Breath-work has been honoured throughout ancient traditions as a tool for wellbeing. Modern science now proves its powerful effects on our minds and bodies. This series highlights special breathing techniques that invigorate, relax and restore.
Dutch athlete Wim Hof – known as ‘The Iceman’ – is renowned for his physical endurance and ability to withstand extreme temperatures. He’s set numerous records for his feats, including climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in shorts and running a half marathon above the Artic Circle barefoot.
His training protocol is known as the Wim Hof Method – a series of self-developed techniques that consists of three ‘pillars’: meditation, cold exposure and breathing exercises. It’s practised by people around the world as a way to enhance physical and psychological wellbeing. Reported benefits include greater strength, energy and focus, higher resilience to stress and an improved immune and anti-inflammatory response.
The Wim Hof breathing technique
The Wim Hof breathing technique features deep and rhythmic inhalations and exhalations, described by Wim as controlled hyperventilation or power breathing, followed by brief periods of holding the breath.
PLEASE NOTE: This is a strong breath-work technique which is not suitable for everyone. Side effects can include light-headedness and tingling in hands and feet, while it is also possible to faint. It is important to consult your doctor about your personal health before starting any practice.
Sit or lie down in a safe, comfortable place.
Close your eyes and inhale deeply through the nose or mouth, filling the belly and chest, then exhale in an unforced way through the mouth. Repeat this 30-40 times in short bursts.
After your final exhale, inhale deeply one last time. Then release the air and refrain from breathing back in. Hold until you feel the urge to breathe again.
When you are ready to breathe again, take a deep inhale. Hold the breath for around 10-15 seconds, then exhale.
This full cycle can be repeated up to 3-4 times. It’s best for beginners to build up slowly, without force.
Many people feel a sense of calm and blissfulness after this technique, making it ideal to practise before meditation.
For the greatest impact, this breath-work is designed to be combined with the other pillars of the Wim Hof Method. More information about the full protocol can be found on the Wim Hof website (https://www.wimhofmethod.com).