Looking after our health is a well documented case of eating well, taking regular exercise, avoiding stress where possible, getting plenty of restful, nourishing sleep and reducing our alcohol intake.
But what if we could do more than that? What if we could utilise what we already have - our innate ability to adapt and survive - to be even healthier, more successful and have a stronger immune system? (Even more important off the back of the Covid pandemic? We think so.)
Well, we can! And it’s all hidden in the power of the Wim Hof Method. So what is it, how do we do it and what are the plus points to our mind, body and skin?
What is the Wim Hof Method?
The Wim Hof Method is a breathing technique that allows you to gain a greater awareness of your breath and learn how to manipulate your breathing to your advantage. But hold your breath - it's more than just breathwork practice. It's about our ability to train the body and mind to withstand cold exposure and manage our stress response.
If we can learn the Wim Hof Method, we can learn to control our deep breathing, and we can gain a whole host of benefits.
What Does the Wim Hof Method Do?
According to Wim, his whole system utilises the benefits of cold therapy, and along with Wim Hof method breathing, the two are tied together with a personal commitment to master the breathing techniques and withstand the cold.
The three “powerful pillars” of the method; cold therapy, breathing and commitment, are the basis of the method, and once mastered, can lead to exceptional benefits.
Here’s a little more on all three:
Step 1. What is Cold Therapy for Mind Body and Skin?
Regular exposure to the cold brings multiple benefits, including an increase in the ‘good fat’ of the body - otherwise known as brown adipose tissue. This type of fat produces more heat and increases our metabolic rate, leading to increased fat and calorie burning potential.
Exposure to the cold can also improve the immune system and help to reduce inflammation within the body. This then keeps our hormones balanced, improves sleep quality and improves the mood by releasing feel good endorphins.
Step 2. Alkaline Breathing: What is Wim Hof Breathing Exercise?
Most of the time, we're unaware of our breath, but advocates of the Wim Hof Method say that by controlling our breathing in a certain way, we’re able to increase our oxygen levels, which holds many plusses.
These include an increase in energy levels, reduced levels of stress and an immune system stronger and better equipped to deal with infectious bacteria, viruses and fungi.
Step 3. The Wim Hof 30 Day Challenge: Commitment
Exposing our bodies to extremes of cold and consciously focusing on our breath both require a great level of commitment and focus to get right.
That’s why the Wim Hof Method is taught in person and online, the world over. To fully gain from this way of living we must fully commit. Embarking on a 30 day challenge to practice our breathing and cold exposure can make it become a habit that we carry through our daily lives. It will become fundamental to our existence - so advocates say.
What Are the Benefits of the Wim Hof Method?
There are multiple plus points to practising the Wim Hof Method. These include those mentioned above, such as an increase in thermally active brown adipose tissue, a better immune response and improved sleep.
We could potentially lose weight or maintain our weight, be better able to fight off infection and disease and feel happier and more lifted from achieving better quality sleep.
Why Does the Wim Hof Method Feel So Good?
Here’s a full list of the benefits of combing the three pillars of the Wim Hof Method:
- Increased energy, determination, focus and creativity
- A stronger immune response to help fight infectious pathogens
- Improved sleep patterns leading to more nourishing, beneficial sleep
- Improved sports performance and recovery
- Improved tolerance to the cold
- Reduced stress
Does Wim Hof Method Release Endorphins?
Anything that makes us feel good will cause the release of feel-good chemicals called endorphins. At the time, we might dislike performing exercise. But when we're finished, we feel great, right? That's all down to our endorphins.
Practicing the Wim Hof breathing method and most definitely taking a cold shower will also make us feel good. Why? You guessed it - endorphins!
What Are the Benefits of Wim Hof for My Skin?
As well as all the other plus points to adopting the Wim Hof Method into your life, it will also help to improve your skin.
The shock from jumping straight into a cold water shower helps to make your heart beat faster, and in doing so, helps to move oxygen and skin boosting nutrients to the outermost part of the body - the skin.
This increase in oxygen and nutrients helps to nourish the skin, helping it appear healthier, more hydrated and glowy.
Is the Wim Hof Method Scientific?
Yes, very. There are lots of scientific studies that back up the claimed benefits of the Wim Hof Method.
At the heart of the scientific research is questioning the view that the sympathetic nervous system (part of the autonomic nervous system) and the innate immune system cannot be influenced. That is, we have no conscious control over our nervous system or immune system.
But there is now science that accepts that we can voluntarily influence these biological systems. Numerous scientific papers conclude that the positive effects of the Wim Hof can influence everything from pain management, brain activity and metabolic activity.
There have also been studies that suggest the method can help manage autoimmune conditions caused by chronic inflammation, which is an exciting area of research for the future. We're certainly keeping a keen eye on the research in order to learn more about the Wim Hof Method.
The Science Behind it: How Does the Wim Hof Method Keep the Body Alkaline?
There is emerging evidence that the Wim Hof Method of breathing can, over time, make the blood slightly more alkaline. This is thought to be due to the alkalising effect of oxygenation - adding more oxygen to the blood, displacing carbon dioxide, which is acidic.
A less acidic state is thought to help protect against disease, but research is yet to fully confirm this.
How to Perform the Wim Hof Method
Since the official Wim Hof Method depends on three critical pillars, it’s essential to work on each of the three pillars to master them and combine them to gain the full benefits.
How Can I Learn the Wim Hof Method?
You can sign up for classes to learn the method and join in activities and travel adventures with officially endorsed instructors to apply the method to extremes of cold exposure and endurance. Or you can learn online from a range of eLearning videos and tutorials.
But in a nutshell, here are the basics in order to practice the method:
How to Perform Cold Therapy at Home
Just like professional athletes who partake in ice baths to improve their stamina and performance, we can all start the day with… a cold shower!
Having a cold shower in the morning helps you to start the day mindfully and in the present. It forces you out of your comfort zone and builds self discipline and improves your tolerance towards feeling cold.
It’s also great for giving the energy boost so many of us need first thing in the morning, and it’s free from caffeine and it's associated jitters!
Start short, say 15 seconds under cold water, before warming up, and build your resilience over time. It's probably helpful to start with an empty stomach too, as you may feel a little shocked to begin with.
How to Perform the Wim Hof Alkaline Breath Work
Mastering the cold shower might be physically challenging, but mastering the breath work necessary for success in the method can be mentally challenging. It’s a case of repeating it so often that it becomes second nature.
How to Learn More About the Wim Hof Breathing Method
Since it’s quite lengthy to describe, we’ve left it to the experts, who are masters at it. Learn more about Wim by reading Chengeer Lee’s account of the three steps of the breathing method; oxygenation, hypoxic stress and oxygen exhaustion.
Remember, it may take time to master. It might feel unusual to inhale fully and hold for 15 seconds or doing anything with one breath for 10 to 15 seconds. But eventually, it will feel as normal as the breathing you're doing right now.
How to Stay Committed and Achieve Wim Hof Benefits for Mind Body and Skin
The overriding element of the Wim Hof Method working for you is to believe that it will. For many, despite the difficulties of cold therapy and mindful breathing, commitment is the hardest part.
Chengeer Lee advises committing short term first, and suggests 30 days of daily cold showers and dedicated breathwork. After this time, you may have become so accustomed to it, any other way of waking up and breathing could feel alien to you.
Is There a Wim Hof Scientific Study?
Yes, as we've linked to in various passages above, there are many studies that back up everything that Wim Hof explains, and more are no doubt in the pipeline.
Who is Wim Hof the Iceman?
Famously known as the Iceman, the endurance athlete Wim Hof is a Dutch philosopher and adventurer. You may have seen him on the TV recently in Freeze the Fear with Wim Hof, where he guided TV personalities through his techniques.
This Dutch extreme athlete is well known for being able to endure extremely cold temperatures and has trained his conscious breathing so much that it also controls his heart rate and blood circulation so that he’s able to survive at such extreme conditions.
Is the Wim Hof Method Healthy?
Through his controlled breathing techniques and beliefs, he has an extraordinary ability to withstand extreme temperatures. So much so, that he has various Guinness World Records, including one for the furthest swim under ice. (This was his second attempt, after the one the day before froze his corneas, rendering him temporarily blind.)
He’s been able to scale some of the highest and coldest mountains on earth (including Mount Kilimanjaro) wearing just a pair of shorts, withstand two hours immersed in ice cubes and run a marathon distance in the hot, arid conditions of the Namib Desert without stopping for any water.
So we think it's safe to say that his practices are very healthy considering he was born in 1959!
Will You Try the Wim Hof Method of Breathing and Cold Therapy?
Wim Hof believes that we can all achieve the same, through using his methods and philosophies to reach exceptional goals.
Are you up for the life changing benefits of mastering the Wim Hof Method? Always listen to your body and practice in a safe environment and dig deep into the power of your thoughts - believe that you can, and you will! Just 10 to 15 minutes each day could benefit you enormously.
This article is not meant to treat or diagnose. Please visit your doctor for advice about any health concerns you may have.