Wim Hof, also known as The Ice Man, is a Dutch extreme athlete famous for his ability to withstand freezing temperatures. He holds world records for submerging his body in ice (swimming and a barefoot marathon on ice and snow). He attributes these feats a method he calls the Wim Hof Method, a combination of frequent cold exposure, breathing techniques (combinations of Pranayamas), and meditation. Hof’s method (hyperventilating) has been scientifically proven to temporarily suppress the innate immune response as well as temporarily increase heart rate and adrenaline levels.
There are many variations of the breathing method. The basic version consists of three phases as follows:
- Controlled breathing: The first phase involves 30–40 cycles of breathing. Each cycle goes as follows: take a deep breath in, fully filling the lungs. Breathe out by passively releasing the breath, but not forcefully. Repeat this cycle at a steady pace thirty to forty times. Hof says that this form of hyperventilation may lead to tingling sensations or light-headedness.
- Breath retention: After completion of the 30–40 cycles of controlled hyperventilation, take a final deep breath in, and let it out. Do not fully empty the lungs; instead, let the air out until you would need to contract your diaphragm to expel more air. Hold the breath until you feel an urge to breathe again (1 to 3 minutes).
- Recovery breath: When a strong urge to breathe occurs, take a full deep breath in. Hold the breath for around 15 to 20 seconds and let it go. The body may experience a normal head-rush sensation.
These three phases may be repeated for three or more consecutive rounds.
BUT! This method may be intimidating for beginners as it requires extended breath-holding. An easier breath control technique for starters is called Anulom Vilom aka alternative nostril breathing. This is much milder and has huge benefits if done regularly.
- Sit with your spine straight, close your eyes.
- Using your right hand, fold your middle and index fingers toward your palm.
- Place your ring finger on the left nostril, close your left nostril with your thumb and inhale through your right nostril, slowly and deeply for 3 counts.
- Now switch and close your right nostril with your thumb and exhale through your left nostril for 6 counts.
- Inhale through the left nostril for 3 counts.
- Next, release your thumb and close your left nostril with your thumb.
- Exhale slowly through the right nostril.