Last Saturday my dear friend G. and I attended the Wim Hof – better known as the iceman – Method workshop. The Wim Hof method is all about a breathing technique that allows you to control the autonomous systems of the body. He has climbed the Kilimanjaro and the Mount Everest in only shorts (and shoes) and stays in ice baths for hours.
Still I am a little sceptical, not for the method but the person whom I only know from TV shows and newspaper interviews. And who is a little bit too guru-ish for my taste. The method intrigues me though, I want to learn this breathing technique and will I step into the ice bath? That is the question…
Think over 50 people in a yoga studio and Wim talking, talking, talking. He is continuously distracted by his own sidelines, funny and annoying at the same time. But the message is clear, even international scientists confirm that the combination of cold therapy, meditation and the use of oxygen through breathing techniques increases the immune system and brings the pH level to the alkaline (above pH 7) degree. Which is a good thing to stay strong and healthy and prevent disease.
According to Wim he learned many things from nature, like influencing his internal thermostat. Possible for everyone, because we can reach far more than we think is possible. Or as he puts it: “What I am capable of, anyone can do.”
Let’s find out if we can do it, it’s time to start the breathing exercises, which are quite simple and resemble the yoga pranayama breathing. Or labour breathing techniques, as my friend-and-mother-of-two dryly replied. Anyhow, it all comes down to a rapid sequence of inhaling and exhaling, to transport oxygen to your blood and cells. We could feel the tingling sensations in our bodies as also a bit of light-headedness. After a while make a final inhalation and then push all the air out and hold your breath as long as you can. After the second round of exercises we could easily do over 3 minutes!
Cold shower and icy bath
One of the advises before taking this workshop was to start with cold showers. I’m already finishing my daily shower with cold water for over a year and therefore I’m used to – a little – cold exposure. Hope this will help. After the exercises it was time to put words into action and there it was: a bath in the garden filled with ice cubes…
The exercises made me feel strong and relaxed, so no question about it. Of course we’re going in. Although it was quite cold, understatement, we could easily sit in the cold for some time while continuing the deep breathing. You could opt to end the ice bath session with some extra guided breathings to submerge completely under water – uh, ice – for 5 seconds. But hey, who wants to mess up a blowdry?
photo credits Wim on ice: Wim Hof