The Wim Hof method is in the narrower sense an extremely effective breathing exercise. Correctly practiced, it leads to the fact that humans develop real superpowers, because the body is put into its best possible functional mode by them. In this mode, it is much easier for every human being to master all kinds of challenges. Therefore, anyone who wants to make the best possible version of himself, should necessarily master this technique.
In a broader sense, the Wim Hof method consists of four elements:
1. Breathing exercises
2. Yoga or stretching exercises
3. Gradual cold therapy / ice bath as well
Meditation / mental concentration on the third eye during cold therapy.
The breathing exercises form the first part of the Wim Hof exercise sequence. They are somewhat similar to controlled hyperventilation, although the typical hyperventilation stress release is missing. The Wim Hof breathing exercises increase the oxygenation of the body, down regulate the pain receptors, increase the pH and makes the body finally alkaline.
In addition, it is proven that DMT (dimethyltryptamine) is released! DMT is referred to as the spiritual molecule released in massive doses during recovery experiences, near-death experiences, and ayahuasca sessions. According to Terence McKenna, who brought the awareness of DMT to its current unprecedented level through his lectures, books, and interviews, DMT in his 1994 “Rap Dancing Into the Third Millennium” talk called “the strongest of humanity and science.” Hallucinogen “and” the most common hallucinogen of nature “. It is fair to say that you produce your own drugs through this breathing exercise.
The subsequent yoga and stretching exercises keep the body supple. In addition, they help to solve any blockages. Through the first two steps, the body and the mind are optimally prepared for the cold – the third part of the exercise sequence. The contact with the cold immediately leads to a full presence in the here and now. Anyone who leaves behind the escape reflex of the reptilian brain and increasingly relaxes into the situation, not infrequently reaches a deep state of meditation. With some practice, it may well happen that the cold is even perceived as heat.
HOW DOES IT FEEL WHEN YOU PRACTICE THE WIM HOF METHOD?
Please note the warnings at the end of this post before you start the exercises. You can experience the following experiences while practicing the Wim Hof method:
§ tingling in certain areas of the body, such as the hands, forearms, feet or even the whole body (the strength depends on how intensely you breathe)
§ Drowsiness or dizziness – especially after stopping the breath (initially more frequent in some cases… then decreases more and more)
§ Improved energy level – you feel fit
§ Positive mood – The secreted hormones, endorphins and neurotransmitters make sure that you are in a great mood afterwards
§ Absolute clarity and attention
If you practice the Wim Hof method in the early morning, then you can easily forgo the coffee (if you drink coffee and want to reduce it, for example).
WHO IS WIM HOF?
Wim Hof, or “The Iceman”, is a world record holder born in Holland, adventurer, daredevil, nature boy and a human guinea pig. He is now known worldwide for his ability to handle extreme cold with ease. I met him twice and I think he is a very nice guy. He is super-relaxed, funny, always in a good mood, plays guitar, almost always walks around with T-shirt and shorts and likes to lose himself when he talks. Wim Hof is a fascinating, charismatic fella. I like him very much.
Some of Wim Hof’s craziest performances, which holds more than 20 world records, are:
§ Mount Everest wearing only a short and without an oxygen mask (just below the summit)
§ Barefoot and running only wearing a short to run a marathon above the Arctic Circle in Finland
§ Achieved the summit of Kilimanjaro in less than 2 days – naturally only in shorts
§ Above the Arctic Circle: dived 66 meters under a meter thick icecrust
§ Seated motionless in an ice bath for more than two hours
§ 2011: Run a marathon in the Namib Desert – without water
… and that’s not everything he did!
MISSION & PHILOSOPHIE: WIM HOF’S MESSAGE
Wim Hof wants to show the world that all people can do what he can. He also wants to prove through scientific studies that his approach can serve humanity well. He wants to convey that every person has an inner wisdom. He can open-up this one by entering into an intense contact with his physical nature and being fully present. “Many problems can be solved only by making people restore this intense contact with their physical body (rather than often trying unsuccessfully to solve their mind problems),” says Wim Hof. In his view, this connection is stunted in today’s civilization. But the good news is: it can be reactivated.
The following mantras can be heard from Wim Hof again and again:
§ Listen to your body, he has the answer.
§ I am nothing special. Anyone can do what I can.
§ I am not afraid of death, I am afraid of not living fully.
§ We are all sitting on a vast reservoir of untapped, superhuman abilities. Everyone can tap into this.
§ Breath is life.
§ Cold is God.
§ Feeling is understanding.
WIM HOF METHOD VERSUS TUMMO
I have learned both the Wim Hof method from Wim Hof personally, as well as the Tummo practice from a recognized Tibetan Lama. Both approaches have something in common, but then they are far apart in actual practice.
While the Wim Hof method derives its power primarily from the breathing exercise, which downregulates the pain receptors and gradually gets used to the cold, classic Tummo practice is about visualizing and actually feeling heat in one’s body. But, everyone should research both methodes to get an idea of it for themselves. I think both techniques are great and I have started to combine both methods.
WHY SHOULD YOU PRACTICE THE WIM HOF METHOD? WHAT SCIENTIFIC INFORMATION ARE OUT THERE?
The previous scientific investigations of the Wim Hof method have shown that their exercise allows influencing the autonomic nervous system and the immune system. This means that this technique is of high value to humanity. The method seems to enable people to be able to influence their health completely independently and without external factors. So, the pH of the blood and also the mood can be raised. But, for the increase in performance (in sports), it is of great importance as well.
CONSCIOUS CONTROL OF THE “AUTONOMOUS” NERVOUS SYSTEM
Jan Groothuis from Radboud University in Nijmegen / Holland monitored Wim Hof during an 80-minute ice bath and found what he thought impossible. (It should be noted briefly that an untrained person would usually die of hypothermia under these conditions): The body temperature of Hof had almost not changed during the whole time. Through his method, he had willingly influenced his autonomic nervous system and his cardiovascular system. So far, it has been assumed that such an event is impossible. That’s why the autonomic nervous system is called that way and not otherwise. This practice is therefore a scientific sensation – the textbooks must now be rewritten.
CAN ONLY WIM HOF INFLUENCE AND STRENGTHEN THE IMMUNE SYSTEM?
In 2011 Wim Hof volunteered under the supervision of Prof. Dr. med. Peter Pickkers at Radboud University in Nijmegen / Holland injecting E. coli endotoxin. Administering this substance causes the body to feel it is being attacked, which usually causes flu-like symptoms, such as fever, nausea, chills, and severe head and / or muscle aches for a few hours. Hof had only a slight headache and was able to prove that he was able to willingly influence the reaction of his body to the bacteria and thus his immune system.
The researchers were able to detect an increased release of the stress hormone cortisol in comparison to other test subjects, which is released by an increased activity of the sympathetic nervous system (sympathetic = puts the body into increased motivation) and dampens the immune reaction. Accordingly, the level of inflammatory mediators detected in Hof’s blood was much lower. His immune response was 50 percent lower than that of other subjects. In addition, almost no flu symptoms could be observed – and all just by “a little breathing and a little meditation” (irony).
NO, ANYONE CAN INFLUENCE AND STRENGTHEN THE IMMUNE SYSTEM!
Hof does not want to be considered an exception. Rather, he wanted to show that anyone could achieve such a result. Therefore, the experiment was repeated in 2013. Wim Hof coached 12 volunteer Dutchmen for 10 days. They trained the breathing technique and third-eye meditation. Furthermore, they gradually exposed themselves longer and longer to the cold. Back in the Netherlands, these 12 volunteers and 12 untrained participants (control group) were injected with the same dose of E. coli endotoxin. The result was the same as with Wim Hof! It has been shown that very “normal” people are able to control their own immune system within a very short time-frame! The Wim Hof method could also be a new treatment approach for inflammatory diseases such as autoimmune diseases.
WIM HOF METHOD MOBILIZES ENERGY RESERVES
The latter study also found that adrenaline and epinephrine levels, respectively, reached higher levels in the subjects during the breathing exercise. The measuered levels of the subjects were even higher when lying in bed compared to bungee jumpers. Adrenaline has an activating effect and provided fast energy supply through fat loss. In addition, adrenaline activates the cardiovascular system as well.
WIM HOF METHOD INCREASES PH VALUE OF THE BLOOD AND MAKES IT ALKALINE
In the study, in which volunteers used the Wim Hof method and achieved the same results, researchers also found that the subjects had a temporarily increased pH level of their blood to the value of 7.75 by using the breathing technique! The usual standard range is 7.35 to 7.45.
COOLING THERAPY CAN COUNTERACT DEPRESSION
Another interesting aspect of the physical reaction to cold is that it jerkily increases the hormone norepinephrine in mice and humans. This “answer” is mediated by the sympathetic nervous system whose main purpose is to stimulate the body’s fight-or-flight reflex.
This is exciting because another study has shown that in depression, there is always a low level of norepinephrine, while an increase in norepinephrine levels reduces symptoms. Increased levels of norepinephrine are associated with increased focus and attention.
It relieves pain, because it reduces inflammation. Norepinephrine also acts as a hormone: when it is released into the bloodstream, it increases the so-called vasoconstriction (from Latin vas ‘vessel’ and constringere, ‘tying together’ is the medical term for vasoconstriction). Of course, it helps explain why norepinephrine plays an important role in our response to cold: by increasing vasoconstriction, we reduce the overall surface area of blood’s ability to lose heat to the environment.
HOW COLD SHOULD IT BE FOR THIS EFFECT TO DEVELOP?
Everything seems to indicate that there is a threshold for the activation of the sympathetic nervous system. For example, a one-hour cold water bath at 20 ° C (68 ° F) does not appear to activate norepinephrine release, while at 14 ° C (57 ° F) bath, the releas of norepinephrine is increased by 530% and the dopamine release during the hour is increased by 250%. In my opinion, dopamine is a very good supplement to norepinephrine.
However, in order to cause a strong release of norepinephrine, you do not have to be exposed to the cold for very long time. A long-term human study compared people who bathed in cold water at 4.4 ° C (40 ° F) for 20 seconds, and those who took a full-body two-minute cryotherapy at -110 ° C (-166 ° F) three times a week. It was found that in both cases the plasma norepinephrine was increased to the same extent 2 to 3 times (200% to 300%). It was also shown that the release of norepinephrine by habituation to the cold did not diminish.
THE ROLE OF THE COLD SHOCK PROTEIN
Much of what we know today about the physiological reactions to cold comes from research with mammals hibernating. Hibernation is accompanied by a profound metabolic shift. This is driven by the fundamental biological need to optimize the energy as best as possible during the winter.
When the body is cooled down, many genes are turned off at the same time. The exception are those genes involved in lipid metabolism (fat burning) and those called cold shock proteins. When exposed to cold, the expression of these two categories of genes increases and more cold shock proteins are produced.
A cold shock protein, known as RNA binding motif 3 (RBM3), plays a particularly interesting role in the context of our discussion. RBM3 can be found in the brain, heart, liver and skeletal muscles, and it increases its activity even at low cold contact.
COLD & BRAIN: THE REACTIVATION OF SYNAPSES WHICH WERE ALWAYS ON THE EDGE OF THE ROOT
Synapses are neuronal connections through which nerve cells are in contact with other cells – such as neurons, sensory cells, muscle cells, glandular cells or other nerve cells – are. They form the basis of the nervous communication and are therefore significantly involved in the creation of memories.
However, synaptic connections dissolve under the influence of cold. This interesting phenomenon was first observed in studies with overwintering mammals. But when the animals raised their body temperature again, the synapses also regenerated almost 100 percent! That’s an incredible achievement. Best of all, this effect is not just limited to overwintering animals! It also showed-up in laboratory mice, which do not hibernate.
COLD RENEWS SYNAPSES TO ALMOST 100 PERCENT
In mice that were chilled by pharmacological influences and by a 45-minute stay in a 5 ° C (45 ° F) cold environment, a loss of synapse in the hippocampus of 26% could be detected. The hippocampus is the part of the brain responsible for learning and memory. However, as soon as these mice had warmed up, they were able to regenerate around 93% of the synapses lost due to the cold.
But now comes the exciting news: The mechanism by which the lost synapses regenerate is dependent on increasing the activity of RBM3 – the cold shock protein. Coincidentally, we humans have this too!
RBM3 is essential for the restoration of synapses. This cold-shock protein plays a key role in binding to RNA to increase protein synthesis at the dendrites, which are part of the neurons that communicate with the synapses. And that’s what allows the cold shock protein RBM3 to regenerate the damaged neurons.
TWO COLD APPLICATIONS IN TWO WEEKS INCREASE PROTECTION FOR EIGHT WEEKS
Following the above protocol, a single 45-minute exposure to cold at 5 ° C (41 ° F) was sufficient to raise RBM3 in the brain of mice for 3 days. However, if this procedure was repeated once a week for two weeks in a row, not only would the expression of RBM3 increase sustainably, not only for those two weeks, but for another 6 weeks thereafter!
What if synapses could not only recover from cold damage in the same way? It could be really exciting here!
For example, in one experiment, RBM3 overexpression induced by exposure to cold led to sustained synaptic protection in Alzheimer’s mice, prevented long-term behavioral deficits, and significantly prolonged life. Obviously here are some novel and very interesting mechanisms. And the ability to effectively protect synapses through regular cold applications could have a tremendous impact on Alzheimer’s disease, as well as other neurodegenerative diseases, and the brain aging in general. So, we can be curious already.
Let’s talk briefly about the relevance of cold shock proteins to humans: this whole RBM3 thing is very recent research and we do not know if this effect would equally occur in humans. Apart from that, one also has to ask in this context how much the body temperature has to be lowered in order to activate RMB3.
LOWERING THE BODY TEMPERATURE BY 1 ° C BRINGS ALREADY THE DESIRED EFFECT
According to recent research, a reduction of body temperature by 1 ° C seems to stimulate cold shock proteins (including RBM3) in human astrocytes (a type of brain cell). The simultaneous addition or elevation of melatonin may even increase the effect of RBM3.
And I think it’s an achievable goal to lower body temperature by 1 ° C to 36 ° C for a short time, which by definition is already a mild hypothermia (hypothermia) at 36 ° C ).
For example, in one study, young men staying in “cold” water at 20 ° C for one hour could lower their rectal temperature to 36.1 ° C. On the other hand, if they remained in 14 ° C “cold” water for an hour, they could even lower their temperature to 35.6 ° C! This shows how easy it is to generate this slight “cold shock”.
THE EFFECTS OF THE COLD ON INFLAMATION AND IMMUNE FUNCTION
The purpose of inflammation is to eliminate the cause of cell damage, to eliminate dead cells and depleted tissue, and to initiate tissue repair. But if something goes wrong or this process goes on without any real biological threat at all, then we have a bigger problem.
For some time now, we no longer doubt that inflammation is the key factor in the aging process. All major civilization and “age-related” diseases are associated with inflammatory processes.
A recent study examined a variety of biomarkers in old people (ages 85-99), centenarians (100), Semisuper Centenarians (105+), and Super Centenarians (110+). It was found that across all age groups, a low inflammatory value was given and is correlated with an above-average survivability and above-average cognitive abilities.
COLD-INDUCED NOREPINEPHRINE REDUCES INFLAMMATION
In the past, scientists focused on norepinephrine for its role as a neurotransmitter. But if studies show that norepinephrine can be increased by a factor of 5 due to the effects of cold (!!!), then it pays to take a closer look at this aspect as well.
One of the roles that Norepinephrine also masters brilliantly is the reducing of inflammation. Norepinephrine inhibits the inflammatory process by reducing the tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha) 20 TNF-alpha is a multifunctional signaling substance (cytokine) of the immune system, which is involved in local and systemic inflammation. It is a very powerful molecule that increases inflammation.
An excess of the inflammatory cytokine TNF-alpha can be found in almost every human disease – from type 2 diabetes to inflammatory bowel disease to cancer. To make it simple: too much of this stuff is just bad. If TNF-alpha is abundant in almost every human disease, but can be significantly reduced by exposure to cold, then cold applications must logically influence the course of many diseases!
In addition to the reduction of TNF-alpha, studies have also shown that norepinephrine reduces other malignant chemicals such as the macrophage inflammatory protein-1-alpha (MIP-1α) produced by immune cells and play a role in rheumatoid arthritis.
COLD REDUCES ARTHRITIS AND LOWERS PAIN
The reduction of systemic inflammation is clearly something positive. This is possible with arthritis – when practicing cold applications. In a randomized controlled trial, patients with arthritis were exposed to full-body cryotherapy at -110 ° C (-166 ° F) three times within one week for 2-3 minutes each. The patients reported a significant reduction in their pain.
Interestingly, in another study, a local cryotherapy was used – so only the affected tissue was cooled. Here, the collagenase activity on collagen could be suppressed and the production of inflammatory prostaglandin E2 could be reduced.
In fact, some of the painkilling effects of chilling applications can be attributed to increased norepinephrine release. For example, studies have shown that spinal injection-induced release of norepinephrine relieved pain in animals and humans.
COLD WITH ENCEPHALITIS AND DEPRESSION
Let’s talk briefly about brain inflammation and mood. Proinflammatory molecules (such as TNF-alpha and prostaglandin E2) can cross the blood-brain barrier and activate the brain’s immune cells, known as microglia. This is bad.
It seems very likely that ice baths or whole-body cryotherapy, which increase norepinephrine, can in principle be a good preventive measure because they reduce inflammation and thus counteract the aging process – especially that of the brain.
Also, it seems to be a fact that inflammatory molecules contribute to depression and anxiety by inhibiting the release of serotonin from neurons. It is therefore likely that cold applications may also bring about an improvement in the situation here.
COLD AND THE IMMUNE SYSTEM
All the talk about cold applications (using ice baths or cryotherapy) and the resulting reduction in inflammation may mislead some people into thinking that it might be better to have fewer immune cells because they can cause so much chaos. But that is not the case.
In general, a large number of immune cells is a good thing – as long as they are not unnecessarily active. I already mentioned that inflammation could be identified as a major driver of the aging process. At the same time, I would like to point out that the immune system also plays such an important role in the aging process.
Aging is usually accompanied by so-called immunosenescence – the slow deterioration of the immune system in old age. It goes hand in hand with a general reduction of immune cells. Those who live long and manage to become a super-centenarian (110+) will need a healthy biological population of immune cells. But that’s not all: many different types of immune cells are needed for such a long life. In addition, they have to behave quietly – unless there is a legitimate reason to be active.
HOW DOES COLD INFLUENCE THE STATE OF IMMUNOCELLS?
So, how does the cold influence the population of our immune cells? Well, it seems that coldness increases it – at least the existence of certain immune cells. For example, it has been demonstrated that cold water baths performed by healthy men over a period of 6 weeks and 3 times a week have increased lymphocyte counts.
This is consistent with the fact that habitual winter swimmers have a higher white blood cell count compared to those who rarely swim outside in winter.
In addition, another study showed that exposure to cold in a 5 ° C (41 ° F) climate chamber increases the number of white blood cells, including cytotoxic T lymphocytes, that specialize in the killing of cancer cells.
Men who spend 30 minutes in a 4 ° C cold room lower their core body temperature by about 0.45 ° C, increasing the number and activity of natural T-killer cells. Natural T-killer cells are another type of immune cell specialized in killing viruses and tumor cells.
All of this may help to back up the anecdote, often shared in the winter swimmers community, that they are less prone to cold and flu.
Indeed, it has been shown in epidemiological studies that winter swimming is associated with a 40% reduced likelihood of developing respiratory tract infections. But there is still a lot of work to do so that we can someday understand even better how the long-term effects of continuous cryotherapy on immune cell counts and immune functions are.
Do not practice the Wim Hof method or similar breathing exercises shortly before or during any activity where a change in consciousness or unconsciousness can be life-threatening, such as: When driving, swimming or diving. The Wim Hof method or similar breathing exercises can have strong effects and should therefore always be practiced in a safe environment and in the presence of another person. If you practice breathing exercises like the Wim Hof method for the first time, this should only be done under the guidance of an experienced companion, as a yoga teacher does. The cold therapy should always be according to your own abilities. The contact with the cold must be trained and should be extended only train by train. If disregarded, there is a risk of hypothermia (hypothermia). Always talk to your doctor first before starting any such exercise program. Basically, you should never force anything while exercising. Pay close attention to possible signals of your body: your body always knows exactly what is appropriate.