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A man is submerged in cold blue lake water just off a dock. He is about to try the Wim Hof Method in this beautiful mountain scene.

The Wim Hof Method Explained

If you’re interested in breathwork, you may have come across the Wim Hof Method. And if you haven’t heard of it, well, get ready.

This simple and powerful method has shown to improve not just an individuals’ state of mind, but also their immune system function and more.

So, let’s start by taking a deep breath and really taking a moment to feel it. Feel the air mixed with oxygen, carbon dioxide, and nitrogen hit your lungs and expand against your ribcage.

This is your introduction to the Wim Hof Method.

What is the Wim Hof Method?

Let’s take a step back for a moment before we breakdown the exact method. Who is Wim Hof?

Wim Hof is known as The Ice Man. He is famous for his capability to withstand freezing cold temperatures that would usually have significant and negative effects on a person’s health. He’s even set Guinness Records and climbed part of Mount Everest wearing only shorts and shoes.

He is the creator of the Wim Hof Method, a breathing technique that involves not just breathing but also meditation and cold hydrotherapy.


The Science Behind the Wim Hof Method

Many scientists initially turned up their noses that this method was even possible. How could a man climb part of Mount Everest in shorts and shoes without any negative repercussions? How could he set records for swimming under ice and survive? Was it real?

A study conducted by Radboud University set out to uncover the truth. Conducted in 2014, researchers decided to determine if this method could be replicated in other people - besides Wim Hof.

12 volunteers were trained by Wim Hof himself, then injected with an endotoxin. Typically, this endotoxin would produce symptoms - not severe enough to be life-threatening but obvious. Yet, researchers were pleasantly surprised.

All 12 participants were able to control their nervous system and immune system. None of them got sick.

Since this groundbreaking study, many other research institutions have explored this method. A 2018 study examined the brain function of Wim Hof. They uncovered that the brain areas involved in pain suppression, self-reflection, and well-being were highly activated, suggesting that this method can light up these areas of the brain which ultimately achieve such effects.

Research continues to be ongoing. Scientists continue to explore the Wim Hof Method in relation to inflammation, pain, brain activity, stress resilience, mental health issues, and more.

How To Do The Wim Hof Breathwork Method

The breathing part of this method consists of 3 phases.

Phase 1 - Breathing

This phase involves controlled breathing where you take a full inhale, completely filling your lungs, followed by a passive exhale, releasing the breath. In a way, it’s a form of controlled hyperventillation. You continue to do this for at least 30-40 cycles.

Some individuals may notice lightheadedness afterwards and potentially dizziness. These are normal.
Following 30-40 cycles as described above, you take one last breath and then exhale. At this point, you do not refill the lungs nor do you fully empty them.

Phase 2 - Holding the Breath

Hold your breath until you feel a strong urge to breathe again. For most, this phase lasts 1 to 3 minutes.
When you feel the urge to breath again, take a full breath in. Hold for 15-20 seconds, then release, and breathe as you would normally.

Phase 3 - Recovering Your Breath

Many individuals will then immediately jump into a cold therapy session. This involves an ice bath consisting of 6 minutes or more.

This combination is said to help boost immunity, enhance sleep, improve mood, decrease inflammation, reduce stress, improve energy levels, and more.

How This Compares to Modern Breathwork

Interestingly, experts in the field of breathwork indicate that it has long been used for its stress-reducing effects. It’s also currently used to help treat various respiratory conditions, such as COPD.

In fact, deep breathing techniques aim to place the body in a hypometabolic state. This means autonomic and mental arousal are kept at only the bare minimum. The focus is on resting and restoration, which induces the relaxation response.

Yet, many of these effects are fairly short-term. The Wim Hof method when done consistently produces somewhat lasting effects, although not permanent. In a way, this method is a more extreme version of what is presented in rehabilitation and yoga settings.

Be Cautious

Yet, it’s also important to note that such solutions are never a one-size-fits-all approach. In fact, 2 individuals have died from performing the Wim Hof method after it was publicly claimed that it could help various autoimmune diseases and other ailments. ‘

Wim Hof, himself, admits this was a grave mistake. As such, he really has, in some ways, let science take the reins on understanding how this method works and how it changes the physiological state of the body.

Related Article: Breathwork to Clear Doubt & Indecision

Tip to Get You Started

The only way to find out if you receive any benefits from the Wim Hof Method is to try it out yourself. Whether or not you have any serious medical conditions, it is always wise to talk to your doctor before performing this method or any aspects of it.

Tread lightly and use the following tips.

Tip #1: Commit

This method works better when done regularly. It may also serve you best to take a class on it since this is a method that can easily be done online.

Tip #2: Take Action Steps

Start by doing the breathing method every day, before adding any cold therapy or meditation. Maybe add in a cold shower twice a week, but do not rush into full ice submersion, take small steps to start.

Tip #3: Make Time and Space for It

Schedule it, find a time that works for you, and give yourself the proper space for it. It may feel extra, but you want to have a space that you dedicate to this action. Many will do it twice a day, so if you continue into this training, ensure you have the time to do it each morning or each afternoon.

Tip #4 Enjoy It!

Know you may be significantly changing your physiology and your mental state. Take pride in the journey as there really isn’t an end goal here besides connecting to your breath and keeping up with the practice. It’s all about buckling in and going along for the ride.

Experience the Power of the Wim Hof Method

It is a commitment - but one that could potentially change your life. Countless individuals have reported the benefits behind this incredible and powerful method. Science continues to produce evidence indicating its advantages - both mentally and physically. So, try it out! Experience it for yourself. How can this amazing breathing method change your life?

Read Next: Breathe Deeply: A Meditation for Stress Relief

Krista Bugden

Krista Bugden

"Believing in yourself is really half the battle," says Krista. Anything is possible and you really can achieve anything you set your mind to, is her motto. Physiotherapist, Piano player, skydiver, yogi, adventure traveler and energetic force of positivity, Krista is herself a (delightful) force to be reckoned with! As... Read More

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