It is quite the claim, but do you ever stop and think why you get sick in the first place? Or are you just a passive receiver of illness and stress? Do you know someone who never gets sick? What creates that tenacity?
A good place to start is with a high-spirited man from Holland, Wim Hof. Wim is primarily known for holding 26 Guinness World Records including climbing Mt. Everest (22,000 ft.) in just shorts and shoes and reaching the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro (19,341 ft.) with a group of 18 untrained trekkers equipped with Wim’s methods in just 32 hours. This is a task that normally takes a fully equipped crew five to nine days.
Besides conquering mountains with his friends Wim's objective is to help people realize that if he can do it then ANYONE can! The first step is realizing that we are much more powerful than we think and then taking responsibility for our health, happiness and peace of mind. It may sound like a daunting task but let's break it down.
Wim Hof's Method is based on three powerful pillars:
Mastery of the three pillars makes you the alchemist of your neurochemistry. You learn progressively to trigger certain states of mind by naturally stimulating, and eventually sustaining, the production of certain chemicals within your body. Wim’s methods coupled with mindful breathing throughout the day helps you keep track of your state of mind. With this awareness you enter the frontline of your peace of mind with the ability to recognize a source of stress and prevent it from influencing your physiology. Your physiology reflects your state of mind and vice versa.
Shallow breathing, combined with poor oxygenation, raises blood pressure to service the ongoing needs of your body. This is the physiological equivalent of running your car’s engine constantly in the red-zone, and places the body under tremendous duress. Not unreasonably, the brain’s response to all of this is one of chronic low-level anxiety. The cycle worsens as even low level anxiety increases your oxygen demand while diminishing your ability to absorb oxygen efficiently, resulting in possible tendencies toward depression, short temper, impatience, disturbed sleep patterns, digestive difficulties, etc. Constrained breathing can cause you to experience fatigue, both mental and physical, as well as reduced stamina.
Your brain itself consumes approximately 25 percent of the oxygen you breathe in. When oxygen becomes less available to the whole body due to constrained breathing, your brain experiences the effects of oxygen deprivation just like the rest of your body. Any or all of these symptoms can then both reflect and/or reinforce your body’s chemical and/or hormonal imbalance causing serotonin (mood regulator) levels to decrease and cortisol (stress) to increase, further complicating this debilitating cycle. The more fully you can breathe, the more easily you can oxygenate your many tissues to increase the overall efficiency of your respiratory process.
Deeper guided practice allows you to consciously influence your autonomic nervous system, once widely accepted to be beyond our control, to fight disease:
"Hitherto, both the autonomic nervous system and innate immune system were regarded as systems that cannot be voluntarily influenced. The present study demonstrates that, through practicing techniques learned in a short-term training program, the sympathetic nervous system and immune system can indeed be voluntarily influenced. Healthy volunteers practicing the learned techniques exhibited profound increases in the release of epinephrine, which in turn led to increased production of anti-inflammatory mediators and subsequent dampening of the proinflammatory cytokine response elicited by intravenous administration of bacterial endotoxin. This study could have important implications for the treatment of a variety of conditions associated with excessive or persistent inflammation; especially autoimmune diseases in which therapies that antagonize proinflammatory cytokines have shown great benefit."- PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY FOR SCIENCES
In other words Wim was injected with a form of E. Coli and was able to voluntarily produce adrenaline to fight the bacteria. Normally this would result in an over-reaction by the immune system, resulting in flu symptoms (headache, fever and muscle pain) for a number of hours. However, Hof only suffered a mild headache at the time when the flu symptoms would normally be at their strongest.
A look into my own practice over 6 months.
(Note: the holding of the breath starts with the passive exhale as described above and REMEMBER go at your own pace!)
1. As soon as I wake up I sit in a meditation position and do 3 cycles of 30 breathes the first 2 cycles end with 2 minutes of holding my breath. (I started with just 30 seconds 6 months ago. Progress!)
2. The third cycle of breathing ends with a passive exhale immediately followed by 40 pushups. (I started with just 10 pushups 6 months ago. Working up to 50. Progress!)
3. I take a few deep breaths then play some relaxing music like Nujabes and start a stretch routine (holding each stretch 30 secs. to 2 minutes) to rid my body of any muscular tension I may have accumulated from sleeping or from yesterday's training session. It is the perfect excuse to stretch every day, something I should have been doing for years now.
4. I take another few deep breaths and prepare for the cold exposure. My lifestyle has me all over the place with differing sources of cold. It generally ranges from 10 minute cold showers to 10 minute ice bath depending where I am. I follow this with meditation and daily routine.
I then feel alert and invigorated. Stimulating the body in this way forces you to focus on the moment by overcoming discomfort, now. This stimulation occurs over multiple levels including the activation and exercise of 100,000 miles (160934 km) of blood vessels and capillaries that expand to keep you warm. Very few, if any, types of exercise activate your body on such a deep level. There are psychological benefits to this with a profound sense of accomplishment knowing that you overcame discomfort with a positive state of mind and body. In reference to becoming the alchemist of your neurochemistry, turning lead into gold in this situation would refer to transmuting the discomfort of cold, breathing and exercise (lead) into comfort and resilience (gold) by applying knowledge and the proper techniques. This becomes an attribute that can be applied to any situation in life, finding the gold of every moment.
For more details about the benefits of mindful breathing and for understanding how your breathing patterns affect your daily life check out this TED Talk by Alan Watkinz:
Origins of the Wim Hof Method:
Harvard researcher Herbert Benson, who has been studying a meditation technique known as “g Tum-mo” for 20 years, says that “Buddhists feel the reality we live in is not the ultimate one. There’s another reality we can tap into that’s unaffected by our emotions, by our everyday world. Buddhists believe this state of mind can be achieved by doing good for others and by meditation.” Benson is an associate professor of medicine at the Harvard Medical School and president of the Mind/Body Medical Institute at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. He firmly believes that studying advanced forms of meditation “can uncover capacities that will help us to better treat stress-related illnesses.” Experiments with Buddhist monks practicing g Tum-mo produced dramatic results. Just using the power of their minds, the monks produced enough body heat to dry wet sheets placed on them as they relaxed in chilly rooms.
This is just a glimpse of the plethora of practices we are unaware of. All it takes is a little curiosity to uncover the beautiful realities of our existence.
For more information refer to The Bliss of Inner Fire by Lama Thubten Yeshe.
Wim claims that his teacher is “hard nature” and that the cold is “merciless but righteous”. He explains that our addiction to being warm keeps us separated from this merciless but righteous teacher, and therefore we are vulnerable to these elements instead of adaptive. Being adaptive in a universe dictated by entropy (gradual decline into disorder) aligns you with the ever changing flow of life putting you that much more in control of yourself. This method when implemented safely and correctly strengthens your nervous system and invigorates your being making you a more resilient and confident person.
1. Wim's objective is to help people realize that if he can do it then ANYONE can!
2. Go at a safe pace and never force yourself.
3. Your physiology reflects your state of mind and vice versa. Breath is the gate way to your physiology.
4. Constrained breathing can cause you to experience fatigue, both mental and physical, as well as reduced stamina.
5. The more fully you can breathe throughout the day, the more easily you can oxygenate your many tissues to increase the overall efficiency of your respiratory process. It is the difference between a stagnant inner environment and a clear refreshed one, the latter being more conducive to a positive outlook and mindset.
6. Find the gold in every moment (& movement).
Saturday April 29th, 2017
9am – 2pm
Warning (From Wim Hof himself) - important message, please read carefully:
The breathing exercise has a profound effect and should be practiced in the way it is explained. Always do the breathing exercise in a safe environment (e.g. sitting on a couch/floor) and unforced. Never practice the exercises before or during diving, driving, swimming, taking a bath or in any other environment/place where, should you pass out, a serious injury could occur. Wim Hof breathing may cause tingling sensations and/or lightheadedness. If you’ve fainted, it means that you went too far. Take a step back next time.
The cold is a powerful force. We strongly advise to gradually build up exposing yourself to the cold. Always train without force and listen to your body carefully. If it is not practiced responsible, there is a risk of hypothermia.
Do not practice the method during pregnancy or when having epilepsy. Persons with cardiovascular health issues, or any other (serious) health conditions, should always consult a medical doctor before starting with the Wim Hof Method.
Sources and Resources
You are the guardian of your peace of mind.
Peace and Blessings & Thank you.