Mindfulness

Why Everyone’s Talking About the Wim Hof Method

What are the benefits of the Wim Hof Breathing?

If you’re like us and have been watching binging The Goop Lab on Netflix, you’ve likely watched the second episode, “Cold Comfort.”

If you haven’t seen it, the episode takes you along with the goop team to Lake Tahoe in the winter, where they learn the intense Wim Hof Breathing method, do yoga outside in the snow in bathing suits, and jump into the freezing cold lake water. Sounds pretty miserable to me, but hey, anything for a story — or in this case, a Netflix original series — right? 

Wim Hof claims that through his technique combining meditation, Wim Hof Breathing, and cold exposure, you can change your mind and body — particularly your stress response and immune system response.

Yes — it sounds very woo woo. And trust me, I’m a skeptic with, well, pretty much everything. When Wim Hof Breathing and cold exposure were first introduced in the show, I didn’t think it could be life-changing, but perhaps I thought wrong. 

One Goop employee who suffers from an anxiety disorder said she hadn’t had a panic attack since regularly practicing the Wim Hof Breathing method after the Lake Tahoe trip. An older man they interviewed was suffering from a chronic disease and was supposed to be paralyzed. After regularly practicing the Wim Hof Breathing method, he hadn’t experienced any symptoms of his disease. It’s not just these two people benefitting, either. On the Wim Hof website, the Wim Hof Breathing method, including the cold exposure aspect, has an average rating of 9.5 out of 10 from 2147 testimonials!

According to the testimonials, some of the benefits of the Wim Hof Breathing Method have been:

  • Relief from arthritis
  • Improved mood
  • Boosted immune system
  • Reduced anxiety and panic attacks
  • Increased energy levels


How do you do the Wim Hof Breathing Method?

According to Wim Hof’s website, his method entails three main aspects: cold therapy, breathing, and commitment. Wim Hof Breathing is not meant to be a one and done thing. It should be an ongoing healthy habit that is incorporated into your daily routine to really reap the benefits  

The Wim Hof Breathing Method entails the following:

  • Take 30 to 40 quick powerful breaths, holding the last breath for as long as you can
  • Take a long, deep “recovery breath.” This step is the meat of the Wim Hof Breathing Method.
  • Repeat the cycle 3 to 4 times, and don’t be surprised if you feel lightheaded or tingly. (You can read more detailed instructions and watch a  Wim Hof Breathing Method guided video here
  • Let your breathing normalize

Now, don’t forget about the cold component either! This is also a crucial part of the whole package with the  Wim Hof Breathing. You don’t have to take a plunge in Lake Tahoe in the winter (not all of us can be so fortunate). The Wim Hof site recommends taking cold showers to slowly introduce your body to cold temperatures. I personally prefer cryotherapy, something I do at least weekly.


The Science Behind the Wim Hof Breathing Method

What made me actually have hope in the  Wim Hof Breathing Method was not the anecdotal stories from the people in the show, but the science behind it. Scientific studies have proven that Wim Hof Breathing makes your blood more alkaline (less acidic) and causes hypoxia, which is “a form of stress at the cellular level.” This is a positive stressor in this case and can help the body deal with other negative stressors better in the long term in everyday life.

Research has been conducted in controlled experiments since 2007, and data doesn’t lie. A 2014 study, for example, showed that those who practiced the Wim Hof Breathing Method in the experiment experienced anti-inflammatory effects as well as changes to the immune system response. The researchers determined, “This study could have important implications for the treatment of a variety of conditions associated with excessive or persistent inflammation, especially autoimmune diseases.” 

If the scientists say the Wim Hof Breathing Method works and shows promising signs for helping those with chronic disease, I’m on board. Anecdotal evidence doesn’t pump me up, but cold hard scientific stats do! 

Shift your life with Wim Hof Breathing

Breathing exercises like the Wim Hof Breathing Method are just one way to shift your life. The real magic with this technique, in particular, is that it can help both your physical and mental health, so really, you’ll be making multiple shifts. As we mentioned, you shouldn’t just do  Wim Hof Breathing one time and call it a day. You need to do it continuously for optimal results. You likely will not see physical improvements after just one session, though you might feel some anxiety relief. The standard seems to be 10 weeks, based on the site, where they offer a classic 10-week course. 

Whether you decide to try out Wim Hof Breathing or not, breathing exercises, in general, can help you out with anxiety and stress levels. You can practice some more traditional breath exercises on The Daily Shifts App. Additionally, for mood-boosting effects, you can check out our e-book or take our course to learn some happiness hacks. If you use these tools alongside the Wim Hof Breathing Method, you’ll be sure to notice a difference. 

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