Love him or hate him Wim Hof is all over mainstream media at the moment & has even made it onto prime-time TV with his reality show “Freeze the Fear” hosted by celebs Holly Willoughby & Lee Mack.
If you’re really not into cold water immersion or even the sight of Wim has you running for the hills…. bear with me as Wim offers so much more than cold therapy.
Despite being infamous for his endurance of the cold, the Dutchman adopts a 3-pillar approach to his methods, including breathwork, cold water immersion and mastery of the mind.
I have so much admiration for this guy, spending most of his life researching what the human mind & body is capable of. He courageously & humbly delivers his extreme methods into a world of sceptics in a conventional healthcare system.
It’s not an easy feat to take your alternative theories out into the mainstream healthcare arena, (trust me I know, my colleagues thought reflexology was weird !) even if they are based on science, but I guess if anyone can breakthrough Wim can.
So what’s the deal with cold water immersion? (CWI)
There are many ways that you can practice cold water immersion from installing an elaborate, galvanised ice bath in your garden to literally making cold showers part of your daily practice. Wild, open water swimming is all the rage at the moment, however if you’re like me & not a confident swimmer, I wouldn’t recommend you try this without a serious amount of coaching & training from someone who knows what they’re doing. BUT …. we can all introduce cold showers into our day by having a regular warm shower first, then switching to cold for the last 15 seconds. Start gradually, building up to a minute of cold water to give you that boost to your day.
CWI is said to have many health benefits such as:
Increasing mood boosting hormones, (endorphins, noradrenaline, and dopamine) meaning it could help with depression & anxiety.
Increased metabolism, which can aid weight loss.
Improved cardiovascular function as it exercises the blood vessels.
Improved immune response by increasing the number of white blood cells in your body. These are the cells that protect your body against disease.
Reduced stress levels – CWI stresses the body, so your body gets used to handling moderate amounts of stress.
Wim resists the media claims that he is some kind of fitness guru, stating that literally anyone can use his methods to build more resilience and stamina in their lives. However, I would question whether his methods are suitable for everyone but maybe that’s my nurse brain kicking in!!
I guess it’s no different to saying anyone can run a marathon – but that’s not to say you don’t need to train your body for months before the event to avoid strain & injury!
So… leaving the ice bath where it is for now
What about breathwork?
I had to laugh at Gogglebox the other night, Marcus & Mica watch Wim leading a breathwork session where celebs go deep into process with the breath, releasing emotions & shifting stuck energy.
Marcus exclaimed “I aint doing none of that lying down & breathing shit …naaaa I like to keep it all bottled up in here, if it aint broke don’t fix it “
Wow if that isn’t the truth for a huge number of our Western population !! why dive in deep when you can skim the surface of life!
I love that the BBC showed a breathwork session in full flow, because that really is how it is …… we breathe sitting or lying down and start using a continuous circular breath into the belly, ribs, chest, then let go on the exhale. This technique is a dynamic, activating practice and it isn’t meant to be easy (hence the name breath work).
Breathwork and Trauma
When we experience trauma no matter how small, the body’s nervous system reacts with the fight, flight or freeze response as a survival & protective measure, and unless we can discharge this response at the time, the energy becomes literally stuck in our cells. (If you want to read more around this then I would highly recommend “The body keeps the Score’ by Bessel van der Kolk, or “Feel to Heal” by Giten Tonkov)
So, what we are doing in breathwork is allowing the breath to access those stuck energies, bring them to the surface and release them.
There’s nothing to fear if we trust our own body & allow it to release what no longer serves us. I will add here that I would strongly advise you work with a certified breathwork facilitator who is trauma informed and trained to hold a safe and nurturing space for you.
This is where I would disagree with Wim in that I don’t recommend you try this at home unless experienced in this type of breathwork, are able to resource yourself, have ongoing support as it is NOT suitable for everyone. Please discuss with your practitioner before you take part in this type of breathwork.
Why would you do this?
Because it works! for me it was a deeply transformative experience bringing my fear & shame, from childhood trauma to the surface and allowing it to release from my body. It didn’t happen in one session, as a facilitator, we studied breathwork for 7 months, concluding with a week-long breath camp where we attended breathwork sessions 4 maybe 5 times daily! Breathwork allows you to get to know your body, your unique inner landscape & notice what is going on for you in that precise moment. Breathwork is about being present, feeling all the feelings and having the courage to let them go. It’s beautiful, it’s messy and can be deeply transformative and healing.
Finally let’s not forget the 3rd pillar of the Wim Hof method – Commitment.
Self-development isn’t easy and it requires commitment, dedication, and patience to master it. Wim talks about coming back to the centre and being able to master the mind as a crucial aspect of both cold-water immersion and breathwork. During my own 3 year shamanic training, we learn from the elders that mastering the “monkey mind” is a skill that indigenous tribes teach to their children from a very young age. Imagine that! teaching our little ones how to just “be” in stillness, what a gift!
Shamans understand how past traumas affect us in the present moment and how potent it can be when we heal our past. Still widely feared and misunderstood in Western society, shamans know how to live in harmony with our planet, they teach us how to quieten the mind and transform our wounding’s into our magic. Shamans strive for a strong heart, mind & body through honouring the self, and releasing the ego.
Now just try to imagine a world where we were actively encouraged to develop our inner power and harness that for the greatest good of all…. amazing isn’t it! Sadly, we spend way too much time sowing the seeds of self-doubt and criticism, it’s no wonder we have so much dis-ease in our culture!
Anyway … do I think Wim has a point?
Yes, I do …… but my advice, do your own research, practice discernment, and choose the right time/person/place to start your journey of self-discovery. Don’t take his word for it …. or mine for that matter, follow your curiosity and who knows where it might lead!