About two weeks before social-distancing became a common phrase, I adopted the Wim Hof method of breathing. It’s the first thing I do when I get out of bed. I found one of his guided breathing sessions, on youtube. I actually was told about this by a good friend while traveling in Europe. The guided session I like is 15 minutes and consists of three rounds of breathing. I must admit, even now that I’ve been doing it for a month, it is a test of my will to start the first round – like lacing up your shoes for a run knowing the struggle that’s ahead. Sometimes I feel like I am drowning in oxygen. I get choked up where I’m coughing and I also yawn occasionally, interrupting the rhythm. Each session is comprised of the three rounds, but after the first, I get used to it and usually enjoy the last two. When the session is over, I always feel amazing.
Who is Wim Hof? Wim Hof, also known as the Iceman, is an extreme athlete that is noted for attempting amazing feats in extremely cold temperatures. For example, he has run a half marathon barefoot, in ice and snow. He attributes all of his accomplishments, and accolades, including Guinness World Book of Records, to his method of deep breathing and meditation.
Wim Hof claims that his method alters our physiology and allows access to places in our brain, like the brain stem and the Pituitary gland that we can not usually tap into with shallow breathing. Deep breathing, and then holding our breath changes pH levels of our blood. Holding our breath creates brief periods of hypoxia. Because our body is reacting to the stressors of hypoxia, over time, with repetition, the reaction to that stress in our bodies at a cellular level creates long term benefits. Examples are things like increased red blood cells, increased lung capacity, better circulation, and increased metabolic efficiency. All benefits help your body when exposing yourself to extreme environments like the cold. People practicing his method are able to withstand these environments for an extended period of time with little to no effort and or pain.
Some of the benefits associated with his breathing are stress reduction, improved sleep, quicker recovery from any physical exertion, better performance in sports, increased creativity, mental clarity, and focus, also having the capability to reduce symptoms of a disease. Another benefit is the capacity to hold your breath for a much longer period of time – this is the crazy part. In my first ever session I was able to hold my breath comfortably for over 2 minutes. Something I’ve never done before – and something that feels amazing.
There have been numerous studies conducted about the benefits of his breathing technique. I encourage you to check out his website and do some reading yourself. Although there are naysayers to his method, I can tell you since I have been practicing, I have noticed a shift in my mental state. I have less anxiety, more patience, and an overwhelming sense of calm. I have more energy and I am able to accomplish more tasks in my day. This could also be that I have more free time. However, I do feel like I have more focus and I am less distracted. I have been practicing taking cold showers, which surprisingly, aren’t too bad. Taking cold showers offers a whole slew of other health benefits I’ll write about soon.
Wim Hof’s guided breathing exercise and meditation has been an incredibly useful tool. I encourage you to visit his website and try his breathing method for yourself!