I have been getting a lot of questions about Wim Hof method, taking cold showers and how they may benefit the way respond to and manage stress. Who has not felt impressed seeing Wim Hof and the practitioners of this method enduring cold exposure and coming out of it with a big smile on their faces.
Wim Hof explains that his method can lead to many benefits such as
- increased immunity
- reduced stress
- improved focus
- better sleep
I have worked with and still practice the Wim Hoff method myself. Based on my personal experiences and work with my clients, I agree with all these points.
However, as someone coming from a medical background as a Qualified Nurse and as a Breathwork Coach working with large number of clients, there are certain precautions and contraindications that you should be aware of too.
In this short piece, I will share with you the key highlights of this method, in relation to stress. I will also share my recommendations if you are considering whether the Wim Hof method is for you.
What is the Wim Hof Method?
Created by Wim Hof, who is an extreme athlete undertaking incredible challenges that have made us re-think the bounds of our physical and mental capabilities, this method combines three elements:
- a specific method of controlled deep breaths
- cold exposure, which is where ice baths and cold showers comes in
- commitment to help you access deep body-mind connection
Wim Hof Breathing Method
In a nutshell, this method brings the breathing to the level of hyperventilation and also incorporates prolonged breath holds.
Wim Hof breathing looks like this:
- 30 deep rhythmic breaths: Inhalations and Exhalations are through the mouth. Deep inhale, then let go of the air without exhaling fully in a quick succession. This is effectively 30 rounds of hyperventilation.
- Hold your breath as long as you can (after 30 deep breaths and the final exhalation): Que here is to feel the gasp reflex.
- Take a deep inhale and hold your breath again, for 10-15 seconds
This is one round. Repeat for up to 5 rounds.
- Meditate: Ideally at least for 5 minutes, focus your attention on your breathing.
The point of this breathing method is to reduce the CO2 levels in the blood, which makes it more alkaline, enabling us to hold our breath for a prolonged period of time.
CO2 is a critical component in our breathing. Increasing CO2 levels in our blood gives signal the brain to breathe in again. If CO2 levels are too low, then inhalation may not happen. This is why practicing Wim Hof as you dive is not a good idea.
Furthermore, a certain level of CO2 is needed for the oxygen in the blood to be transferred to the cells. If CO2 is too low, O2 will remain in the blood but not go to tissues such as heart and muscles. This is known as the Bohr effect.
So, you may ask what is the benefit of this method of breathing.
In a nutshell, it is getting the body trained to tolerate stress. Because this breathing method that makes your blood more alkaline and causes hypoxia, which is a form of ‘stress’ at the cellular level. Being able to endure and work through this stress at the cellular level, can help the body and mind to deal with stressors that we face every day.
Is the Wim Hof Method right breathwork tool for you?
I notice that often times, the reason people get interested in the Wim Hof method is as it offers examples of how body can master the mind. We also like it because it yield results – we can hold our breath longer, take a dip in icy cold sea, feel energy and vibrancy in our body.
However, if you are relatively new to Breathwork and/or have underlying health concerns, I would highly recommend initially working with a trained practitioner who can offer you:
- Analysis of your breathing pattern: discovering if limiting or dysfunctional elements are present and how a healthy breathing pattern can be established and promoted
- Understand your medical background: because certain breathwork techniques may not be suitable to you. These must be identified early on to ensure your safety.
- Understand your goals: your trained practitioner should advise you which breathwork methods and techniques would serve you the best.
In finding your route into Breathwork, I encourage you to clearly identify your goal (what would you like to achieve through Breathwork) and work with a Breathwork practitioner, who can create a safe approach, tailored to you.