The Wim Hof Method – Who is Wim Hof? Wim “The Iceman” Hof is a Dutch daredevil who has become widely known for his extraordinary feats, usually involving physical resilience in the face of extreme temperatures and environments. He holds upwards of 20 world records, including staying in an ice bath for nearly 2 hours, summiting Mt Kilimanjaro in his shorts, and climbing to the death zone in Mt Everest (7,500m) in nothing but shorts and shoes (no oxygen tank either!). But these feats were simply to gain recognition in the hope that the scientific community would take note and study his method, which he believed had far reaching benefits for physical and mental wellbeing. And eventually science took notice, with a breakthrough study occuring in 2012, showing that Wim was able to control his autonomic immune system, previously thought to be impossible. Since then, numerous studies have been published studying the ability of Wim, and practitioners of the method, to alter their immune system response, quell inflammation, and activate parts of the nervous system which were thought to be out of our control.
The Wim Hof Method is based on three pillars; gradual cold exposure, breathing exercises and commitment/mindset. The combination of these 3 pillars provides the greatest benefit to practitioners. Wim Hof’s message is about getting in touch with your own mind and body and learning to trust the innate knowledge and wisdom of the body. He believes that the body knows best, but we have lost touch with our internal strength, mainly due to lack of environmental stimulus. Over time, we have developed a different attitude towards nature, separating ourselves from our environment and all the variations that come with it. With modern technology many people don’t experience changes in temperature anymore, the thermostat is set, and our body has lost its ability to deal with change. Wim believes we all have the ability to adapt to extreme temperature and survive within our natural environment. The three pillars are as follows:
Cold exposure: exposure to the cold starts a cascade of health benefits, including the buildup of brown adipose tissue and resultant fat loss, reduced inflammation that facilitates a fortified immune system, balanced hormone levels, improved sleep quality, and the production of endorphins. Cold exposure is like training for the cardiovascular system, contracting and relaxing the tiny vessels around the 125,000km of blood vessels in the body.
Breathing: the specific breathing exercise results in changes in oxygen/carbon dioxide levels in the blood, training the physiology of the body to deal with different extremes. The breathing techniques also unleash more energy, reduce stress levels, and augment the immune response due to the release of hormones.
Commitment/Mindset: The third pillar of the Wim Hof Method is the foundation of the other two: both cold exposure and conscious breathing require patience and dedication in order to be fully mastered. Armed with focus and determination you are ready to explore your own body and mind. It’s not always easy to turn the shower to cold, or hop into an ice bath, but with each time, you fortify your mental muscle and learn to deal with stress in a different way.
Where to from here? If you are interested in the Wim Hof Method, there is a free 3 part mini series on the Wim Hof Method website (https://www.wimhofmethod.com/free-mini-class) that takes you through the initial steps of the method. Please remember the breathing should always be completed in a safe environment sitting or laying down, NEVER in/around water, driving, standing or anywhere that passing out may cause injury.
UPDATE: We are excited to be welcoming back our physiotherapist Campbell Will in August 2019. Campbell has completed his Wim Hof certification and has been teaching breathwork around the world- we’re really looking forward to him running some more breathwork workshops and Wim Hof workshops in Cairns!