The Breathing Technique to Steal From the Ultra-Buzzy Wim Hof Method

Photo: Getty Images/simarik
Meet Wim Hof, a remarkable figure in the world of wellness. He ran half a marathon in the Artic Circle—without shoes—and currently holds 20 Guinness World Records. Hof earned the apt nickname "Ice Man" for his many (and epic) cold weather adventures. He's lived a life of extremes, but his method for living a healthy existence (known as—go figure—the Wim Hof Method) has at least one offering accessible to everyone.

"The Wim Hof method is very simple. It consists of three parts," says Danielle McCallum, a certified Wim Hof Method instructor and creator of The Five, a two hour class infused with the Ice Man's teachings. The Wim Hof Method requires a commitment to the task of "mastering your body and mind," a series of breath work, and a two to three minute ice bath.

The polar bear plunge portions of the Wim Hof Method are all about overcoming the perceived limits of your mind and body. "It’s about learning to become comfortable in the uncomfortable," explains McCallum, who practices each aspect of the technique at least once a week. "The method carries over to the day to day. I’ve noticed in situations or conversations that would make me nervous or stress me out before, I feel much more grounded. I feel much more calm. I attribute all of that to the inner-strength that I’ve found from getting into the ice." 

Like cryotherapy, a chilled-out soak is believed to boost the immune system, increase energy levels, and relieve chronic join pain. However, not everyone has easy access to a cryotherapy tank. Sure, you can take a cold shower to experience similar restorative benefits, but some parts of the Wim Hof Method are even more accessible. A round of deep, calming breath work is something anyone can learn to do. Generally, this part involves "five rounds of 30 breaths with some retention after each round of breathing," McCallum explains. Simply controlling the flow of air through your lungs has found to help regulate your body away from fight or flight mode and boost immunity. So what are you waiting for? Let's breathe our way to a calmer state of being.

How to master the second pillar of the Wim Hof Method: breathing.

  1. Lie down and get extremely comfortable. Prop your head on a pillow, make sure you're working on an empty stomach, and set an intention before you kick things off. Plus, as Hof says in one of his many video tutorials, make sure to listen to your body throughout the process. If you start to feel lightheaded or faint, stop retaining your breath.
  2. Inhale fully in three parts—stomach, chest, then lungs.
  3. Exhale, but not fully. Let some air stay in the lungs.
  4. Once you understand the technique, repeat it 30 times for the first round. Try to increase the intensity of each breath as you go along, follow the movement of your breath through the body. According to Hof, you'll start to feel lighter and looser in throughout the body. At the end of the first round of 30, hold the breath for as long as you (safely) are able to. If you want, you can time yourself.
  5. Complete four more rounds of breath work with 30 breaths in each.

Breathing is a pretty magical thing. Here's how to use the 4-7-8 technique for better sleep and why you should be belly breathing

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