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The Wim Hof Method (WHM) has taken the world by storm since 2017. Anastasis was fortunate to get certified in the WHM in 2016. In this section you can find articles covering both the practice & the theory behind it. Some of the topics covered are : “the biochemistry behind the WHM”, “the benefits of cold exposure for yogis”, “how to adapt to cold exposure”.

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Wim Hof Method Benefits

How does the Wim Hof Method improve health?

Those practicing the Wim Hof Method will benefit primarily from the progressive exposure to cold. The regular cold showers the method advocates will:
• up regulate the immune system
• improve cardiovascular health and
• help regulate the circadian rhythm if practiced at the same time every day.

While these 3 benefits can have a knock on a positive effect on other functions in the body, including: mood, metabolism, energy levels, cold exposure is still a stress for the body and thus should be practiced progressively and always reflecting one’s health status at the time.

The Wim Hof Breathing (WH Breathing) can also benefit those who struggle to switch off their brain, or experience low levels of energy and need an adrenaline boost.

In this article I will be answering some popular question on what one can expect from WHM. If you have a question which is not answered here, drop me a message through the contact page.


Can the WHM help with Anxiety or Depression?

While breathwork can provide relief for those with high stress, the Wim Hof Breathing will be safe and beneficial only for mild forms of anxiety and otherwise healthy individuals. Those suffering with depression on the other hand are more likely to benefit from the breathing due to the increase of adrenaline, shown to last for 2 hours.

Individuals with neurological conditions, including depression and anxiety are likely to benefit from cold exposure through its effects on the cardiovascular system, hormonal and metabolic function. Cold exposure will benefit other forms of mental health and when practiced progressively it will result to higher levels of energy and a more positive outlook on life.

Cold exposure and the Wim Hof breathing have very different effects on our body’s biochemistry. As a result while someone may benefit from one may not from the other.


How long does it take to see results?

Those practicing the WH Breathing if they are going to experience any positive results, are likely to notice them instantly. The change in the blood gases will happen after the first round and will build up over consecutive ones.

The cold exposure will have an effect on the long run on the cardiovascular, metabolic and hormonal system. While one will get a boost of increased energy (from the adrenaline) straight after the physiological adaptations will take months – years to materialise.


Is it suitable for beginners?

The WH Breathing is accessible to beginners. It requires practitioners to breathe heavy on the first part and hold their breath to the max of their ability in the second. Very shallow breathers, usually elder or those with severe asthma, may still not be able to perform the exercise in which case improving their lung capacity first will be appropriate.

Whether it is suitable or not depends on one’s goals. Due to the exaggerated hype around the benefits it is worth being clear on what you expect from the WH Breathing.

You don’t need any skill or prerequisites to practice cold exposure either. Those with poor circulation, who are likely to benefit from it the most, are the ones that will struggle a lot initially. Cold exposure requires extra caution for those with cardiovascular complications, type 1 diabetes and pregnant women.


Are there any risks associated with the Wim Hof Method?

There are risks associated with it so it’s best to build up your practice gradually and stop in the presence of any adverse symptoms.


Can it be combined with other forms of exercise or training?

The WHM can definitely be combined with exercise. This is especially true for the cold exposure which can serve as a pre-training booster. The WH Breathing has less of a synergistic effect with exercise.


Lessons from Wim Hof

5 Things I learned from Wim Hof

It’s not every day that you meet a 20 times Guinness record holder. When you come to meet him though [& you train under his supervision in the method he developed], chances are you will get some insights. Wim Hof (the “iceman”) is an amazing person. There are 2 good reasons why you will hear a lot of people saying that about Wim:
i. he has stripped himself off what he calls: “the programming”. He doesn’t dress himself with a politically correct behavior (i.e. he encourages people to breathe, breathe deep – not caring which hole the air comes in) and neither takes himself seriously.


ii. he didn’t hold back in life. He “went deep”. Basically what he means is he went where he didn’t feel comfortable.


1. Nature is the teacher

Nowadays, science is, unfortunately in my opinion, perceived as the only source of truth. Science started as an attempt for humans to systematically understand nature.

“Nature is the teacher.” ~ Wim Hof

He encourages students to go to nature and learn everything he knows.

“Nature is merciless but righteousness” ~ Wim Hof


2. Train your body to adapt not tolerate

Up until recently cold exposure was for me similar to weight training. I lift weights → I get stronger → I can carry heavier bags from the supermarket [ i.e. I expose myself to the cold → I become more tolerable to cold → I am less likely to get sick in the winter (or something among these lines anyway) ]. While that is still true there is a 2nd degree of benefits more significant.

We can moderate our body temperature whether we are exposed to cold or not. Cold offers feedback but the environmental temperature should not determine our body’s temperature. The day prior to the ascent of mount Snezka Wim told us:

“It will not be very low tomorrow* but you should go high.” ~ Wim Hof

* meaning the temperature will not be very low


3. Zorba the Buddha

Osho Rajneesh (1931-1990) spoke about how life should be a meditative practice, which should be equally enjoyed at the same time. Zorba the Greek (according to Osho) is the foundation and Buddha is the palace, on top of the foundation.

“If everything goes according to me, every man will die as Zorba the Buddha. Between the Greek and the Buddha there is not much distance, but first you must be the Greek.” ~ Osho

Wim is such a model. The word joy is not foreign to him, yet every breathing practice and exposure to cold is an opportunity to go into meditation.


4. The body’s calling, pick up the phone

Have you heard the phrase holistic approach? Well I do all the time and I have become more allergic to it than Dracula is to garlic. The reason is that while in principle the idea is good, it has become a marketing hashtag for pre-prescribed (usually expensive) protocols.

What’s Wim approach then: He gives you 3 basic tools (breathing, cold exposure, focus), encourages you to practice regularly and focus on the problem at hand. If you now think that’s one size fits all approach, I encourage you to go try some visits to a local cold lake or some deep breathing sessions. You will only go as far as you can. And why I am so confident about that?

These approaches are engaging. They are on the opposite end of the spectrum where drugs are.


5. Be humble to be great

Wim is a warm-hearted man, in my eyes at least. I could list myriad examples I witnessed in 1 week, which confirms that. Instead I would bring to your attention the reason WHY he does what he does: To empower people.

He is not competitive or tries to be an illusionist. In his own words:

“What I can do, everyone can do.” ~ Wim Hof

I remind you: 20 Guinness Records.


Cold Exposure

Cold Exposure (the benefits)

The popularity of cold exposure has increased since 2017 in continental Europe, US & Australia through the work of Wim Hof. Whether it is through cryotherapy or cold water immersion more and more people practice and hashtag: #coldexposure. Cold therapy has its roots back in South East Asian yogic traditions and Eastern European-Scandinavian cultures. In this article, I will cover 3 benefits, training with cold offers to those of us living a modern lifestyle.


How old is cold therapy?

The moment you ask this question you realize that cold has been accompanying humans from the very start of our existence. As temperatures in nature constantly fluctuate, humans have been exposed to cold: voluntarily or not for a long time.

From a therapy standpoint, cold exposure is listed in “The Edwin Smith Papyrus” dated 3,500 BC (Wang H et al., 2006). In certain parts of the globe (ie. Russia, Bulgaria, and Scandinavian countries) cold training has been part of the culture, practiced in banya or plunge pools, as well as a standard procedure in hospitals to prevent further damage in patients with cardiovascular (Ref) and neurological conditions (Ref).

In recent years Wim Hof (a dutchman Guinness record holder) popularised cold training through his workshops across the globe. It was my training with Wim in 2016 that initiated my journey in cold exposure.


1. Cold exposure improves Circulation & Cardiovascular Function

Think of cold exposure as a workout for the circulatory system.

Most people think of cardio when it comes to improving their cardiovascular function. Cold exposure though offers a unique way to strengthen one’s cardiovascular system (CVS).

Our cardiovascular system is surrounded by epithelial muscles which facilitate the circulation of blood. At low temperatures, the epithelial muscles surrounding the veins and arteries of our extremities constrict – preserving the blood and the nutrients carried in it for the more vital organs in the trunk and the head. When the body returns to higher temperatures the epithelial muscles in our extremities dilate again allowing for the blood to flow freely there. In a similar way that our biceps get stronger as they contract during bicep curls (or chaturangas) our cardiovascular system can get stronger through cold exposure.

Good circulation means no athlete’s foot, no cold extremities, better cognitive function, ability to heal/recover faster and perform better in sports.


2. Cold exposure as a meditation technique

Those that practice cold water immersions for some time report a sensation of stillness in mind (usually 30 seconds to a minute after the initial exposure). A friend of mine Luke Wills (founder of Ataraxia) said he reached a similar state of mind in his 2nd ice bath, with that on the 7th day of a vipassana meditation retreat. Anecdotal evidence like this was confirmed to be valid in a study published in May 2018 titled “Brain over Body“. In this study participants with no previous experience in cold exposure and Wim Hof, were interchangeably exposed to cold and neutral temperatures. One of the most striking differences between the inexperienced subjects and Wim was the Dutchman’s ability to reduce activity in the insular cortex part of the brain during cold exposure. The insular cortex is an area involved in emotional attachment to external stimuli and self-reflection. Activity in this part of the brain has been shown to be linked with meditation and control of emotional eating.

Meditation is the 5th of the 8 limbs of yoga. Cold exposure is one of the many ways to enter into a state of meditation.


3. Cold exposure helps us overcome fears

Cold exposure is demanding on many levels:

• the adrenal glands

• musculoskeletal system

• circulation and

• the brown fat tissue is activated at low temperatures.

Aside though the multiple biochemical adaptations in the rest of the body:

our brain changes through cold exposure.

The initial response is that of: “fight or flight”. A small area of the brain called the amygdala (Greek word for almond) – activates the HPA (Hypothalamic Pituitary Adrenal) axis – signaling a stress response to the rest of the body. While this initial stage is universal the way one deals with cold thereafter depends on his/her experience and ability to use her breath.

By training the body to deal with a stressful situation (ie. a cold immersion) in a controlled environment (such as a shower or a bath) we can reprogram our mind to deal with stressful situations which are out of our control. Our main tool is our breath. Dealing with fear was the focus of a workshop I gave in 2017 to a group of actors.


Additional reasons

The list above is not exhaustive of the benefits one can get from cold exposure.

• Controlling pain perception [Ref]
• Generation of Brown Fat [Ref]
• Strengthening of the immune system [Ref]
• Improved tolerance to cold [Ref]

are also good reasons for modern “over-civilised” humans to train with cold.


Wim Hof Breathing Explained

Wim Hof Breathing Explained

Wim Hof Breathing consists of 30 deep – rhythmic breaths, followed by 2 breath-holds (x1 max + x1 10sec long). Practitioners usually perform x3-5 rounds. It is part of the Wim Hof Method, which combines this breathing technique with cold exposure.

If you want to understand:

a. What happens during the Wim Hof Breathing and why?

b. If the hype about Wim’s Breathing has some merit?

c. How Wim’s Breathing compares with Patrick McKowen’s breathing advice?

Read on…

What is the Wim Hof Breathing?

Each round of Wim Hof Breathing has 3 stages:

  1. 30 rounds of hyperventilation.
  2. A maximum breath-hold (on an exhalation)
  3. A 10-sec breath-hold (on an exhalation. You can also tense the upper back muscles for DMT activation!? 💥)

Should you breathe from the nose 👃🏼 or the mouth 👄?

Wim’s instructions are clear: “Get the air in your body whichever the hole.”


He encourages people to breathe deeply as he believes this way they will feel up their lungs 🫁 with air and every cell of their body with Oxygen. He will often instruct:

“Fully In, Fully Out.” or “Breathe In and Let Go.”

He may occasionally mention using the nose or the mouth but that’s not consistent. What he will say though is that:

“When you don’t feel well you should take it easy.”

By taking it easy, he means you should not breathe as deep. That is a very valid point and very much linked to the use of the nose vs mouth. As we will discuss in the next section, the effect of Wim’s Breathing is primarily due to the drop of CO2. When you breathe from the mouth the drop will be bigger and quicker. So whether you use your nose or mouth matters❗️

While the Breath Holds are a trademark of Wim Hof Breathing they are not any type of Breath Holds, as they are preceded by Hyperventilation. Hyperventilation gets people on a high and Breath Holds sends their adrenaline through the roof.

In a nutshell: “Wim’s breathing is a series of breath holds, on steroids.”.


What does Wim Hof breathing do to your blood?

The Wim Hof Breathing is a Hypocapnic Hypoxic technique.

Meaning both the levels of Carbon Dioxide and Oxygen fall below normal: ↓CO2 ↓O2. Here’s why:

One round of Wim Hof Breathing

Hyperventilation phase (30 breaths) 😤

  • O2 increases marginally in the blood as saturation of hemoglobin is always 95-97%
  • Carbon Dioxide (CO2) drops
  • pH increases (ie. blood becomes more alkaline) due to CO2 drop

Breath Hold phases 🤐

  • O2 levels in the blood reduce
  • CO2 in the blood increases until CO2 tolerance is reached and the brain 🧠 signals it’s time for the next breath
  • pH drops, due to the increase of CO2

This however is a theoretical model, let’s see what happens in reality❗️

A few rounds later…

Based on the Nijmegen study the CO2 levels of the participants at the end of each round were lower than at the start. As a result, the participants’ blood 🩸 was hypocapnic for the entire time. At one point oxygen levels drop as low as 50%, bringing the blood 🩸 into deep hypoxia.

Nijmegen Wim Hof Study


Its effect on Nitric Oxide (that no-one speaks about)

The Wim Hof breathing is likely to have a massive effect on Nitric Oxide.

The reason for this is due to the prolonged breath holds.Wim Hof Breath and Nitric Oxide

source: ref

The length of a breath hold increases the production of Nitric Oxide exponentially. With most practitioners’ breath holds reaching 2+ mins it is estimated that the NO levels reach 3-5000 ppb per round. This is much higher than any dosage of Nitric Oxide been used in clinical research.


Facts & Fads about the Wim Hof Method

1. Does Wim Hof Method increase breath hold?

No. Your breath-holding time during the Wim Hof Breathing is long only because you have hyperventilated. With each round of Wim Hof Breathing, the Breath Holds get longer because (a) you start from a lower level of CO2 and (b) your spleen has released more red blood cells (due to hypoxia: ↓O2).

Wim Hof Breathing Biochemistry

Your breath-hold time depends on your tolerance to CO2 which is not trained in this breathing technique.


2. Does Wim Hof breathing make you alkaline?

Yes, your blood will temporarily be more alkaline. As CO2 levels drop (and CO2 is acidic) your blood will be less acidic. For that reason when Wim tests his urine after the breathing exercise, he finds it alkaline. Soon after though, the body will excrete alkaline buffers through the kidneys to return the blood’s pH to the original levels.


3. Does Wim Hof increase oxygen levels?

Depends where. As a hypocapnic (↓CO2) breathing technique, the Wim Hof Breathing gets the oxygen trapped in the blood 🩸, due to the Bohr effect. So O2 in the blood will increase, but in the peripheral tissue, including the heart 🫀 and the muscles 💪🏼, will decrease❗️

The effects of hypercapnia

Litchfield, P. M. (2003). A brief overview of the chemistry of respiration and the breathing heart wave. California Biofeedback, 19(1), 1-11.


4. Does Wim Hof breathing improve CO2 tolerance?

No. In order for your tolerance to CO2 to increase, you need to practice hypercapnic breathing exercises.


5. Does your tolerance to cold improve with Wim’s breathing?

Possibly but not directly. You will improve your tolerance to cold by practicing cold exposure. The way that Wim’s breathing will help you tolerate cold is by increasing your noradrenaline levels, which was shown to last for 2 hours. As the Wim Hof Breathing makes use of the mouth a lot of the time it has a cooling effect, not heating.


FAQ about the Wim Hof Breathing

1. What are the benefits?

Most of the benefits are derived from the increase in adrenaline. For people that:

  • feel depressed
  • have a hard time starting their day
  • have a slow metabolism
  • have a weak immune system

the increase in adrenaline is likely to help them initially. Also for those that have a hard time switching off their mind, the shutting down of the oxygen supply during the technique will help them stop thinking.


2. How often should you do the Wim Hof breathing?

Start slow. Once every 2nd or 3rd day is a good place to start. In the absence of any side effects, you can increase the frequency. Be aware that some people have adverse effects in which case you should stop and seek the advice of a professional breathing instructor.


3. When to do Wim Hof breathing?

First thing in the morning 🌞, if they want to get a boost from adrenaline, or last thing at night, they want your mind to switch off 🌙. To avoid adrenaline disrupting your sleep you may want to practice nasal breathing only in the evening.

Similar to all breathing exercises it is best to practice with an empty stomach and after you have urinated.  As your cognitive functions may be compromised soon after, it is best to leave at least 30 mins gap prior to driving, swimming, or doing any activity during which cognition is critical.

I also know people that practice prior to having sex.


4. Compare Wim Hof & Oxygen Advantage

While Wim Hof Breathing is a single technique, Oxygen Advantage is a system of breathwork. Oxygen Advantage (OA) is based on the Buteyko Method and is geared to help athletes improve their performance through breathwork.

While Wim’s breathing is a hypocapnic & hypoxic technique, Patrick’s system brings the body into hypercapnia & hypoxia.


5. Combining the Wim Hof & Oxygen Advantage

While there are no clear to me, synergies between the 2 systems nothing prevents you from combining them. What I have noticed in consultations is that hypercapnic training allows practitioners to enjoy Wim’s breathing by hold their breath longer.



6. My take on the Wim Hof Breathing

Since 2017 (when I got certified in the method), my understanding of breathing has evolved and for purposes of efficiency and safety, I teach a modified version of the Wim Hof Breathing.

In an effort to stay politically correct I will not express further my views in this article but will encourage the reader to truly understand the implications prior to practicing.


This article covers what effects Wim Hof Breathing has in the way most people practice it. It is meant to serve for educational purposes only and it is not an endorsement of the technique. Based on Harvard’s Copyright and Fair Use guidelines here I am expressing my opinion.



If you read the entire article you know more about Wim Hof Breathing than I knew when I finished the Wim Hof Method training in 2017, as non of the above was covered there.

If you are experiencing anxiety, headaches, or sore throat after the Wim Hof Breathing, you may benefit by modifying the practice. Ignoring any side effects is unwise.