1701 recently played host to a Wim Hof Method workshop run by ice water free diver Kiki Bosch. Named for the man known as “The Iceman”, the Wim Hof Method utilizes special breathing techniques to oxygenate the body, alter hormones and nervous system function, and give us power over bodily functions once thought to be completely involuntary.
Sounds far fetched, doesn’t it?
Wim holds 28 Guinness World Records – all involving extreme temperatures – has been the subject of best-selling books, and is now being studied by scientists and researchers across the world as his methods prove effective, not only for him, but thousands of others who employ them. The method, and our recent workshop, focused on Wim’s 3 pillars: breathing, mindset, and cold exposure. Here are 3 takeaways from the event that you can use today to increase discipline, resiliency, and overall health.
Breathing Can Help Us Consciously Control Our Autonomic Nervous System
Researchers are scanning and studying Wim, and others utilizing his methods, to verify that these methods allow us to consciously control the autonomic nervous system, and parts of the mind and body that science once believed to be under involuntary control. The full Wim Hof Method is not easy to teach in this context, but Parachute Breathing is a profound – and simple – way to shift from sympathetic state (fight or flight) to parasympathetic state, reducing stress and promoting recovery.
Inhale through your nose sharply, trying to fill your diaphragm and lungs to full capacity. The inhale should be short, around 2-3 seconds. Then slowly, very slowly, exhale through the mouth, aiming for a 10 second exhale. For most, 3-5 cycles of this pattern is all it takes to experience a dramatic shift in mental and physiological state. Exhalations are calming and restorative while inhalations charge and activate the body. When our exhalations are longer than the inhalations, we signal our nervous system to move from fight or flight to more restorative parasympathetic states.
Inoculate Yourself to Adversity: When You Face The Cold, You Face Yourself
When we voluntarily expose ourselves to extreme cold, there is no room for bargaining, rationalization or self-deception. It’s just you and space between your ears. Like the Native American lesson about the good wolf vs the bad wolf… Which one wins?
The one you feed.
There is tremendous growth and power in learning to stay calm, rational and focused in the face of discomfort and/or adversity. If you can start your day with a cold shower, you’ll know few things you face the rest of the day will be that tough.
Boost Metabolism and Immunity With Frequent Cold Exposure
The physiological benefits of cold exposure include increased metabolism, shifting of white fat (fat storing) to brown fat (fat burning), and enhancement of the immune system.Research has found that cold shock proteins are activated in as little as 20 seconds at 32 degrees F. Done three times a week, this resulted in a 200-300% increase in norepinephrine, which has profound impacts on our immunity:
“Norepinephrine reduces inflammation through the inhibition of inflammatory cytokines including TNF-alpha (tumor necrosis factor alpha), a molecule involved in almost every human disease from type 2 diabetes to cancer. Inflammatory cytokines also play a role in anxiety and depression, therefore cold exposure may have mood enhancing capabilities.”
The best part of these practices is that they’re readily available and free. This Parachute Breathing can be done anywhere, anytime and you can begin your cold exposure practice today with a cold shower, an ice bath, or an off-season dip in the Atlantic. Always have a swim buddy.
Here’s another health hack after you’ve mastered the Wim Hof Method.