The Wim Hof Method


There are three main facets to the Wim Hof Method: regular exposure to, and often immersion in, cold temperatures; specific breathing techniques; and the practice of building willpower and self-control.

Cold immersion therapy has been growing in popularity in recent years- in large part due to mavericks like Wim Hof himself. Though some of the claims may seem outlandish- and scientific data backing them up is still relatively scarce- there is a growing body of evidence linking cold immersion therapy to numerous health benefits. A large number of people practice and support it, ranging from athletes to fitness gurus, celebrities to bodybuilders and influencers. Cold immersion therapy involves immersing oneself in cold water and/or ice- usually a paddling pool or bath filled with water and ice, or even just a cold shower- for a set amount of time.

In addition to this cold immersion therapy, Wim Hof has also developed several special breathing patterns and exercises. These allow practitioners to keep their bodies under his control, allowing them to endure extreme conditions and physical processes. They generally rely on deep, slow, easy breaths which ease tension and allow the practitioner to enter something of a meditative state.

This meditative state continues into the third pillar of the Wim Hof Method: development of willpower and self-control. This is core to the Wim Hof Method. It is one of the many ways in which a physical exercise like cold immersion can be used to foster skills that can be used in everyday life. Conscious breathing and cold therapy take tremendous amounts of dedication, commitment, patience and will-power. Those lacking it will not get very far if they don’t build it quickly. Those who stick with it will see their willpower grow exponentially.

The three pillars of the Wim Hof Method- cold immersion, breathing practice and will-power cultivation- will help a practitioner to improve focus, reducing stress levels and building mindfulness, even as the physical benefits of regular cold therapy build their bodies up into stronger, more resilient, more energised versions of themselves.

The Wim Hof Method was very controversial when it began- it still is, in many circles. Scientific evidence was scant, with most claims being made on the back of Wim Hof’s own experience and testimony. Some people have misjudged cold therapy and died whilst attempting it, over the years. However, as we begin to understand it further, in greater detail, with the above-mentioned growing academic exploration and scientific data underpinning our journeys, we can see exactly how and why the Wim Hof Method can be of benefit. Those following it with a trained practitioner will be able to do so safely and securely.

Benefits of the Wim Hof Method

Many of the benefits associated with the Wim Hof Method- particularly the physical health benefits- come from the cold immersion itself. As mentioned above, the anecdotal evidence on which the Wim Hof Method was largely based in the early days is slowly being scientifically justified. For example, cold immersion practitioners can usually expect to see an increase in their metabolic rates. Researchers have found that regular cold exposure does indeed speed up the metabolism. Other benefits include a reduction in inflammation and swelling, and a reduction in muscle soreness, particularly after exercise, which have all been backed up by current research. Cold therapy is often used by athletes to speed up recovery and reduce the risk of injuries, especially from wear-and-tear. It has also been linked to improvements in sleep, improved cognitive processes, and an elevated immune response. For all of these reasons, those undertaking a particularly physically stressful lifestyle can benefit from cold therapy: it will help them to recover faster, will afford them greater levels of energy, will improve their quality of sleep (in which training adaptation occurs) and will keep them healthy even as they pound away at their bodies. In addition, practitioners of the Wim Hof Method will gain some quite profound benefits from the breathing techniques involved. Exercises include focussing on deep, rhythmic inhalations and exhalations (yogis will recognise a lot here from their pranayama practice). Wim Hof himself describes it as ‘controlled hyperventilation or power breathing’. These long breaths are interspersed with retention periods, in which the practitioner holds their breath for a specified amount of time (kumbhaka, in yoga terms). The theory runs that this influences the nervous system, slowing the heart rate, dropping blood pressure, and improving mindfulness and cognitive control. More energy will be released as more oxygen-saturated blood is pumped around the body. Muscles will relax, lightening tension, with the slow exhalations. Resistance to stress will improve as the body adapts to the voluntarily induced stress response inherent to holding the breath for prolonged periods. Overall, breathing practice like this should leave practitioners feeling calmer, more powerful, and more in control of the bodies and lives. Practising cold immersion therapy- dunking yourself in below body-heat water for minutes at a time, day after day- and practising the above breathing techniques will unsurprisingly lead to greater self-control and willpower. Though there is inevitably an element of self-selection here- those looking to engage in the Wim Hof Method are probably predisposed to greater self-control, with greater staying power when things get tough- the whole process undoubtedly toughens you up mentally. Simply making yourself practice the Wim Hof Method day after day and keeping yourself in the cold water when you’re there will lead to improved willpower. People with more willpower are generally happier, healthier, and more satisfied in relationships, with a track record of making better, healthier decisions in life and coping with stress and adversity far more ably. If you have the chance to improve your willpower- which the Wim Hof Method represents- it can only ever be a good idea.

Wim Hof Instruction

The tentatively growing body of scientific data that has begun to back up many of the Wim Hof Method’s claims, coupled with its increasing popularity as word-of-mouth and testimonial convinces people to get involved with it, has led to a proliferation of instructors. Trained, qualified individuals are out there, waiting to help people as they get into the Wim Hof Method. It is always a good idea to seek proper instruction. As mentioned above, some people have gone about cold immersion in a dangerous fashion. An instructor will make sure you don’t endanger yourself. They will also show you every technique needed, will help you stick the course, and will set up the equipment itself so that it is perfect for what you need. A lot of instructors use paddling pools or baths filled with ice. This is time consuming and not too user friendly. Cryotubs are a bit of a godsend, here. They will help you to be more efficient, whether you’re an instructor or an at-home Wim Hof devotee, allowing you to spend less time messing about with buckets of ice and more time working on the things that count. They are simple and quick to use, comfortable and far more user friendly than many comparable models on the market.
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