VICE released a short documentary two years ago about Wim Hof. Wim Hof has been referred to as Iceman and revered for his ability to withstand frosty temperatures, stay submerged in ice for 1 hour and 53 minutes (without a change in his core body temperature), and yes, even hike Mount Everest in a pair of shorts. Is this man a freak of nature? Or is he an insightful teacher into the connection between the power of the mind and the physiology of the body? As you may have guessed, I vote the latter.
Wim Hof’s Why: From Powerlessness to Control
Why would someone subject themselves to the harshest elements of nature? Is Wim Hof an egoic extremist on a mission for glory? Turns out Wim Hof is an exceptionally cool guy. He’s humble, he’s down to earth, he’s full of positive energy, and he’s not in it because of money, fame, or ego; he’s in it because of tragedy.
Wim Hof opened up about a tragedy that shook both him and his family to their core. Hof’s wife, and mother of his first three children suffered from crippling mental health issues. His son shared about his mother’s struggles living with Dissociative Identity Disorder and severe depression. When she took her own life in 1995, Hof felt a loss of control he had never experienced before. This fear of losing control seems to have sparked something in him, a desire to control what he could: his body.
Wim Hof’s Greatest Feats
- Climbed to 22,000 ft altitude at Mount Everest wearing nothing but shorts and shoes.
- Broke the Guinness World Record for staying immersed in ice 1 hour and 53 minutes
- Reached the top of Mount Kilimanjaro in his shorts within two days
- Completed a full marathon (42 kilometres) above the arctic circle in Finland in −20 °C dressed in nothing but shorts (not even shoes)
- Ran a full marathon in the Namib Desert without water
The Power of Breathing Exercises
Wim Hof attributes a large part of his success to a specific breathing exercise. Skilled meditators, athletes, and therapists often speak of the power of the breath. Skilled Tibetan Monks have been able to slow their brain waves to a Delta State: (1—3 Hz) in meditation; a state people reach in deep, dreamless sleep. Hof may have unlocked a truth we previously thought to be impossible; we can control our autonomic nervous system through the mechanism of the breath.
“Breathe! It’s for free! It’s life! It’s good!”
– Wim Hof
The Wim Hof Breathing Method
1. Get comfortable.
Find a comfortable place to do your breathing exercises where you won’t be disturbed. You can sit or lie on your back, but do not do this exercise while driving or standing up.
2. Engage in 30-40 power breaths.
Start to breathe in and out 30 times. This is essentially deep breathing at a steady pace in and out through the mouth. Inhale fully but don’t exhale all the way out. You should feel your belly rise and fall with each inhale and exhale. It may feel a bit like you are hyperventilating, but you are in control. You may also feel a tingling or lightheaded sensation throughout your whole body, when you do this for the first time. This is normal.
3. Hold your breath.
After doing 30-40 Wim Hof power breaths, empty your lungs of air and retain the breath for as long as you can without force. Set a stopwatch if you’re interested in recording your results. Your breath retentions will most likely increase over time.
4. Breathe in for 10 seconds.
After the breath retention, take a deep breath in and hold it for a further 10-15 seconds, before exhaling.
5. Repeat steps one through four.
Repeat the whole process for another three rounds. Remember to record your times and track your progression.
6. Meditate after four rounds of power breathing.
After the power breaths, you can then go into your regular practise of meditation or meditate for five minutes if you’re a complete beginner by closing your eyes, bringing your awareness to your breath and focusing on the space between your eyes.
Wim Hof’s Mission
“Whats the final stage in your mission”, Vice interviewer Matt Shea asks inquisitively in the conclusion of their journey. They just scaled a mountain in nothing but shorts and boots and were getting warmed up in a reflective discussion about what had just gone down and why.
“The final stage is to go back to grief. Go back to the love, the lost love. I want to bring back love to the world. Love is compiled by happiness, strength, and health. If you radiate good energy because you are healthy, happy, and strong, that’s love.” – Wim Hof
Whether Hof is dunking himself in water cold enough to freeze over his retinas, or surviving the scathing sun of a barren desert (sans water), love has always been his mission. Hof shows people how to reclaim control over their mind and bodies.
Hof brings hope to the hopeless; people living with mental illness, chronic disease, or terminal cancer. Hof represents the power of the human mind and the human body. He presents us with a tool to accomplish greatness when we dare to bring these together through the bridge of the breath.
“Wim gives people a chance to take back some control over their minds and bodies.” – Mike Shea, Vice