1. What is Breathing & Cold Exposure training, based on the Wim Hof Method?
It’s a method that consists of 3 components: breathing techniques, cold exposure and mindset/focus.
2. Why would anyone voluntarily take an ice bath? What are the benefits of cold exposure?
Excellent question. If you would have told me before 2014 that I (being a big fan of tropical sun and climates) would be sitting in an ice bath, take outdoor swims in the winter or be hiking through snowy landscapes in shorts, I probably would have thought you lost your mind.
But as an acupuncturist and a meditation & qigong enthusiast I am very interested in our self healing abilities and our inner power. So I read about Wim Hof and the research that was going on and decided to step out of my comfort zone and registered for a workshop.
I loved the effect of the breathing techniques and the power I felt in and after the ice bath! Me as an Indo chilling in a tub filled with ice cubes. And I loved the simplicity of it all. You don’t have to train for years and years to be able to do this.
Let me be clear, the components are not new. The East has a long tradition of similar disciplines and people know the benefits for their health. Same goes for Russia and Northern Europe for example. Wim Hof just made it available to larger group and involved science to research the combination of these techniques.
After the one day workshop I immediately registered for the instructors year including a week of training in Poland and walking up a ski slope in shorts to name one element.
I will just name a few results here without getting into the scientific details. Research has shown that cold exposure can lead to a better functioning immune system (and how to voluntarily control it), increase in metabolism and an increase in brown fat. Combined with the breathing and focus techniques it can help to reduce pain, lead to better cirulation and boost your cardiovasclular system and energy. You can find a great overview on the research here.
The Cool Challenge was a project to measure the effects of cold showering. The report can be found here.
3. Who could benefit from the techniques used by the Wim Hof Method? Which diseases could it help improve?
We should be cautious here. Although I am very enthusiastic about aspects of the method and the research has shown very promising results, I can’t state that it helps this or that disease or it’s a cure for certain ailments.
But people have shown great improvement with for example common cold, influenza, Rheumatoid arthritis, COPD, hay fever and other allergies and stress or burn out. Again, this will be seen as anecdotal evidence and is not scientifically proven (yet).
Speaking for myself, I love the energy that it can give you (so it could help with chronic fatigue), the ability to have more control over your health and that you can easily direct ‘energy’ inside your body. Besides that it can also deepen your meditation, for example, and create more stillness. Especially that last aspect is something I love in breathing exercises and in the ice.
So you don’t have to have an illness to benefit from the method. It can also help you improve your sports for example.
In general my personal opinion is that we are too much depending on external health care and pharmaceutics. We can do so much more ourselves. Very simple things. I love this quote, which is more or less my motto:
“We are living in exciting times, for science is in the process of shattering old myths and rewriting a fundamental belief of human civilization. The belief that we are frail biochemical machines controlled by genes is giving way to an understanding that we are powerful creators of our lives and the world in which we live.”
– The Biology of Belief by Dr. Bruce Lipton
4. In which cases would you advise against trying techniques from the Wim Hof method?
We are mainly talking about the ice bath component here, as nearly anyone can do breathing and focus techniques or they can be adjusted to the person. I would not suggest ice baths for peope with very weak constitutions, severe heart problems or who suffer from Raynaud’s phenomenon. They can grow into it. But if in doubt, consult your physician.
5. How could someone incorporate (elements of) these health-boosting techniques in their daily life?
One can easily incorporate breathing exercises in their daily or at least regular routine and finish off with cold showers. You can start off warm, just end with cold. Warmth can give you relaxation and comfort, but it is easy to imagine you will get more of an energy boost from a fresh cold finish! And you don’t have to be in there forever. The Cool Challenge showed that only 30 seconds of cold showering already gives tremendous benefits!
* Don’t practise the breathing techniques by yourself/alone in or near open water or try to hold your breath under water after practising. Especially if you are just starting out.
Learn more about (traditional, Eastern) health-boosting practices by following Ronald Aartsen on Facebook or Instagram.You can also read more about the breathing, focus and cold exposure techniques in Wim Hof’s book: The Way of The Iceman.
Have you ever tried taking cold showers or even an ice bath to boost your health and energy? How did it make you feel?