Over the past several years I have been outside more in the winter. I like to hike and walk the dog which is good, but I really wanted to find a way to tolerate the cold more. On a recommendation from a friend, I recently finished reading “The Way of the Iceman” by Wim Hof and Koen De Jong. This book focuses on a technique appropriately titled the Wim Hof Method (WHM) which is an interesting combination of techniques used for a variety of health improvements. Below, I’ll give you a high-level introduction and will leave out the details for you to research if you’re interested.
Have you ever seen the man sitting in meditation posture, shirtless, on top of an iceberg? How about the same guy running a half-marathon in the Arctic with nothing on but a pair of shorts? I had not until recently and suddenly I am intrigued. Wim Hof is this guy and he starts the book stating that 80% of what he accomplishes is by using his breathing technique.
The WHM focuses on three (3) essential components. These include: breathing exercises, cold exposure, and commitment. Wim says very confidently by practicing the WHM, we can influence our body’s autonym nervous system, something that doctors around the world have traditionally called impossible. The abilities from regulating your own blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing can lead to all sorts of interesting health changes.
I began my experimenting with this breathing exercise. I use my yoga mat and block, beginning my mornings with this breathing exercise before taking a cold shower. Naturally, humans breathe deeper and quicker than we need to. The goal is control. At first, I felt lightheaded and uneasy due to expelling a good amount of carbon dioxide. Soon, I began feeling very energized and clear. Wim credits the clarity to the extra amount of oxygen entering the pineal gland, allowing our bodies to produce more oxygen. This helps fight depression, sleeping trouble, jetlag, and even hangovers.
Next up, the cold showers. Cold exposure has many benefits; however, humans have made it a lot more comfortable (warmer) for ourselves through the years. By exposing yourself to the cold, your body cuts off blood flow to the less important parts, naturally maintaining your temperature above 95 degrees. This basically trains your blood vessels by closing them and opening them back up. Wim compared this to a weightlifter who continually trains his biceps to get bigger and stronger through lifting repetitions.
There is a great deal of information out there on white and brown fat that humans store in our bodies. White fat is reserve fat, storing energy and insulation. Brown fat generates heat by burning fatty acids and glucose. Blankets, coats, and other forms of clothing have decreased the amount of brown fat we retain, particularly in western culture. However, brown fat can be activated through cold training! Wim suggests we start by taking cold showers. He recommends beginning your shower with warm water, breathing into a light relaxation, and switching to cold water. After a month or so of staying under the cold water, benefits will start to appear.
The last part of the WHM is commitment. Sometimes people like to see results before they commit, which can be counter-productive. Thankfully, Wim and his followers were able to show me results prior to beginning training so it hasn’t been so tough. I can honestly say after a month that I do feel better, clearer, and lighter. Currently, Wim and his team are making serious noise around the world. For those of you interested, visit: https://www.wimhofmethod.com/