Defined by calming breathing methods, cold exposure and conquering one’s bodily limits, the Wim Hof method is a practise that is growing in popularity – from celebrities to therapists, masses of people are flocking to reap the benefits. Here’s why.
The Wim Hof Method was created by, unsurprisingly, a man named Wim Hof. He’s a Dutch athlete known for his impressive ability to withstand cold temperatures – it’s the reason for his nickname, the Iceman. His theory is that you can manage your body, mind and breath through a number of breathing techniques and tolerance practises.
Breathing, commitment and cold therapy are the three integral elements involved in the Wim Hof Method. It all starts with the breath – controlled deep breathing is often practised in conjunction with cold therapy, where the body is exposed to frigid temperatures.
A 2018 case study undertaken by Wim Hof found that extreme cold can be tolerated by forming an artificial stress response in the body, indicating that it was a psychological, not physical, efforts that enabled Wim Hof to withstand the cold. What does this mean? We may have more control over our nervous system than previously thought, meaning a greater ability to manage stress and mental health issues.
Leah Scott, certified Wim Hof method instructor, says the mind-body connection involved in the method is what drew her to the practise.
“The breath work was just euphoric,” she says of her first experience with the method. “I saw colours and lights and electrical signals.
“I felt calm, I felt peace.”
The purpose of breath work in the Wim Hof method is to increase oxygen flow and reduce carbon dioxide. There’s a basic format, but you can make your own additions or changes to suit your needs. Take a look at the format of the breathing technique:
- Take in a strong breath through your nose
- Breathe out slowly through your mouth
- Repeat these steps 30 breaths
- On the 30th breath, exhale to 90 percent capacity and hold it there for as long as possible
- When you need to breathe in, inhale and hold that breath for 15 seconds, then release it
- Repeat these steps 3 times
The basic technique involves three consecutive rounds of the above. Getting help from a trained Wim Hof instructor can be a useful way to target any particular breathing issues you have, including reverse breathing – this is where your stomach flattens on the exhale instead of the inhale.
How to get started
While you can get started with some of the simpler practises on your own, you may want to reach out to an instructor for a deeper understanding of the Wim Hof method, along with guided instruction to focus on your issues and goals. Leah Scott is a New South Wales-based practitioner with extensive experience in breathing techniques and cold therapy. You can find her services here. It was after a challenging divorce in 2015 and a flurry of anxiety and depression that she decided something needed to change. After encountering the Wim Hof method, she knew she was onto something special.
“I knew I’d found something that had changed my life forever,” Leah says. “I felt like I was gifted this beautiful connection within my mind and body, and I did it every day.”