Wim Hof Method: 13 Incredible Everyday Benefits You Need to Experience (Part 2)
Hopefully you have some awareness of Wim Hof and his methods. If not, check out part one of my two-part take on the Wim Hof Method.
In short, Wim has developed a technique that utilizes deep breathing, cold exposure and mental focus to gain conscious control over a number of bodily processes. Processes long thought uncontrollable.
Interestingly, we no longer need to ask “does the Wim Hof Method work?” We can just get excited about its potential applications.
The ramifications for the future of healthcare and our ability to conquer illnesses and dysfunction is astronomical. As a result, this man has the potential to be one of the most important people of our lifetime.
Wim Hof Breathing Benefits From My Experience
On a personal note, I have been experimenting with the Wim Hof breathing now for a number of years. I’ve been living with the theory behind its success – hyper-oxygenation, increased alkalinity etc and exploring what else it can do. It’s even tied in wonderfully with my work as a Physiotherapist. Overall, the results have been staggering.
So without further ado, here are thirteen everyday benefits I’ve found using the Wim Hof Method at home and as a Physiotherapist. These go beyond the big ticket items of mental and physical disease and relate to situations many will find themselves in day to day.
As always please keep an open mind and definitely test these out for yourself.
1/ Banish Early-Morning Tiredness
I love this one. As the father of a five year-old I’ve had my fair share of sub-par sleeps. As most parents will appreciate it doesn’t matter what time you go to sleep at night, you’re waking up when they do. It’s almost like they know you need more sleep as they come bounding in as the sun comes up.
The point here is that the hyper-oxygenation associated with the Wim Hof Breathing Method can pull you out of that early morning funk. I can cycle through a few sneaky rounds and feel back to my best almost instantly. Clearly you want to make sure you understand why you’ve woken up tired and try to amend that, but this is a great backup plan nonetheless.
2/ The Real Hangover Cure
I’m not a huge drinker these days so when I have a few I tend to feel it a little more than I used to. But not anymore.
It can take some time and a few cycles to bring yourself back to square, but barraging your system with oxygen the next day (with a cold shower for good measure) can hastily improve a hangover.
Interestingly I’ve found the best time to do it is before bed that night. Get on the front foot and stop that hangover before it has a chance to set it overnight.
As an aside, you can imagine my childish glee when I heard Wim mention this very thing in a podcast he was on a year or so ago.
3/ Heal Faster
I feel this genuinely needs more attention. Whether it’s a small cut or a genuine musculoskeletal injury, Wim Hof’s breathing technique may promote faster healing.The Wim Hof Method may promote faster tissue healing.Click To Tweet
Injured tissue needs oxygen to facilitate healing. So it makes sense that more oxygen may facilitate this better. Furthermore, hyper-oxygenation seems to improve my ability to influence specific areas of my body.
For example, if you’ve just cut your hand take your initial 30 deep breaths and then do your max post-exhale hold. During this time, place your other hand over the injured area, close your eyes and focus on directing traffic to it. After a few seconds you may start to feel it pulse. Rinse and repeat ad nauseam.
I can appreciate that these types of discussions can sound very dubious, but with some deep breathing and a little extra attention we may actually be able to optimize our body’s healing processes.
You can imagine how this has effected my work as Physiotherapist with injury rehabilitation. Excitingly, the results are speaking for themselves. Give this a go next time you hurt yourself and see what it does for you. It might pleasantly surprise.
4/ Remove Oxygen Deficit and Oxygen Debt
If you’re an exerciser you may be familiar with the concepts of “oxygen deficit” and “oxygen debt”.
Oxygen deficit refers to the time it takes from the start of exercise to the point where oxygen can be used as a sustainable energy source. It’s those first few sluggish minutes of exercise before our body “kicks in to gear”.
Oxygen debt refers to the amount of time post-exercise your body still needs oxygen to return to all systems back to normal. This is represented by the need to take deeper, faster breaths for a while afterwards.
In simple terms there are periods of time at the beginning and after exercise where the body is hungry for oxygen. So clearly the Wim Hof breathing can work wonders here too. From my experience, Wim’s deep breathing allows me to have my oxygen saturation primed to fuel me from the start, effectively eliminating the sluggish stage.
It’s worth noting that it’s probably not worth going through a maximum exhale hold at the end of every 30 breaths as you want to keep those oxygen stores relatively high. Consider a shorter hold before beginning the next set of thirty.
Furthermore, extra cycles at the end of an activity can help equalize any remaining oxygen debt and allow you to get on with the rest of your day as soon as possible.
5/ Warm Yourself Up
This is a handy one for when you’re outside in the cold. Similar to speeding up the healing process, this also benefits from a little more focus.
Hyper-oxygenation alone can get you there but take the time during your exhale hold to “feel” yourself warming up. It make take a few cycles to notice a change but you should genuinely feel a difference relatively quickly. For me I can usually still register that it’s cold but no longer feel cold myself.
Interestingly, the more time you spend exposed to the cold the more responsive your vascular system will become. This is where a daily cold shower can really improve your quality of life. Thanks to Wim, we now have the tools to better tolerate the cold and have better control over this tolerance.
6/ Cool Yourself Down
No surprises for guessing this one right? By the same token, hyper-oxygenation will grant you access to the processes that dissipate heat and cool you down. If you feel too hot, try the same process as above and “feel” yourself cooling down.
Again if you’ve been practicing cold showers your body will be better adapted to regulate itself up or down when needed.
One thing I’ve learned from the Wim Hof Method is how much we rely on indoor heating and cooling for comfort. It’s similar with adding or removing layers of clothing to externally regulate our body temperature. There’s a certain freedom attached to understanding how tolerant the body is to natural temperature change. We just need to give it a chance to do the work itself.
7/ Improve Athletic Performance
This is for those who enjoy simple workouts. If you love short, sharp exercise routines, the Wim Hof Breathing can take your performance to another level.
Simple tasks like push ups, sit ups, pull ups, sprinting etc, can quickly become a fight against lactic acid as the oxygen demands increase. Deep breathing beforehand allows your body to have a greater supply of oxygen to use from the outset. This helps delay the onset of performance sapping lactic acid and results in greater initial energy stores, higher numbers and faster times.
For context, I really enjoy the challenge of a 3 minute push up test. By cycling through 15-20 deep breaths before starting (and deeply breathing throughout) I was able to improve my score by a staggering 50%. The same thing happened with a basic dead hang test from a chin up bar – a 15% improvement straight away.
This one is fun to try. Choose something you value and see what Wim Hof’s breathing method can do for you. Wim even incorporates as much into his training programs.
8/ Improve Your Ability to Float
Improved floatation may not be the most life-altering benefit of the Wim Hof Method, but it’s interesting nonetheless. Traditionally, your capacity to float is decided by your body composition. The more dense you are – often characterized by greater lean muscle mass, the more likely you are to sink. Conversely, the more body fat you have the more buoyant you should be.
However oxygen saturation has some influence over these factors.
If you take a full breath in and dive to the bottom of a pool, you’re more likely to float back to the surface. The added oxygen acts as a life jacket. On the other hand, if you dive on a full exhale you’re more likely to stay there. This is the essence of how many ocean divers regulate depth.
Personally, I’ve never really been able to float. So imagine my surprise at what happens after a few rounds of hyper-oxygenation. The more charged with O2 I become, the more buoyant I seem to be.
It’s not one of the most obvious Wim Hof benefits but it’s another to add to the list of things to try.
I’m not sure how this can specifically benefit the human race but I’m interested to hear what you guys think. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
9/ Manage Pain
This is another important “side-effect” of the Wim Hof Method. It can help you suppress and potentially overcome the pain response. So much so that I’m staggered this isn’t one of our biggest focuses in modern medicine.
The idea here is simple. In order to experience pain, our chemistry must shift towards a more acidic state at some point. And if you’ve been playing along at home, you might recognize that hyper-oxygenation has an alkalizing effect on our chemistry. This suggests the more we can oxygenate our body when in pain, the closer we may get to “switching it off”.The more we can oxygenate our body when in pain, the closer we may get to 'switching it off'.Click To Tweet
Now from a Physiotherapy perspective, it’s important to remind everyone that pain does serve a very noble purpose. It’s supposed to protect us from current or future harm. So whether or not we can switch it off should be considered moot. But having the capacity to regulate it is invaluable – particularly for those suffering from extreme, persistent or chronic pain.
Considering hyper-oxygenation may also have a positive effect on healing it makes sense to give this a go.
10/ Proactively Fight Off Basic Sickness
Conquering serious illness and disease has become the hallmark of Wim’s technique. But we can’t forget about the everyday ones.
If you start to notice any common symptoms associated with getting sick, use the Wim Hof Method to proactively eliminate them.
Prior to experimenting with the Wim Hof breathing method I would normally feel the slightest sore throat prior to getting sick. I’d dread this as I knew the next day or two would be an annoying mix of a runny nose and red-raw nostrils. I’d get this maybe two or three times a year. Now, as soon as I feel those precursor symptoms I stop and do my deep breathing. Once supercharged I can focus on the area that feels crappy during the exhale hold. Thirty minutes later those symptoms are gone. Every time. It hasn’t failed me once in about 4 or 5 years now (touch wood).
It’s also worth noting that I think my immune system is now stronger from the cold showers as the sore throats are less common too.
11/ Improve Focus and Mental Clarity
Do you ever moments where you feels like you have a brain “fog”. Moments where you just don’t feel at your sharpest mentally? Well, you might be able to influence this too.
As with each of these everyday benefits, more oxygen often means better results. Similar to healing and pain management, this requires a little focus. For me, once hyper-oxygenated I can clear this fog just by closing my eyes and picturing the cloudiness disappearing. It takes a cycle or two for me to get there but I can eventually cue my body in to doing it nonetheless.
This is highly useful considering my work and hobbies require mental sharpness and focus to achieve the best results. Again, test this out for yourself and let me know how you go.
12/ Use Retention Times To Better Understand Your Body
Interestingly, you can use your exhale retention time to get a general sense of how your body is going.
I find poor sleep, too much stress, feeling ill or a little flat etc, can knock 30 seconds or so off my usual hold times. Similarly, it often takes a few more cycles than usual to get me to where I want to be. Being sick or hyper-stressed are obvious enough on their own, but it’s fantastic to know how you’re going in-between.
If you realize your numbers are a little down, it’s a fantastic opportunity to try to figure out why. Perhaps you bed time has been getting a little later unnecessarily. Maybe you’re a little more stressed than usual. Perhaps you already know all this but just need objective proof that it’s taking a toll.
What gets measured – gets managed. And this creates a wonderful way to get ahead of the curve and be pro-active.
13/ Control Your Stress Response
I’ve saved this until last because it’s just so bloody important.
Our nervous system governs the function of literally every process in the body in some way, shape or form. As I’ve mentioned in the first article we’ve long thought the majority of these processes were completely automatic. For example; we don’t have to make our heart beat, it just does by itself.
Now the Wim Hof Method won’t interfere with the on and off switches for these systems (thankfully) but it does grant us access to up-regulate and down-regulate them when needed.
Of most relevance to this article is our fight and flight response. An “automated” set of physiological responses that enhance our capacity to face a threat head on or get away safely.
However thanks to the modern world the “threats” we face today are as plentiful as they are subtle. We have financial stress, time stress, social stress, relationship stress, work stress, religious stress, cultural stress among a hoard of others. And they don’t go away easily.
As a result our nervous system can be chronically ‘up’ – a basis for much of our chronic pain and illness. And with this comes greater acidity and inflammation.
The Wim Hof technique can give us conscious control over this “automated” system and deliberately down-regulate our body back to a more normal baseline.
This is important as we now have the power to replace poorer sleep, poor emotional states like rage, anger, anxiety, depression and frustration, poor thinking, poor pain tolerance, and any other heightened stress-related consequences, with their far more positive counterparts.
All because of a few deep breaths, a little cold exposure and some focus.
It’s truly wonderful to live in an age where deep breathing is being proven to have such a powerful effect on our physiology. It’s also nice to know that the Wim Hof Method can help with many modern day situations and concerns. Not all are life-threatening but they can be life-limiting.
As always, I genuinely urge you to give Wim’s technique a go. Don’t take my word for any of this, just experience it for yourself. It’s just so simple to do and as I’ve heard Wim say before “the worst thing that can happen is nothing.” Having said that, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed!
Have you found any other day-to-day benefits of the Wim Hof Method?
What has your experience been?
Let me know your own Wim Hof Method hacks in the comments and I’ll include the best ones in Part Three!
Have a chat about this on the Your Wellness Nerd Community Forum here.