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Most of us are constantly searching for healthy solutions for anxiety, stress, or depression. What we want is more mental clarity and focus. We want to achieve mental and physical endurance and recovery.
Well you can do it. The answer is a natural remedy, an elixir you could say, that can address all of these things using age-old practices that are now being validated by scientific and medical research.
The answer contains three powerful pillars; breathing, cold therapy, and commitment.
Also known as breathwork, specifically the Wim Hof Method.
Breathwork: What is the Wim Hof Method?
We are breathing to survive but not breathing to thrive, and thus the need for breathwork.
I want you to ask yourself a question. Why do you think exercise makes you feel so good both mentally and physically?
The answer is we have to force ourselves to artificially create and struggle.
The Wim Hof Method is a combination of breathing exercises, meditation, and exposure to cold that can help you regulate your nervous system and immune system. You know those complex nerves that send signals to different parts of your body.
We’ll break down the science backing the method but first some known benefits include:
- More focus and mental clarity
- Stress reduction
- Better sleep
- Enhanced creativity
- Faster recovery from physical exertion
- Improved sports performance
The method can be applied for endurance and strength athletes, but is gaining popularity among successful business leaders and entrepreneurs.
You’ll discover a breathing routine that best suits you but to get you started here’s a step-by-step guide to try out.
Wim Hof Method Routine
Step 1: YOU NEED TO GET COMFORTABLE
Lie down or sit in a meditation posture.
The important thing is to be comfortable enough to expand your lungs freely without any feeling of constriction.
You’ll also want to put on chapstick and a sleep mask/eye covering (this will block out any light that can interfere with your experience).
Step 2: POWER BREATHS
Inhale through your nose or mouth and exhale through your mouth in powerful bursts (personally breathing through my mouth allows me to get more air into my lungs, creating a stronger euphoric experience).
Keep a steady pace and use your stomach fully as though it is a balloon. Repeat steadily 30 times.
You might experience light headedness or tingling sensations in the body, that’s totally normal.
Step 3: HOLD YOUR BREATH (THE FUN PART!)
After the 30 rapid cycles, draw the breath in once more and fill the lungs to maximum capacity without using any force. Let the air out and hold for as long as you can.
This is the fun part!
Flex your fists, glutes and feet as tight as you can. If you feel the need to breath in, do it in one small spurt, like you’re taking a small sip out of a straw.
You should experience an array of colors and imagery shooting through your mind fireworks. You may visualize someone you love.
What’s happening is you’re getting high off your own supply!
Inhale to full capacity. Feel your chest expanding and when you are at full capacity, hold the breath for another 10 seconds.
This cycle can be repeated 3 more times. The goal is to train your body to replace its oxygen supplies faster and create new levels of alertness.
Step 4: FIND YOUR NORMAL BREATH & MEDITATE
After completing your breathing exercise, take time to enjoy the feeling afterwards. You should feel calm and relaxed.
After doing these breathing exercises personally I found myself being so present and aware in the moment. I like to utilize this time to meditate for about five minutes. All the noise around you and in your life will turn off.
Step 6: THE COLD PLUNGE
You’re not done just yet. Now comes the hardest part, mastering your commitment.
Cold immersion is a key component of the Wim Hof Method, applied in the form of cold showers and ice baths. The unique method is designed to gradually expose the body to cold, and build up a great resistance in stressful situations.
You want to stay in your cold shower or ice bath for at least three minutes. Naturally you’re going to want to take fast deep breaths because your body will start to go into a fright-flight- fight mode.
FIGHT THIS. This is where your breathing exercise comes into play.
When you get uncomfortable under that cold water remember to take a deep breath and be present in the moment. Focus on your breath coming into your lungs, traveling to your fingertips, and into the top of your head.
Next thing you know you’re time will be up and you’ll be finished!
So where did the Wim Hof Method originate and how will it help me?
It all started with a Dutch extreme athlete named Wim Hof, also referred to as “The Iceman”. Hof got his nickname “The Iceman'' by shattering a number of records related to cold exposure. Hof climbed the tallest mountain in Africa (Mount Kilimanjaro) in shorts, ran a half marathon barefoot in the snow, and stood in a container while covered with ice cubes for nearly two hours.
According to Hof's official website, “Using “cold, hard nature” as his teacher, his extensive training has enabled him to learn to control his breathing, heart rate, and blood circulation and to withstand extreme temperatures. Armed with his motto “what I am capable of, everybody can learn”, Wim Hof is convinced that everyone can tap into their inner potential without having to invest the same decades worth of study, travel and daring.”
Hof says it’s his life’s mission to share his knowledge with the rest of the world, thus the birth of the Wim Hof Method. He believes this method, the basis of which dates back centuries, is the key to unlocking the unlimited power of the mind.
In his book, Hof teaches a combination of breathing exercises and forms cold therapy to millions of people across the world. Hof also explains how you can control your body and mind in order to achieve extraordinary things as well as the story of developing his method.
If you want a lesson from the master himself it’s easier than you think. Hof has built an active YouTube channel with monthly uploads of new routines and breathing exercises you can follow along with. Hof has built quite the following racking in 1.5 million followers.
Is the Science Behind the Wim Hof Method?
Have you ever gotten into the shower too quick when the water was freezing? What happens when you feel those icicle-like drops piercing your skin. You probably get extremely uncomfortable and stressed.
What if you could trick your brain to withstand the pain? Eliminating the feeling and perception of being cold.
According to a study by Wayne State University's School of Medicine, published in the journal NeroImage, researchers found that Hof is able to use his mind to artificially induce a stress response in his body that helps him resist the effects of cold.
After Hof performed his breathing exercises, they put him into an MRI machine while exposing him to cold water and analyzed what happened inside his body. According to the study, Hof wore “A special suit while in the machine that shot cold water and hot water in five minute intervals.”
While someone like you or me might feel extremely uncomfortable under those conditions, Hof was in a meditative state. Researchers say Hof hacked into the physiological system through his breathing exercises, allowing him to feel euphoric in a freezing cold environment that would be unpleasant in normal circumstances.
The study also found that when exposed to cold, Hof activates a part of the nervous system that can inhibit the signals responsible for telling your body you are feeling pain or cold, and trigger the release of dopamine and serotonin.
There has to be more long term effects than just changing your brain’s habits right? One Stanford neuroscience professor says it could also improve your heart rate.
Professor Andrew Huberman, Ph.D. says, “When you inhale, your diaphragm moves down. That creates additional space in your thoracic cavity. Your heart gets a little bit larger (technically the vena cava pressure shifts) in that larger space and thus blood flows more slowly through it. A neural signal is sent from your heart to the brain to say “blood flow is reduced” and your brain (subconsciously) sends a neural signal back to your heart to speed your heart rate up.”
Research on the Wim Hof Method is ongoing around the world. From speeding up your metabolism, to fighting auto-immune disease, researchers could just be scratching the surface of the breakthroughs through these breathing exercises.
If you just want to get out of your mind, need to relieve some stress, and you’re ready to steer the driving wheel of your life, the Wim Hof Method is a life tool to help you stay awake.
After two months of implementing these breathing exercises into my weekly routine, I can wholeheartedly say I truly feel present. My anxiety has decreased. I cherish the moment I’m in right now. I’m grateful for the people and things I have in my life. I am a new person and I will continue to challenge and better myself through the power of breathwork.
Now remember, this is just one type of breathing exercises. Upasana for example is just one form of yoga and strictly focuses on disciplining and integrating your personality.
There’s no one size fits all with the Wim Hof Method. Here are a couple tips on how you can develop your own routine.