Over the past year I have dedicated myself to the daily practice of the Wim Hof Method - an extremely simple yet effective technique that allows you to control the autonomous systems of the body.
The Wim Hof Method consists of 3 fundamental components:
- Breathing exercises
- Progressive cold exposure
- Training of the mind (meditation/concentration)
Daily Wim Hof style cold exposure, focused breathing, meditation and exercise have changed my life in many positive ways. You can learn more about my journey and see my results by reading my in-depth Wim Hof Method 10 Week Course Review.
However, In this post I will break down the Wim Hof Method fundamentals, so beginner "Hoffers" can understand just how simple, yet powerful this method can be for improving health, happiness and strength.
The Evolution Of The Wim Hof Method
Wim Hof has trained his body and mind to deal with extreme cold, earning him the nickname "The Iceman".
Over many years Wim learned how to optimize his breathing and mindset to allow him to withstand extreme cold exposure, and now he is sharing his knowledge with the world.
Wim Hof has achieved many amazing feats in his life including:
- 20 Guinness World Records for withstanding extreme temperatures
- He has climbed Everest and Kilimanjaro in only shorts and shoes
- Stayed comfortably in ice baths for hours with minimal drop in core temperate
- Run a full marathon in the highest desert (50 degrees celsius, 122 Fahrenheit) with no water & food
- Scientifically proving that his method can allow anyone to consciously control their immune system to fight off diseases
The Wim Hof Method is similar to Tummo (inner heat), Meditation and Pranayama (yogic breathing).
The Wim Hof Method mainly comes from what Wim calls 'cold hard nature' and has no religious components.
In one of the best Wim Hof podcast interviews I have seen Wim was asked "What is enlightenment?"
His response was " they wrote the whole bibles, qurans about it; just be happy, strong and healthy, the rest is bullshit"
Yes, Wim was obviously influenced by ancient religious methods such as Tummo, however it was the cold that was his greatest teacher.
There are many methods that separately deal with breathing, mindset or exposure to the cold.
It is the religion free, interactive basis between these three components that make the Wim Hof method so powerful, and enjoyable to follow.
Since a teenager, Wim was intrigued by the power of the cold.
However, it wasn't until the tragic passing of his wife that Wim subjected himself to the extremes of nature.
In the extremes of cold, Wim was able to explore his own physiology and mental capacity at a much deeper level.
Through controlled breathing and a free mind, he realized he was able to withstand extreme heat and cold far beyond the norms.
This spawned what we know now as the Wim Hof Method.
Let's take a deeper look into each of the fundamental components of the Wim Hof Method and the associated physiological effects on the body.
Fundamental #1: Wim Hof Breathing Technique For Beginners
Warning! Always practice the Wim Hof Method at your own risk and never attempt Wim Hof breathing technique:
- when in or around water (eg, swimming pool, bath)
- while driving or operating a vehicle or machinery
- while standing up
- without approval of your medical caregiver
Wim Hof breathing is a form of HYPERventilation.
Oxygen (O2) is delivered through our lungs during inhalation, whereas carbon dioxide (CO2) is expelled on exhalation.
The main principle behind the Wim Hof breathing method is to take more air in than you breath out.
Wim states "fully in, but not fully out".
Ultimately, the goal of the Wim Hof breathing technique is to saturate the muscles and organs with extra oxygen.
A study performed by Kox et al., in 2012 looked at Wim Hof’s blood 02 and CO2 levels after 30 minutes of undertaking the Wim Hof breathing technique.
The data revealed that Wim had a significantly lower amount of CO2 in the blood. This research also showed that after 45 mins of this breathing technique his O2 levels had doubled.
We can all get high on our own supply!
By correctly undertaking the Wim Hof breathing technique we can also increase the pH levels in our blood. An increase in pH levels means our blood is much more alkali and therefore much less acidic.
This increase in alkalinity is the reason why we can do more pushups after Wim Hof breathing. Highly alkaline blood delays the onset of lactic acid during exercise, meaning we can do more reps of exercise.
After practicing the Wim Hof breathing technique everyday, I have learned how to go deeper and deeper into my system.
The more I practiced, the more I felt more comfortable to take deeper breaths and push my retention times.
>> Read about my 10 week intensive Wim Hof experience.
Lets breakdown the Wim Hof breathing technique and take a look at the steps to a successful breathing session:
1) Lay down or sit in a comfortable position and close your eyes
First, get super comfortable.
I prefer to lay down. as I feel as though I can expand my lungs to a greater extent.
Wim recommends doing breathing sessions on an empty stomach.
From my experience this is vital.
My retention times were greatly reduced whenever I did my Wim Hof sessions with a full belly.
2) Take 30 Wim Hof Power Breaths
Begin to inhale through the nose or mouth and exhale through the mouth in powerful, yet unforced rhythm.
Focus on filling up the belly with air, then the chest and finally the head.
I find it helpful to keep my hand on my belly so I can feel it fill up.
Keep a steady pace.
You can use my custom WIM HOF GUIDED BREATHING MUSIC VIDEO TEMPLATES as a guide if you like. I made these guides to suit my breathing tempo, but you may also find them helpful.
>> Be sure to subscribe to my Youtube channel so you get the latest updates on my newest music video productions.
Once you have the rhythm down, complete 30-40 breaths.
You may feel light headed and tingling in the hands and feet.
If I push the Wim Hof breathing technique hard enough I often see vivid colors, geometric patterns and other visual imagery.
Some may argue that this is caused by a release of DMT from the pineal gland, however the jury is still out on whether or not this is true.
Whatever it is, it feels amazing.
At first I was afraid to push toward this, but over time have learned to seek it.
As Wim Hof says " It's all good", "Whatever you are feeling, move toward it".
Focus on the positive and feel the negativity melt away.
3) The Breath Retention: Time to hold
After the the 30 power breaths take one more large breath in, filling the lungs to their max capacity, without forcing.
Then relax and let the air roll out of the lungs in a deep exhale.
Empty the lungs fully and hold.
Hold the breath until you experience the gasp reflex, and then prepare to take the recovery breath.
4) Recovery Breath
The recovery breath is a full Inhale.
Once again fill up your belly, chest and head.
When you are full of breath hold once again, this time for around 10-15 seconds.
Relax and attempt to direct the oxygen and energy in the breath around your body.
Let everything go.
After 10-15 seconds relax and prepare for another round of 30 power breaths.
5) Wim Hof Breathing Technique Progressions
As a beginner of the Wim Hof method breathing it is best to start with only 1 to 3 rounds.
If you are anything like me, you will quickly get addicted to the blissful feelings derived from these sessions, and will want to push it a little harder and add more breaths and rounds.
I personally love to do 5 rounds of 30 breaths with 2:30 breath retentions as I feel this gives me the best balance of deep relaxation, yet doesn't require a huge time commitment.
I also love to sit back and relax/meditate for approx 5 minutes post session, just to feel the flow of energy and oxygen through the body.
Fundamental #2: Wim Hof Cold Exposure & Ice Bath Technique For Beginners
Wim likes to say, “the cold is your warm friend!“
To become a successful Hoffer you must be willing to fully embrace the cold and submit to it's teachings.
The breathing sessions gently teach you how to scan your body and get in contact with the reptilian brain.
The cold on the other hand forces you to take control, other wise you will be overwhelmed with uncomfortable feelings of cold and suffocation from disrupted breathing.
Just relax and breathe throughout the cold sessions.
Don't let the cold exposure disrupt your breathing cycle.
You are in full control.
Once you can gain control you will be able to manipulate your own internal heater and thermogenesis.
Studies have shown that Wim was able to maintain his body temperature at a constant 37 degrees with a normal heart rate and blood pressure after 80 mins exposure to ice.
The study by Kox M, et al, showed that Hof's metabolic rate increased by 300 percent during exposure to ice.
This increased metabolic rate explains the increase in the heat production within his body.
It is truly an amazing feeling the first time you witness the thermo-regulation effect while under the immensity of extreme cold.
I often experience this as a flush of warmth that runs through my entire body, usually around 30s- 1min into my sessions.
After this moment, I can just enjoy the experience to its fullest.
However, one interesting thing that I have noticed is that if I do not remain focused on breathing and internal warmth I will feel the cold.
Therefore I always and only do cold exposure in a quiet and relaxed setting.
Wim Hof Cold Shower Technique Tutorial
Daily cold showers are the best place for beginners to start on their journey of Wim Hof cold exposure.
As a beginners, just start by exposing your legs or arms to the cold water.
When you are feeling brave run the cold water over your chest, back, neck and head.
Yes, the first few times you will feel an initial shock and will begin to hyperventilate and shiver. This is a natural response.
Just close your eyes, breathe and embrace your new cold friend.
By exposing your body to cold you become resistant to it.
Your body is quite smart and when you start exposing it to cold, it will start adapting.
Cold exposure works like any exercise that stimulates the cardiovascular system in the way that you will build endurance and strength over time.
Wim actually states that cold exposure can benefit the cardiovascular system as it improves the efficiency of the small muscles and veins throughout the body.
After some time (only 1-2 weeks according to Wim) the vascular system becomes stronger, making your veins healthier and reducing the force that your heart has to use to pump blood around your body.
I mentioned before that our body detects cold temperatures and increases metabolic rate to produce more energy for heat production.
A study by Kox, M Et al showed that Wim Hof style cold exposure can also greatly reduce inflammatory proteins.
Since I have embraced the Wim Hof lifestyle I rarely get any delayed onset muscle soreness (D.O.M.S), even after heavy leg weight training sessions. This to me is my best evidence of reduced inflammation within my body.
And by exposing your body to cold you accumulate more brown fat, which helps you burn unhealthy white fat for energy when necessary.
I find intermittent fasting and the ketogenic diet work very well in conjunction with the Wim Hof Method for health and weight loss purposes.
A study by the Thrombosis Research Institute showed that people who took a daily cold shower had significantly more white blood cells in comparison to people who did not. White blood cells are cells that combat diseases.
Over time you will learn to love cold showers.
These days I have to remember to have a warm shower now and then to help open up the pores on my skin for a deeper clean. I can happily cold shower for as long as I like without any discomfort.
Wim Hof method is the best way I have found to learn how to be comfortable being uncomfortable.
Wim Hof Ice Bath Technique Tutorial
After 10 weeks of following the Wim Hof method I was ready to take my first ice bath.
To do this, I purchased 5 bags of ice from the local supermarket and dumped them in a bath full of cold water.
I waited until the water has reached the desired temperature (10 / 12 °C (50 / 59 °F). Adding salt to the water can speed up the cooling process.
Be sure to build up slowly toward your first ice bath through consistent daily cold showers and baths to help prepare you cardiovascular system for the demands of ice baths.
Using very low temperature can start to activate many physiological responses within your body. If your baths are not cold enough you will not be able to reap the most profound physiological benefits and hormonal releases.
Please be aware that ice baths can be dangerous for people with cardiovascular issues. Always seek medical advice before starting the Wim Hof method and always make sure you never do ice baths while alone.
There are many other aspects to the Wim Hof method that are best left to be explained by the man himself.
If you want to delve deeper in the Wim Hof method you can check out Wim's popular courses below
Fundamental #3: Wim Hof Mindset and Meditation Training
“If you can learn how to use your mind, anything is possible.” ― Wim Hof
A strong mindset can help us reach the immense physical, mental and spiritual potential in side of us all.
Concentration/ meditation is used withing the Wim Hof method to help practitioners to deal with the cold and "stressors" of not breathing for minutes at a time.
A strong mindset results in the extended concentration and endurance required to succeed on the Wim Hof Method.
A strong mindset is essential to achieve the required concentration and focus, so that the breathing and cold exposure techniques are correctly executed, even in extreme situations.
If Wim did not concentrate, he would not be able to achieve the amazing feats he has.
The thing I love about the Wim Hof method, is that it requires no direct thoughts or dogmatic beliefs.
You simply let the breath guide you and let the cold become your teacher.
I personally feel as though the true mindset training happens during the breath retentions.
When I'm laying down for minutes on end without breathing I can feel my reptilian brain and my conscious going through some kind of re-calibration.
Unlike other meditative practices, the Wim Hof Method is not aimed at putting the body into a relaxed state.
On the contrary, Wim's method is much more active.
Wim Hof uses a strong mindset and focused concentration to initiate certain physiological changes such as influencing the autonomic nervous system.
Studies have shown that regular people who have practiced Wim's method are able to actively increase the concentration of stress hormones in their bodies, subsequently reducing the production of inflammatory proteins, simply by using focused breathing and strong concentration.
“We can do more than what we think." It's a belief system that I have adopted and it has become my motto. There is more than meets the eye and unless you are willing to experience new things, you'll never realize your full potential.”
― Wim Hof, Becoming the Iceman
Wim Hof Fundamentals Final Thoughts
As you can see, their are many positive benefits to be gained from the individual practices of cold exposure, focused breathing and mindset training.
The Wim Hof method integrates all three of these methods in an easy to follow and understand protocol that can really level up the physical and mental benefits on offer.
Basically the breathing exercises help to get your body and mind into the state required to gain access to your autonomic nervous system and to resist the cold.
Cold is used to boost the physiological effects and truly does become your best teacher.
Science has proven that the Wim Hof method can allow anyone to tap in and influence their autonomic nervous system and immune system.
Wim is currently undertaking further studies to help us gain a greater understanding of the science behind these powerful Wim hof fundamentals.
Wim has single-handedly changed the way we think about dealing with health and optimizing happiness and strength.
Get started on you WHM journey today.