Stress Management

How the Wim Hof Method of Breathing Brings About Healing

The exceptional results the 'Iceman' has achieved are linked to measurable biological changes in the body
BY James Templeton TIMEJuly 28, 2022 PRINT

When the Solari Report announced Wim Hof to be the recipient of the 2021 Hero of the Year award in December 2021, we took notice. Calling Wim Hof one of the most likely men to make an enormous difference in natural health care in the coming years, they shared his extremely practical, results-driven, and virtually free techniques.

Who’s Wim Hof?

Wim Hof is a Dutch 63-year-old motivational speaker, extreme athlete, and voluntary experimental candidate who has made it his mission to share what he’s learned with the rest of the world. Nicknamed the “Iceman,” Wim Hof is most known for his ability to withstand extremely cold temperatures—so much so, that he holds the Guinness World Record for the longest ice bath (1 hour, 52 minutes, and 42 seconds) in addition to 26 other world records for a variety of equally admirable feats.

The backstory as to how he first experienced the method that he says saved his life is extraordinary, although sad. His wife, suffering from extreme depression, took her life by jumping from an eight-story building in the middle of the night, leaving him with four young children to raise.

What followed, as they say, is history.

A chance event—a swim in an icy lake—allowed Wim Hof a brief but intense escape from the grief that consumed him following his wife’s death. After his first immersion into the frozen lake, he found himself drawn again and again to that icy water in an attempt to alleviate his suffering, if only for a few minutes each day, so that he could summon the strength he needed to cope with his grief and continue caring for his young family. The effects of the icy water demanded nothing less than his full attention.

The Wim Hof Method involves a particular method of breathing designed to stimulate and stress the body’s autonomic nervous system in such a way as to bring about health. It also includes cold therapy via icy baths, cold showers, or brutally cold outdoor experiences.

While many of us may shy away from experimenting with the extreme cold therapy that Wim Hof so powerfully demonstrates, any one of us can begin using his breathing exercises this very day. And once you discover the breathing benefits, you may be excited (or at least curious) to explore the extraordinary benefits of the cold therapy he promotes.

What Can the Wim Hof Method of Breathing Do For You?

The specialized breathing technique of the Wim Hof Method not only increases energy and reduces stress, but it ignites the body’s innate immune response, virtually rendering deadly pathogens harmless.

How can that be? And just how effective is this breathing technique in reducing pathogens?

In a 2014 study conducted at Radboud University in Nijmegen, 12 young men trained in the Wim Hof Method were injected with an endotoxin. In that controlled study, 12 other young men were similarly injected, having received no such training.

“We indeed observed that in the trained subjects the release of inflammatory proteins was attenuated and that they experienced far less flu-like symptoms,” intensive care researcher Dr. Matthijs Kox told Science Daily.

In stark contrast, the 12 untrained young men suffered a variety of intense and uncomfortable immune responses, including fever, chills, headaches, and overall body weakness.

More Adrenaline Than a First-Time Bungee Jump

The breathing technique Wim Hof teaches produces twice the amount of epinephrine (adrenaline) than a first-time bungee jump. Epinephrine levels peaked in the trained participants before and at the time they received the bacterial injection. It coincides with the time they began their learned breathing techniques.

Researchers said this method of breathing resulted in “intermittent respiratory alkalosis and hypoxia resulting in significantly increased plasma epinephrine levels.” In other words, the raised levels of epinephrine limited the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines (interleukin-6, interleukin-8, and tumor necrosis factor alpha), while simultaneously increasing the anti-inflammatory interleukin-10.

The result? A demonstrably marked decrease in the body’s inflammatory response. It should also be noted that the increased epinephrine in the blood triggered an increase in white blood cells, those warriors of the immune system.

Simply put, within the first hour after receiving the endotoxin, the body’s immune system was on the job, rendering the toxin harmless.

Textbooks Rewritten

While scientists previously believed that the body’s innate sympathetic nervous system and immune system couldn’t be voluntarily influenced, experiments involving the Wim Hof Method arguably prove otherwise. These studies have important implications for the treatment of a variety of conditions associated with the destructive effects of inflammation.

Wim Hof and his team continue to work with research institutions to explore the potential of the Wim Hof Method.

You can watch Wim Hof teach the technique to a volunteer on the Lewis Howe YouTube channel.

You can also learn more about the scientific basis behind the Wim Hof Method and the method itself at his website: WimHofMethod.com/science.

Note: The Wim Hof Method may not be recommended for people with epilepsy, high blood pressure, heart disease, or a history of serious health issues or migraines. It’s also not recommended for pregnant women. If any of that describes you, please read Wim Hof’s book and speak with your physician before you consider using the Wim Hof Method.

James Templeton founded Uni Key Health Systems in 1992 and now the Templeton Wellness Foundation as a way of giving back and helping others achieve the health and wellness they are seeking.

James Templeton founded Uni Key Health Systems in 1992 and now the Templeton Wellness Foundation as a way of giving back and helping others achieve the health and wellness they are seeking.
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