An unconscious function of the body, breathing facilitates the delivery of oxygen to feed the body’s cells. Breathing in oxygen enables the nervous system and organs to properly function. Additionally, the way that people breathe affects physiological activities and chemicals within the body. The Wim Hof Method is named after its creator, the Dutch athlete Wim Hof, who set the Guinness World Record for swimming underwater using this unique technique. Wim Hof understood the importance of breathing and spent many years developing a breathing practice that pushes the body and mind into a healthier state of being. Here, we’ll examine how the Wim Hof Method works and offer tips for incorporating it into your daily life.
The Basics of the Wim Hof Method
The Wim Hof Method focuses on inhaling and exhaling without the use of force. The method differs from various deep breathing techniques that people have become accustomed to using such as breathing techniques used in yoga and other ancient practices. To perform the Wim Hof breathing exercise, it is best to start in a comfortable position either sitting or lying down. Since the Wim Hof breathing technique can temporarily affect motor control, you should not practice it while you’re near a body of water, standing, or while operating a vehicle.
When you are ready, close your eyes and take 30 to 40 deep breaths through your nose or mouth, but exhale only through your mouth unforced. A tingling sensation in your extremities or lightheadedness may occur due to controlled hyperventilation. While these sensations may initially be uncomfortable, they are harmless. Once you have reached the last exhalation, inhale once more as deeply as possible, then release all of the air and hold it without breathing. Once you feel the urge to breathe, deeply draw in your breath and hold it for about 15 seconds before letting it go. An entire cycle of the Wim Hof Method has been completed, and it can be repeated three to four times without hesitation. For assistance, you can follow along with a guided Wim Hof breathing video found online.
Beneficial Aspects of the Wim Hof Method
There are many reasons why this method of breathing is beneficial and should be practiced. Practicing the Wim Hof breathing method provides long-term benefits by influencing your body’s nervous system and physiological responses. Combined with the other Hof methods, such as cold therapy and mindset training, the Wim Hof Method can contribute to better physical and mental health. Among these improvements, the Wim Hof Method relieves the symptoms of a variety of ailments such as asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, and Lyme disease.
Other benefits of the Wim Hof method may include—but are not limited to—stress reduction, improved sleep quality, greater focus and mental clarity, enhanced creativity, improved sports performance, and a faster recovery from physical exertion.
Practicing breathing exercises in the morning and throughout the day can help in calming your mind, enabling you to toggle off stress and anxiety. Performing this breathing technique before bed can serve as a natural sleep aid and help to calm your mind. Sleeping better and staying calm can also positively impact your mental focus and clarity. Reduced stress and positive thinking can also help to open the door to new ideas and creativity, which can translate to improved interpersonal relationships, greater productivity at work, and an overall better outlook on life. Additionally, practicing Wim Hof breathing exercises could potentially lead to improved cardiovascular health and endurance that can help to enhance sports performance, while breathing exercises can assist in dispersing toxins, which is essential for recovery for athletes.
What Else Does the Wim Hof Method Do for Your Body?
The body is naturally already fully saturated with oxygen (99%), so inhaling deeply will not increase it. However, exhaling does release a lot of carbon dioxide. Through the Wim Hof Method, the brain stem is triggered with the urge to breathe when there is too much carbon dioxide, so lowering the levels of carbon dioxide will reduce the natural urge to inhale sooner, enabling you to hold your breath even longer. As you become more comfortable with the technique, it will become easier to perform.
In addition, the Wim Hof breathing method changes the pH in your blood, causing it to temporarily become more alkaline and less acidic. This causes the arteries and veins to narrow and oxygen to attach to the red blood cells. Wim Hof breathing prevents oxygen from being released into the tissues, also known as hypoxia. Short-term hypoxia creates stress at the cellular level, which forces the body to shift metabolism and strengthen the body. Short-term hypoxia is not dangerous and is considered a positive stressor. After you stop the breathing exercises, the blood returns to its normal acidity. Overall, the Wim Hof Method can improve your life in numerous ways.