Wim Hof Method
On Saturday, Tom Cleminson (Coach Clem) and I made our way to Kennington Oval Cricket Ground to spend four hours with Wim Hof AKA The Ice Man. Having watched a vice documentary on him, I was very intrigued by his methods and I wanted to give them a go myself.
Who is Wim Hof?
Wim Hof, holder of 20 Guinness World Records for withstanding extreme temperatures. He has climbed Everest and Kilimanjaro in only shorts and shoes stayed comfortably in ice baths for hours, and run a full marathon in the highest desert (50 degrees Celsius, 122 Fahrenheit) with no water & food.
Wim is able to accomplish these feats with ease through the use of ‘The Wim Hof Method‘ — a breathing technique that allows you to control the autonomous systems of the body.
However, the most earth-shaking effect of the Wim Hof Method is the ability to consciously control the immune system to fight off diseases. Our immune system plays a significant role in almost all devastating diseases plaguing the modern world, and finding a way to improve it can help us discover new avenues for medicine.
His methods have withstood scientific testing and he is currently involved with many ongoing studies. The most interesting of these studies involved Wim being injected with an endotoxin to see if he could control his immune response – here is the summary quote:
“Hitherto, both the autonomic nervous system and innate immune system were regarded as systems that cannot be voluntarily influenced. The present study demonstrates that, through practicing techniques learned in a short-term training program, the sympathetic nervous system and immune system can indeed be voluntarily influenced.”
-Proceedings of the National Academy for Sciences
Scientists were convinced that Wim must be an anomaly, but Wim trained students over the course of four weeks to be able to have the same ability,
As we walked into the main seminar room the charismatic Wim Hof was playing an interesting chant with his guitar. We all found our places and sat down to listen to Wim talk about his work and experiences.
What resonated with me the most was the way he talked about our bodies innate cleansing and healing properties, it sounded like he was talking about fasting! Longer term fasting 24-72 hours has been shown to have a dramatic effect on the immune system.
He talked about the fact this is completely free and everyone has the ability to do it but we live in a world dominated by drug and food companies who make money from getting you to buy their products – something I say in response to people who ask me “why isn’t fasting more well known”.
After hearing whim talk we were introduced to a Wim Hof practitioner who took us through a short yoga routine and then we were taught how to do the breathing technique.
Essentially you are inhaling more air than you are exhaling for 30 breaths using diaphragmatic breathing (breathing through your belly) and then holding your breath on the exhale for as long as possible and then repeating this for 3-4 rounds.
The first breath hold was a very strange sensation because we had flooded our bodies with oxygen by breathing in more air than we let out it literally felt like I didn’t have to breathe! We held for about 1 minute and 30 seconds, at the end of each round we increased how long we were holding, finishing with 3 minutes.
At this point, my whole body was tingling and my hands were numb, I had an amazing sensation of wellbeing throughout my entire body.
We then took a break and went downstairs for tea and scones. Wim came down and I had the opportunity to ask him his opinion on fasting and whether it can be used in conjunction with the Wim Hof Method. He told me he only eats one meal per day, after 6pm and is very interested himself in the science behind fasting and how together we can give the power back to the people.
After the break, we went back upstairs and heard from a scientist about what exactly is happening to your body during the practice of the Wim Hof Method and all the ongoing research that is happening.
This was fascinating and it just outlined how we have completely underestimated what the body can do and how the current system of healthcare in the western world isn’t doing anyone any favours.
After we heard from the scientist we were taken down to the ice baths. I was fairly anxious at this point and knew I was going to have to put my mind to the test. I have a fair amount of experience with cold water immersion but I had never seen this much ice in a pool!
Tom and I got in and it was very cold! I didn’t get the same panic that a lot of people got but I was definitely having to focus on the breathing. We stayed in for about 1 minute and then got out. I felt buzzing, but I really wanted to go in for longer.
I went in one more time and it was amazing, it just didn’t feel cold at all! I could feel that the ice was cold on my skin but I was really warm on the inside.
The rest of the day I was absolutely buzzing, I just had this good feeling – nothing seemed to ruin my mood.
I have since had cold showers and practiced the breathing method for two days and I plan on continuing to see how it affects me! I may even try and get myself onto one of his trips.
I have understood the benefits of cold therapy for a while now, its been shown to reduce inflammation levels, strengthen the nervous and cardiovascular system, reset your body temperature, improve the lymphatic system and help you to recover after exercise.