“We can do more than what we think.
It’s a belief system that I have adopted and it has become my motto. There is more than meets the eye and unless you are willing to experience new things, you’ll never realize your full potential.”
~ Wim Hof
The best tools to craft your life lie on the surface. They do not require any kind of tenacious hunt but instead wait for you to mature to the level when you are ready to accept them and embrace their transformative power. The Wim Hof method is such a tool.
You can find a lot of information about Wim Hof and his method from online reports of a huge army of practitioners around the globe as well as in his books “Becoming the Iceman” and “The Way of the Iceman”.
In this book, I will provide the gist of the method so that you could benefit from applying it right away.
The Wim Hof method consists of 3 elements: cold, breathwork, and mindset.
“People think I like the cold too much.
I fucking hate it, man. I do not like it at all! I like a warm hot place! I like palm trees! But I respect the cold. Very much. It’s my teacher. Merciless but righteous.”
~ Wim Hof
Rapid exposure to cold has been practiced since the times of ancient Rome and Greece. The benefits of cold are known in Russia for such a long time that dousing became an inherent part of the Russian culture. Cold showers and ice baths are practiced by many athletes and thought leaders of today. So, what is all that hype about deliberate exposure of your body to cold? I started taking cold showers every morning to find out.
Benefits of the cold shower.
#1. You expand your comfort zone.
A cold shower in the morning brings you to the very edge of your comfort zone and forces you to push the borders of it every additional second you spend under cold water. The discomfort of the cold allows you to steadily progress in building up self-discipline. Dealing with one of the harshest forces of nature on a regular basis makes you more resistant to other sources of stress in your life. From a psychological standpoint, it feels good to know that you started your day by doing something that challenged your willpower yet didn’t defeat it.
#2. Cold shower places you in the present.
Cold flushes away all thoughts about the future and the past. Instant focus on the present moment is inevitable when your mind is thrown into the whirlwind of overwhelming sensations. Cold opens a door to absolute presence — the only state of mind in which you can fully grasp the true taste of life.
#3. A cold shower is a meditation.
The sensations you experience are so acute that your consciousness turns into pure attention. Your mind is completely occupied with the processing of sensations and that leaves no aperture for irrelevant thoughts. You become empty.
#4. Cold shower trains your tolerance toward cold.
Standing on the wind outside on a chilly day will still be unpleasant but you will notice the shift in your perception. You will see that what was previously recognized by your mind as an exclusively negative experience could be considered adversity that bolsters resilience.
#5. A cold shower is an immunity boost.
Many people who practice rapid exposure to cold in one form or another report that the number of times when they get sick plunges. Cold-induced stress similarly to the stress caused by a threat triggers the release of epinephrine and norepinephrine (also known as adrenaline and noradrenaline). These hormones have some powerful effects on the body one of which is the mobilization of immune cells.
#6. Cold shower charges you with energy.
Another effect and the major function of the epinephrine and norepinephrine is the constriction of smooth muscles of blood vessels. Once in the bloodstream, these neurotransmitters induce an increase in blood sugar levels, heart rate and contractility (how hard the hard squeezes) — a combination of effects known as a flight-or-fight response. This state is solely designed to give you extra energy to combat an imminent danger.
For these reasons, there is no way you will ever feel sluggish after a cold shower. For a comparison, observe the way you feel after a hot shower. See the difference. Allow yourself to discover the invigorating power of cold. Get charged.
#7. Healthy skin.
The cold water helps to fight acne and normalizes the functions of the skin. Regardless of your skin type, oily or dry, your skin will rejuvenate.
#8. The cold shower makes your heart beat faster.
When we were little every morning seemed like the beginning of a new life. We were waking up inquisitive and excited about what the new day would bring us. Curious and open-minded we were ready to explore the world feeling that the next adventure is just around the corner. But something happens to us as we grow older. We get sated with life. We get stuck in a routine running through the working week like hamsters in the spinning wheel and all days merge into one unrelenting Groundhog day. But there is a way to break the vicious cycle and make each day memorable again.
Do one thing a day that makes your heart beat faster.
Along with aerobic exercises, a cold shower is one of the most effective tools that will make you feel alive again. Isn’t that the feeling we always look for?
Tips on the cold shower.
#1. Do not lose your breath.
Gasping for air will be your first impulse. Don’t indulge in it. Pace your breathing.
#2. Do not hold your breath.
This is another common mistake and also a very natural impulse to follow. Instead, breathe deep contracting your diaphragm. Make your breathing as even and calm as possible. As an alternative technique, breathe fast but rhythmically. Inhale with your nose deep down to your belly and exhale with your mouth. Cope with the cold. Channel out all of the unpleasant sensations through your exhale.
#3. “Jump into the pool”.
A good way of thinking about stepping into a cold shower is to think of it as if you would have been jumping into the pool full of cold water. It is a nice way to trick your mind and avoid hesitation. Credit to Tim Ferris for this extremely helpful mindset.
#4. Take a pause.
After you finish the shower do not dry yourself with the towel right away. Stand for a minute, keep your eyes closed, relax, and breathe. Feel the water flowing down your body, feel the water drops on your skin getting warmer, process the sensations on the surface of your skin. It may sound illogical but you won’t feel cold even if you spend 10 minutes under cold water. Your hands and feet might get cold but it will feel like there is a source of heat in the center of your core. You will feel how this heat is slowly flowing into your limbs.
After you are done with your cold shower it is time for the second element of the Wim Hof method — the breathing exercises.
“Breathing is the first act of life and the last. Our very life depends on it. Since we cannot live without breathing it is tragically deplorable to contemplate the millions and millions who have never mastered the art of correct breathing.”
~ Joseph Pilates
Many negative states of mind can be treated by the systematic application of unsophisticated breathing techniques. A person who is experiencing a lack of energy or suffering from anxiety can get an instant improvement from a simple 5-minute breathing exercise. Learning how to breathe in the correct way is the second component of the Wim Hof Method.
Fundamentally, the Wim Hof breathwork is a Pranayama technique distilled to its extremely simplistic and practical form. Pranayama or breathing yoga is a system of breath control and has been practiced for centuries in India.
Here, I will share with you the variation of Wim Hof breathwork that I personally practice. The Wim Hof breathwork consists of 3 steps.
Step 1. Oxygenation.
Start breathing. Inhale as deep is possible trying to fill 100% of your lungs, exhale normally releasing about 70% of the air. This is one cycle. Do 30 of such breathing cycles. By doing this you saturate yourself with oxygen and release carbon dioxide from your body.
Wim Hof himself says that it is not important if you breathe with your nose or mouth, however, I would still recommend you to use your nose for the inhale as yogins do in Pranayama. We use nose for normal breathing and one of its functions is to filter the air so it makes sense to train yourself to use your nose in your breathing exercises.
Step 2. Hypoxic stress.
At the end of the last breathing cycle, forcefully exhale completely emptying your lungs. Release all air and hold this state. Hold it until you feel the first signs of discomfort. Notice the first impulse to inhale. Do not inhale just yet. Usually, swallowing saliva makes the urge to breath disappear. After the first impulse to breathe is suppressed, keep holding it for as long as possible. The time is strictly individual and will increase as you train. When you will feel that you are about to inhale, forcefully exhale last residual bits of the air remained in your body and hold it for another 5 seconds. Finally, proceed with the last step.
Step 3. Oxygen exhaustion.
Take a deep breath in, hold your breath and start doing push-ups. Push-up to failure and when you start to feel that you are not able to hold your breath any longer release all air emptying your lungs completely. Relax and make several deep inhales and exhales. Feel how your lungs stretch and restore the normal breathing pace.
Push-up is the exercise that Wim Hof teaches his students as it is the easiest to execute, however, I have been also experimenting with pull-ups, squats, handstands, and other calisthenics exercises. It was an interesting experience so I suggest you try them too. Regardless of the exercise of choice, the purpose of this final step is to train your body to optimize the utilization of oxygen by gradually progressing in the amount of physical work that the body is able to do on a single inhale. You can do one, two, three or more rounds of the above-mentioned breathing exercise to enhance the effect.
“In the Bhagavad Gita, they say, “The mind under control is your best friend, the mind wandering about is your worst enemy.” Make it your best friend, to the point where you can rely on it. Your mind makes you strong from within. It is your wise companion. The sacrifices you make will be rewarded. Life doesn’t change, but your perception does. It’s all about what you focus on. Withdraw from the world’s influence and no longer be controlled by your emotions. If you can grab the wheel of your mind, you can steer the direction of where your life will go.”
~ Wim Hof
Some people might think that the last element of the Wim Hof Method is the easiest, for some, it is the hardest one. The last aspect of the method is the mindset and it could be briefly formulated as follows:
Commit to the first two elements:
the Cold and the Breathwork.
Stay persistent. Believe that it works.
As you might already know, your thoughts can alter the biochemistry of your body, however, “knowing” and “believing” are two different things. Knowing that the method is working is a rational justification that the practices that you implement in your life are good for you because their benefits are supported by strong scientific evidence. Believing in the method is an unwavering internalized faith that these practices are healing your body from within. Believing is self-programming of your mind. Knowing and believing are complementary and compose an effective mindset. The moment you start believing that you can control your body with your mind is the moment you truly gain control.
You can be a master of your body if you are keen to test the boundaries of what it is capable of. Challenge yourself with 30 days of cold showers and breathwork and see how another surface layer peels of your soul getting you one step closer to who you truly are.
With my deepest respect, the credit for this section goes to Wim Hof and people who distribute and deploy this knowledge. I share this not to get attention for something that wasn’t discovered by me. I share this because everyone deserves to be free.
Thank you for reading my book “Meditations of the Millennial”.
If you want to support me on my mission, please, share this book with someone you love. Maybe they will find what they seek on its pages.