin (EPO) discharge in response to the decrease of oxygen levels in the blood.
EPO stimulates the creation of red blood cells, therefore, increasing the oxygen distribution ability in the body.
While you’re holding your breath when performing the Wim Hof breathing exercises, Some receptor in the brain will trigger and give you the urge to breathe. This happens because of too low oxygen levels or too high carbon dioxide levels in the body.
I usually do not fight against these signals when they become uncomfortable. Hof urges people not to resist the urge to breathe and to take a final deep breath and hold for 15 seconds. You will notice that you will be able to hold your breath longer every day by doing Hof’s breathing method.
At a certain point during the breathing exercises your endocrine system will be stimulated leading to a strong release of hormones. The majority of these hormones released into the body are adrenaline and noradrenaline.
Wim Hof Benefits on the Immune System
What I really like about the Wim Hof method is the fact that actual science tried to disprove Hof’s claims and ultimately failed. The science community referred Wim Hof as a freak of nature and that his so-called superhuman abilities could not be easily replicated on another person. This is where the scientific study becomes interesting.
A scientific study was conducted at Radboud University by Matthijs Kox and Peter Pickkers; where individuals who were doing the Wim Hof method for seven days were injected with bacterial endotoxin.
The bacterial endotoxin the individuals were injected with was a component of the E. Coli bacteria; and will trick the immune system and cause it to overreact.
Over 99 percent of healthy people subjected to this endotoxin will immediately begin to experience flu-like symptoms. These symptoms only last a couple of hours and do not cause any harm to the body.
Scientists usually perform these types of test on people in hopes of learning the effectiveness of a specific immune-suppressant medication.
The interesting thing they found out while performing this study is the individuals that were trained in the Wim Hof method showed significantly less flu-like symptoms after coming into contact with the endotoxin.
During the study, they also injected twelve individuals that had not received training in the WHM. All twelve subjects negatively reacted to the endotoxin by experiencing flu-like symptoms.
The conclusion of the study states;
“In conclusion, the present proof-of-principle study demonstrates that the sympathetic nervous system and immune system can be voluntarily influenced through practicing techniques that are relatively easy to learn within a short time frame. It, therefore, could have important implications for the treatment of a variety of conditions associated with excessive or persistent inflammation, especially auto-immune diseases.” You can find a full article on the Wim Hof Study by clicking the link.
What Doesn’t Kill Us
After reading the book “What Doesn’t KILL US,” written by Scott Carney, I wanted to share this information. I did not only want to share this info to people that want to learn about a way to potentially survive being stranded in the wilderness during the dead of winter; I also wanted to share to people suffering from autoimmune disease and other pain-related diseases what I learned from the WHM.
In the book, one man says that he credits Hof for saving his life. He goes on to say that by combining the Wim Hof breathing technique and ice-cold showers he is able to manage the disease he has with far fewer drugs than when he was first diagnosed; and that Wim Hof has kept him out of a wheelchair.
Scott Carney goes on to explain that a person he interviewed was able to drastically reduced the pain and swelling caused by rheumatoid arthritis after only two months of combined cold exposure and the Hof breathing method. He went on to say that before he began TWM, his index finger was swollen to the size of a plum and would need doctors to remove small pieces of bones to alleviate some of the pain.
I wanted to talk not only about surviving the cold using Wim Hof’s Iceman method but also about all the other health benefits. I do this in hopes that someone reading this who suffers from constant pain would keep an open mind and give this a try.
My Conclusion of the Wim Hof Breathing Method and Cold Exposure
So to conclude this article, I am currently on week number four of the Wim Hof breathing method and cold exposure, and I must say that I feel great. As a person that has suffered from depression, I can honestly say that this has helped me a great deal and that I feel much better after only minutes of doing the breathing technique.
I’m not one to jump on the latest trends, but when I heard of a guy that climbed Mount Everest wearing only shorts and boots, I had to know what this was about.
I also have not taken a warm shower or bath in the past four weeks. I only use cold water to bathe, the colder, the better. It wasn’t easy at first but just after a few days did I get used to it and looked forward to my next cold exposure; be it a cold shower, an ice water bath or just sitting outside as I did tonight in -25C (-6F) temperature for 10 minutes.
As I said, the cold exposure is a bit difficult at first, but the payoff is a thousand times higher than the initial cold shock your body receives. Give it a try and let me know in the comment section how the WHM makes you feel!
One important thing to take into account is to never do the breathing portion of the exercise in water or while driving because of a small chance of causing you to blackout. Do not try this before going to the Wim Hof Website and learning the proper breathing method and safety precautions.
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