Take a deep breath and savour the moment. Breathing is something we all do all the time from the moment we’re born but hardly ever pause to think about.
The Iceman Wim Hof is different.
He has spent years studying the art of linking the body, mind and breathing to push the limits of human endurance.
Hof found if you can control how you breathe, your mind and body follows, allowing you to perform some astonishing physical feats in extreme temperatures.
And it’s not just the man himself saying so as his endeavours have landed him 20 Guinness world records.
Modestly, Hof explains he is not a superman or a freakish sideshow but demonstrates a physical prowess which is hardwired into us all.
The trick is finding the key that unlocks that innate talent.
Wim Hof believes discovering how to breathe properly is the key to a better life.
Hof has decanted years of experience into the Wim Hof Method, a structured teaching path that leads to an optimal physical and mental state that acts as a springboard to a new and improved you.
As Hof tells his students: “What I am capable of, everybody can learn”
Wim Hof: The World Record Holder
Wim Hof is more than a spiritual guide, he is a daredevil and adventurer who has held 21 authenticated Guinness world records.
His crazy life has seen him hold the world record for taking the longest ice bath – and that doesn’t sound impressive until you realise that really means standing buried in a tube of ice up to your neck for an hours and 52 minutes and 41 seconds.
Hof’s other achievements include:
- Running a half marathon barefoot and wearing only shorts above the Arctic Circle
- Climbing Mount Everest and Kilimanjaro wearing only shorts
- Plunging into freezing water and swimming 66 metres beneath a sheet of ice
- Suspending his body by a single finger 2,000 metres above the ground
- Climbing Mount Everest wearing only shorts
- Defying heat by running a marathon across the scorching Namib Desert without drinking
Wim Hof: More About The Man
Wim Hof is a Dutch athlete born in April 1959.
He has an identical twin brother, Andre, and seven other siblings. None demonstrate the same levels of physical endurance as Wim.
The story goes he discovered his ability at the age of 17 years old following an inexplicable urge to jump into a freezing canal.
Another explanation explains grief following the suicide of his first wife in 1995 prompted his journey to self-discovery.
Hof has six children – four with his first wife and two with his subsequent partner.
Other details about his life are scant but nothing suggests anything other than an unremarkable childhood and formative years.
Wim Hof: Inconclusive Medical Tests
Teams of doctors and scientists have failed to explain how Wim Hof can exert such control over his mind and body.
They remain baffled despite running hundreds of tests and experiments on Hof and his students to find out how they can so easily withstand temperature extremes where wilt in the heat or cold.
Hof accepts his gift and prefers to teach rather than spend time finding out how his body works.
It’s indisputable The Iceman can withstand extremes of temperature, and the only clue doctors have about how is tests that suggest the Wim Hof Method acts on the sympathetic nervous system and may, in some cases, effectively reduce the symptoms of autoimmune diseases.
Harnessing The Wim Hof Method
The philosophy underpinning the Wim Hof Method is the theory that over millennia humans have forgotten some of their inner powers – including the ability to survive in extreme temperatures.
Humans have become soft because their control over their environment means they no longer live in the open, where they must regulate their bodies to survive in variable hot and cold conditions, says Hof.
But anyone can revive these powers by harnessing ancient wisdom that re-establishes control over breathing to link mind and body.
The Science Underpinning The Wim Hof Method
Wim Hof has spent a lot of time with doctors and medical researchers looking for the secret of his seeming immunity to extreme temperatures.
Traditional science cannot understand his bodily response to tough physical and mental challenges.
At the same time, the academics also accept his response to extreme performance is real and robust with no trickery that often accompanies quack gurus claiming their 15 minutes of fame.
Respected universities have scrutinised how Hof can seemingly control bodily systems that medicine has long believed were autonomous and outside the influence of the mind.
How Hof does what he does is still a mystery, but a baffled academia admits he is not a fraudster.
At the centre of their probing is how Hof commands the autonomic nervous system, which regulates heart rate, circulation and the body’s flight or fight instinct.
Three Pillars Of The Wim Hof Method
Learning how the three pillars of the Wim Hof Method work with each other can lead to real health benefits.
The trio do not spark off each other in isolation, but mind and body can function in perfect harmony once breathing control is mastered.
So what are the three pillars?
This is the first pillar. Wim Hof won his nickname of The Iceman for his propensity to survive in the extreme cold.
Although professional athletes already exploit cold therapy to invigorate and trigger the healing process after performing at a high level.
The Wim Hof Method goes farther. Hof demonstrates that cold therapy improves athletic performance, aids the body in generating feel-good endorphins and that the mind controls how to react to the cold.
Doctors also believe frequent controlled exposure to extreme cold boosts health by kickstarting the metabolism to generate extra heat, while low temperatures can minimise swelling and muscle soreness.
Professional sports coaches and athletes already preach the virtues of regular ice baths to aid recovery after performing.
Cryotherapy – the term to describe medical treatment involving cold showers and ice baths – is key feature of the Wim Hof Method.
What scientists say about cryotherapy
In an experiment, Hof and a group of his students were injected with the same pathogen as a group who did not follow his training techniques. The Hof group demonstrated a higher immune response and fewer symptoms of infection than the control group.
Other studies are looking at how the Wim Hof Method influences stress, the body’s metabolism and inflammation.
Breathing properly is a real challenge for most people, including many who scoff at the Wim Hof Method as a fanciful notion.
However, yoga has a long and ancient history with many spiritual leaders explaining the benefits of specialised breathing in their teachings.
Hof undoubtedly believes breathing correctly unlocks the mind and body to increase energy, reduce stress and enhance the body’s immune responses.
Power breathing is another of the building blocks at the base of the Wim Hof Method.
The technique is simple – breathing in deeply, holding breath then breathing out fully and holding breath again.
The aim is develop control over the autonomic nervous system to manage heart rate and how the body responds to stress.
What scientists say about controlled breathing
Hof is helping to overturn conventional thinking about the autonomic nervous system, which doctors believed was an auto response within the body outside someone’s control.
Medical research proved the impossible. Hof can command the autonomic nervous system to exert control over his heart rate by breathing and cryotherapy training.
Training the body to operate effectively in extreme temperatures and learning effective breathing techniques requires dedication and doesn’t happen overnight.
Mastering the Wim Hof Method requires resilience, a good deal of patience and single-minded determination.
Putting in this effort will pay off as the body reaches a new level of peace and relaxation.
This is the reward for belief in the Wim Hof Method and commitment to open the mind to a new way of thinking.
When Hof speaks about commitment, he is really describing how to disrupt regular day-to-day routine to focus on the self to control one’s mind and body.
He argues modern life conditions people to follow routine rather than to think for themselves.
For anyone seeking a path of self-improvement and personal enlightenment, this commitment is vital.
The benefits of commitment
Commitment is the last of the three pillars at the base of the Wim Hof Method and Hof says taking control of the self can offer a richer quality of life.
People with this extra determination are more confident, happier, healthier and have a better outlook on life in general.
Wim Hof Method: What’s In It For You?
The Wim Hof Method is not just for extreme athletes and adrenalin junkies..
Immersing yourself in the training can lead to better day-to-day health and happiness for everyone, says Hof.
While everyone has a personal reason for following the Wim Hof Method, many gain from the same takeaways, and here are a few of the many ways how Wim Hof and his students feel their lives are improved:
Immune System boosted
Tests by medical researchers revealed that followers of the Wim Hof Method showed a stronger immune response to pathogens than a group who did not take part in the program.
Mental health improved
Good mental health leads to a feel-good factor that cheers people up and makes their lives easier to cope with. Testimonials show Hof’s followers are happier and have an improved sense of well-being.
Professional and amateur athletes alike follow the Wim Hof Method in training to perform better in competition. Hof’s astonishing achievement in winning more than 20 Guinness world records demonstrates following his program really does work.
That’s a relief
Destress by following the Wim Hof Method with exercises combine the trio of disciplines meditation, relaxed breathing and cold therapy to take your mind off your worries.
Feel better, more active and ready to live your life to the full by channelling your inner power and overcoming those negative thoughts that are such a drain on your energy.
Get a good night’s sleep
A fit and healthy mind and body goes hand in hand with getting a good night’s sleep, which is another by-product of the Wim Hof Method.
Cutting recovery time
Staying at peak fitness and rapid recovery from performance is vital for professional athletes, and following the Wim Hof Method gives a faster return to training while helping to relieve muscle soreness and inflammation and eve the debilitating effects of burn-out.
Mental discipline means taking responsibility for the way you choose to live your life and building confidence in the decisions you make. Wim Hof teaches focussing willpower, which aims to show you how to be a better you
Laser sharp concentration helps you zero in on the task at hand. Finding out how to control concentration through meditation is one of the three core pillars of the Wim Hof Method.
Many feel like Wim Hof Method exercises help them punch a ray of hope in the black cloud of depression that shrouds their lives in misery. Hof says his teachings are not a cure for depression but certainly help tackle the symptoms.
Fibromyalgia is a long-term condition that triggers pain all over the body, leads to extreme tiredness and sleeping difficulties. The Wim Hof Method is proven to relieve the symptoms through managing stress by meditation.
Arthritis is a degenerative condition suffered by millions. Hof advocates concentration and exercise as an alternative way to combat the symptoms, rather than painkillers.
Living with asthma
Another commonplace condition that blights the lives of millions. Asthma restricts air flow through the respiratory system, but controlling breathing with the Wim Hof Method helps the body manage and sometimes lift the symptoms.
Many of us admire creative people and secretly wish we had their talents, but Wil Hof feels creativity is fine-tuned by meditation that frees the mind from self-imposed restrictions that throttle the ability to think more freely.
Cold therapy is cool in more than one way for Wim Hof. He believes overcoming extreme cold temperatures by taking ice baths and swimming in freezing water offer health benefits to everyone, not just performance athletes.