Wim Hof is an extreme athlete from the Netherlands who has earned the nickname “The Iceman” for his incredible ability to withstand freezing cold temperatures for extended periods of time. Over the years, he has established 21 Guinness World Records and achieved feats such as swimming underneath ice for 66 meters, completing a half-marathon above the Arctic Circle while barefoot and only wearing shorts. He has also spent nearly two hours in an ice-cube-filled container.
Despite his bone-chilling accomplishments, Hof doesn’t consider himself an extraordinary person. Instead, he is of the belief that everybody can unlock their inner potential and control their body and mind by adhering to his proprietary Wim Hof Method. This involves physical and mindfulness elements and, in essence, is a system that helps individuals become stronger, healthier, and happier.
The Wim Hof Method helps practitioners achieve the aforementioned benefits through a three-pillar system. The first of those three pillars is cold therapy. While followers of the method aren’t expected to spend 112 minutes submerged in ice, they are prompted to increasingly expose themselves to cold temperatures.
Whole body cryotherapy is an effective way to do this, but can be expensive and inaccessible for many. A cheaper and easier alternative is to incorporate cold showers into one’s daily routine. Ice baths are another form of cold therapy that can promote recovery and contribute to several other health benefits.
There have been numerous studies that have proven the benefits of cold therapy. In a study conducted by researchers at Radboud University, Wim Hof Method followers and non-followers were monitored closely after being exposed to a pathogen. Practitioners of the Wim Hof Method exhibited fewer symptoms of diseases than non-followers.
Breathing is another central element of the Wim Hof Method. Recognizing that the amount of oxygen one inhales is directly correlated to the amount of energy released into one’s body cells, Hof has created his own deep breathing technique to maintain control of his body in extreme conditions. It’s a relatively simple practice that can be performed at any time or place.
To start, one should situate oneself in a comfortable meditation posture, whether lying down or sitting on the floor. With closed eyes, focus and try to connect with each breath. Inhale through either the mouth or nose, but exhale strictly through the mouth, and repeat this pattern for at least 30 short, powerful breaths.
When coming to the final breath, inhale deeply and stop breathing as long as possible after all the air has been let out. This is followed by a large recovery breath, in which one should feel their chest and belly expand.
This entire cycle should be repeated at least three times without pause for maximum effect. It should also be done with an empty stomach. It’s not uncommon to feel side effects such as dizziness and a tingling sensation in the extremities.
Cold therapy and the Wim Hof Method deep breathing practice requires a high level of commitment and self-control. Some people are perceived to have more willpower than others, but Hof is of the belief that individuals can work at increasing these characteristics.
This can be achieved simply by following the first two pillars of the program as they require and instill dedication. Moreover, these practices bring about several other benefits that can boost one’s willpower.
Because it incorporates meditation, breathing exercises, and cold therapy, the Wim Hof Method is associated with a range of physical and mental health benefits backed by scientific research. Specifically, practitioners of the Wim Hof Method are known to have more energy, better sleeping habits, and lower blood pressure. It has also been associated with benefits including migraine relief, asthma management, arthritis relief, and improved sports performance.
In regard to mental health benefits, the Wim Hof Method may help individuals manage stress, prevent burnout, enhance creativity, boost endorphins, and more effectively cope with depression.
Courses and Other Activities
Those interested in following the Wim Hof Method can engage in cold therapy and self-guided breathing activities on their own. However, there are several guided video courses on the Wim Hof Method website. These include the Classic 10-Week Video Course and a free mini course to give individuals an idea of what to expect. Courses are offered in multiple languages and feature “The Iceman.”
Those who are more experienced and seeking a greater level of adventure can sign up for events such as the WHM Weekend or WHM Fundamentals Workshops, the latter of which regularly take place in cities throughout the US as well as several in European countries.
Featured Image courtesy Farhad Sadykov | Flickr