Immersed in work and icy water
For those of us who have office based jobs, it may look and certainly feel like we spend alot of time at our desks, however, myself and the team at WSM actually have a really good work life balance and so instead of writing about our daily corporate musings, I have chosen to write about a passion of mine – a breathing and cold immersion technique known as the Wim Hof Method.
Wim “The Iceman” Hof
Born on 20 April 1959 in the Netherlands, Wim Hof is an extraordinary man who is able to perform extreme tests of the mind and body. He has 26 official Guiness World records, some of which are listed below – I’m sure you’ll agree they are pretty mind-blowing:
- Wim climbed to 7.4 kilometers (24,000 ft) altitude at Mount Everest wearing nothing but shorts and boots. He failed to reach the summit only because he hurt his foot too badly to continue1.
- He broke his previous world records by staying immersed in ice water for 1 hour, 52 minutes and 42 seconds in New York in 20112.
- He reached the top of Mount Kilimanjaro with a group of 18 people for the most part in just shorts in less than 32 hours3.
- Hof completed a half-marathon in nothing but shorts above the arctic circle in Finland on 26 January 2007 in 2 hours 17 minutes4.
- He completed a full marathon (26.219 mi), above the arctic circle in Finland, in temperatures close to −18 °C. Dressed in sandals and shorts, Hof finished in 5 hours and 25 minutes with no marathon training5.
- Hof ran a full marathon in the Namib Desert without water, under the supervision of Dr. Thijs Eijsvogels6.
How does he do this?
For Wim, his journey to becoming the iceman began around the age of 17 when he felt the urge to jump through the thin ice and into the freezing cold water of the Beatrixpark canal. Not surprisingly, it was a shock to the body, but then Wim says, “the feeling wasn’t of cold; it was something like tremendous good. I was in the water only a minute, but time just slowed down. It felt like ages.”
He began to do this regularly and in time developed a breathing technique, similar to the ancient meditation technique practised by monks in Tibetan Buddhism, to help him go even deeper into the cold and help him maintain focus. He has developed this into a method that is now taught throughout the world.
The method itself consists of three pillars – cold therapy, breathing and focus.
- Cold Therapy – The first pillar of the wim hof method is the cold. The cold is your warm friend. Exposing your body to it in the right way starts a cascade of health benefits, including the buildup of brown adipose tissue and subsequent fat loss, reduced inflammation to facilitate a fortified immune system, balanced hormone levels, improved sleep quality, and the production of endorphins— the feel-good chemicals in the brain that naturally elevate your mood.
- Breathing – The second pillar of the wim hof method is breathing. We’re always breathing, yet we’re mostly unaware of its tremendous potential. Heightened oxygen levels hold a treasure trove of benefits, and the specialized breathing technique of the Wim Hof Method unearths them all: more energy, reduced stress levels, and an augmented immune response to swiftly deal with pathogens.
- Focus – The third pillar of the wim hof method is the mindset. Mindset or focus 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 and eventually master your own body and mind.
The Science and Benefits of Regular Practice
The three pillars will enable you to ultimately manipulate your immune system to be able to better adapt to situations when your body is under stress, whether that be from sickness, harsh environmental elements or other stresses.
Wim is not shy when it comes to being prodded and probed by scientists and doctors alike. In fact, there are many instances where the method has been taught to even inexperienced candidates in test conditions to reveal just how powerful it is7. This is backed up by scientific theories on how the body is reacting through the impact on the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.
There are claims that the method can help with or help alleviate symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis, arthritis, diabetes, clinical depression, anxiety, PTSD, bipolar disorder, cancer, etc8. There is also a Facebook group where people share their experiences and knowledge and is a great resource for anyone looking to learn more.
My Wim Hof journey began in February 2017 when I first became interested in the method and its incredible potential. Historically I haven’t had any particular chronic illness, however I have developed chronic pain (maybe that’s for another blog) which I wished to try to diminish. It was also at this time that I started to read about biohacking and figured it would be a good way to start this journey as well.
In the last 13 months I have taken (almost) daily cold showers and do morning breathing sessions, following the method as described. I attended a workshop with Wim himself in April 2017 and then bought the 10 week course (which my housemate and I completed earlier this year). I have also been on a five week course of 90 minute sessions in London with Joren de Bruen, one of Wim’s highly trained and inspirational instructors. This then lead to a journey to Iceland with Joren in March 2018 for one of his expeditions, where we climbed a mountain in just our shorts and boots, jumped into icy lakes and explored more advanced techniques (see some photos below).
For me, this is a lifestyle change. I haven’t really been ill since beginning the method and it has provided some immediate (but short term) pain relief when I’ve needed it. When entering the ice cold, your mind has to stay centred and your breathing slow and steady; this in itself focuses your mind on the task in hand and kicks your ego into touch. It is quite the eye opener the first few times you experience it. And the point is, you take this away into your daily life. You become more focused, more energised, see the world with more clarity and less ego. I can highly recommend it and the best part about it is, it’s free for anyone to start! For more info, there’s plenty of resources on YouTube, the Wim Hof website or the main Facebook group. Good luck!
- One example – https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110422090203.htm