In the bio-hacking world, Wim Hof the ‘Iceman,’ needs no introduction. The guy holds twenty-six world records. For those who have never heard of Wim Hof, the man has performed mind-blowing feats ranging from climbing Mount Everest in only shorts, to running a marathon in the Namib Desert without water. He is truly a freak of nature.
In the last twelve months, I have worked on a number of biohack experiments, accomplishing new goals and creating new habits, which I never thought possible. I have changed my lifestyle to include an anti-inflammatory diet (I lost 10kgs over 8 weeks), bulletproof coffee in the mornings (breakfast without eating breakfast), lymphosizing to remove toxins from my body and boost my energy levels, as well as daily mind training just to name a few. The latest biohack, I have practiced now for almost 3 months.
I was brought up in the typically Asian ‘paranoid of the cold’ culture. My mother, my sister and my relatives would wrap me up as a kid and force me to wear layer up on layer up on layer for fear of getting sick. As a result, my body told my mind to never enjoy the exposure to the cold. So when my mentor sent me a link and told me to watch The Ice Man, I was deeply curious. After watching, I grew excited beyond measure. How on earth does this man climb Mount Everest in only a pair of board shorts? How on earth does this man train his body to run a marathon in the Namib Desert without water? And even more radical, was that he was training hundreds and hundreds of people all over the world to do the same. If they could learn how to do it, so can I!
The Wim Hof Method – My version
Preparing for the extremities
- Every morning, upon waking, do three sets of 30 deep breaths. Inhale from the nose and visualize the breath coming from the base of the perineum, up to the diaphragm point, into the chest area and finally rising to the headspace.
- After breathing in as deeply as possible, exhale sharply through the mouth, producing a ‘hah’ like sound.
- On the 30th breath, exhale, and on the last exhale, hold the breath. There should be no air in the lungs. At that point, start the timer.
- When you absolutely cannot hold your breath any longer, hold it for a little while longer…. Then when you REALLY can’t hold your breath any longer, take in ONE deep inhale and HOLD. During this hold, visualize the air moving through the following points – tensing the perineum, lower abdomen, upper abdomen, chest, neck and then hold it in the headspace.
- Stay in this space for as long as possible and then slowly exhale. Enjoy this energized state. Feel the mind go into a deeper trance and the body will start to tingle. There is a unique calmness to this practice. It is as if the body no longer exists…losing reference of time and space. As you exhale feel the energy reach every part of your body.
- Through an Electroencephalography (EEG) device, scientists have measured people reaching a state of Alpha and raising their vibrational energy. The EEG device uses small band sensors placed on the head to measure activity. Alpha waves (8 to 12 hz) are present typically in states of daydreaming or conscious meditation. Alpha brain waves boost creativity and reduce depression.
Now for the push ups
- Perform one more breath set per the previous cycle.
- This time, on the last exhale hold your breath and do as many pushups as you can (whichever version of pushups you can perform with consistency).
- There are a number of benefits to this exercise. The starvation of oxygen while exerting physical strength resets the nervous system. When the nervous system is refreshed and reset, it puts us in an optimum position for peak performance. You will feel more awake, refreshed and powerful.
Now for the cold shower
Wim Hof’s goal is to bring out the extraordinary in all of us. Don’t you want to be extraordinary? I do! Through this training we can tap into the autonomic nervous system and immune system so that our bodies can withstand the extremities. This is my version of the training to prepare for the cold.
- Using cold water only, wet the lower limbs first and then the upper body, controlling your breath with deep inhalations and exhalations. If the body starts to shiver and you are finding it hard to calm your breath, remember to take in deep inhalations and exhale out slowly. The whole point is to calm your breath. Calm your breath and you will calm your mind and your body. Enjoy the cold shower.
- A study conducted by the Thrombosis Research Institute showed that people who took a daily cold shower had significantly more white blood cells in comparison to people who did not. White blood cells are cells that combat diseases.
Before practicing the Wim Hof method, the longest I could hold my breath was 45 seconds. Three months later, with daily practice, I can now hold my breath for 3 minutes 30 seconds! That’s 4.5 x longer!
Push-up results went from 30 push-ups with no breath and increased incrementally over time to 40, 60, 80, 90 and now 100 push ups without a single inhalation.
My mentor Pauline has a cold shower every morning because she is Badass… and she is also a sensation junkie who will never deny herself the greater pleasures that she enjoys in life. She loves her hot showers and cycles between the very hot and the very cold. Stay tuned for her upcoming commotion.one article where she explains the plethora of benefits of the hot and cold exposures.
For those who want to learn the science behind Wim Hof’s method, please read on.
- Alkali: Is when the pH level is above 7.
- Acidity: The level of acid in the body. Values below 7 on the pH scale indicate acidity.
- ATP: Stands for Adenosine triphosphate and in short it is the energy currency of life. Its job is to store and supply our cells with needed energy.
- Lactic Acid: An acid produced in the body during exercise. Lactic acid built up due to excessive exercise can cause cramp pains.
- Thermogenesis: Production of heat in the human body.
- Vagal Nerve: The vagus nerve is vital for keeping our bodies healthy. It is an essential part of the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for calming organs after the stressed ‘fight-or-flight’ adrenaline response to danger.
- Vagal Tone: The strength of your vagus response is known as your vagal tone and it can be determined by using an electrocardiogram to measure heart rate.
The effects of the breathing exercise as scientifically measured by Radboud University states “By systematically and deeply breathing in and out, the pH-value in the blood increases (making the blood more alkali) and the acidity lessens. Normally, on average the pH-value is 7.4. By exerting the breathing techniques, this becomes significantly higher. During the experiment, values have been measured up to 7.75. As such, bodily cells can produce ATP much longer and far more efficiently, while at the same time prevent the production of lactic acids.”
The cold showers is a form of cold thermogenesis, which directly affects your vagal tone. New York Neurosurgeon, Dr. Kevin Tracey summarises “Not all vagus nerves are the same, however: some people have stronger vagus activity, which means their bodies can relax faster after a stress. Research shows that a high vagal tone makes your body better at regulating blood glucose levels, reducing the likelihood of diabetes, stroke and cardiovascular disease. Low vagal tone, however, has been associated with chronic inflammation. As part of the immune system, inflammation has a useful role helping the body to heal after an injury.”
I am impressed with the length of time I can now hold my breath, especially the ability to hold it for 3 minutes and perform 100 push ups without taking a single breath. The real benefit is the meditative experience and my powerful state of being afterwards. My body tingles during the process and I reach a very deep trance. I feel as if nothing can get to me and I am able to maintain calmness and clarity in challenging situations. Science says it is due to strengthening the vagal tone. The morning cold showers, along with the pushups shock my system physically. The reset button is ignited daily. I have elevated my energy state both physically and mentally. It is the perfect way to prime my day.
Stay tuned for my next experiment. Cryotherapy for cold exposures!