Home » Wim Hof Method

Tag: Wim Hof Method

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”.

To stay updated with my teachings, research and writings sign up to my newsletter here.

Wim Hof Breathing Explained

Wim Hof Breathing Explained

Wim Hof Breathing is a breathing technique with each round involving: 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

 

Facts & Fads about the Wim Hof Method

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.

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 why 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.

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. 

Does Wim Hof breathing improve CO2 tolerance?

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

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

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

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.

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.

 

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.

 

 

Combining the Wim Hof & Oxygen Advantage

While there are no clear to me, synergies between the 2 systems nothing prevents you from combining the 2.

I can promise you though that practicing the Oxygen Advantage exercises will help you get more out of the Wim Hof Method. You can watch more about it in this video.

 

Conclusion

That’s all I know about the Wim Hof Breathing and if you read the entire article you know more about it than I knew when I finished the Wim Hof Method training in 2016, as non of the above was covered there. If you are curious to know what is my speculation on the benefits many people observe from it, check out the video below at 12:16.

 

To improve your breathing when you are not conscious of it, check out the Breathe Right 2 week self-paced online course.

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], the chances are you will get some insights. Wim Hof (the “iceman”) is an amazing person – like we all are. However, there are 2 good reasons why you will hear this expression about Wim all the time:
i. he has stripped himself off what he calls: “the programming”. He doesn’t dress his true self with a politically correct behavior (i.e. he encourages people to breathe, breath deep – not caring which hole the air comes in) neither takes himself seriously.

 

ii. he didn’t hold back in life. He “went deep”. I cannot pay justice to the importance of this comment but basically what it 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

 

science-then-now

 

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 partly 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 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.

* 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, vitamin supplements, or massage treatments will deal with the problem without your participation.

 

change

 

5. Be humble to be great

Wim is a warm-hearted man prior to being an iceman, 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.