Updated: Jun 25, 2021
Before I embark on this review, it's essential to clarify that I have no medical training. Therefore, my experiences are only reported as that and should not be seen as medical fact or guidance.
Wim Hoff is most famous for his record-breaking feats under extreme cold exposure. Known as 'The Ice Man', I had heard of him but written him off initially as some nutter who likes to torture himself. After all, I'd lived in Thailand in a hut with no aircon, everyone that knows me knows I am a heat worshipper, but the more I researched, the more credibility I encountered. Now, exposure to cold is a huge part of Wim's practices, and I will be reviewing this in a separate blog, but breathing techniques are the most accessible and least scary part, so it's a great place to start!
I was initially attracted by the many reported benefits, which extended far past my primary need for help with my mental health:
1. Increase in Energy
2. Improved Mental health
3. Boosted Immune system
4. Increase in Sport Performance (In line with the energy thing)
5. Stress relief
6. Better Sleep
7. Faster Workout Recovery
8. Improved Willpower
9. Increase in Concentration
10. Cold Tolerance
12. Decreased inflammation
Could all of this be true? Another fabulous thing about this treatment is that it is drug and financially free 😊 . I would be sparing my body any nasty chemicals, and I could start straight away. In short, I had nothing to lose.
The first time I lay down on my bed (you can sit or lay down in a safe place, I prefer the relaxation of laying down), listening to the guided breathing on YouTube (Guided Wim Hof Method Breathing - YouTube), I felt a bit daft. Essentially making yourself hyperventilate by breathing all the way in and exhaling 30 – 40 times (many followers call this power breathing). For a more detailed description of this technique, please check out this informative page: Wim Hof breathing exercise explained in 6 steps (thoughtbrick.com)
The first thing I noticed is that it's noisy, breathing in like you're inhaling laughing gas and exhaling with a simpering release. By breath 20, I began to feel light-headed, later came tingling fingers and toes, followed by a gentle ringing in my ears. It sounds unpleasant, but it wasn't. I was focused solely on my breathing; this freed my thoughts from the chaos that had been raging. By the time I exhaled and held my breath, for as long as was comfortable; a 'mind blowing' 55 seconds, I was utterly relaxed. Floaty is the best way I can describe the sensation, which increased round after round along with the time I could hold my breath.
On that first day I enjoyed 3 rounds of power breathing, followed by breath hold, more experienced practitioners often do more rounds and hold their breath for far longer, but this is not a competition). When I finished my session, I sat up, smiling, as if awakening from a pleasant dream. What a perfect way to start the day!
My anxiety noticeably eased after about 3 days. Whether from the breathing itself or from the technique's meditative nature, I'm not sure. I am confident that taking time away from my busy days is beneficial and calming. Sleep was the next thing to improve, after around a week, I was dropping off more quickly and waking far less often.
I was so encouraged by the immediate results that I started doing it every day, but as a Mother, with children who like to get up at 6.a.m, I struggled to keep this going. After around three weeks, life got in the way, and I dropped down to about 3/4 times a week. There are times that I miss a week, and I really feel the difference. I can only describe it as an edginess that creeps in; the odd caught breath and racing heart dissipate when I resume my practice, which is proof enough for me that I should keep up with this.
In the long term, I have noticed that my hayfever symptoms have vastly improved this year, and for the first time I can remember, I no longer take medication for them. Now, here's the biggy, and it is terrific! This technique eased migraines and hangovers! It can be hard to get going when your head is pounding, self-induced or otherwise, but this is an aid to my recovery, which often renders painkillers superfluous.
After approximately 5 months of practice my breath holding tends to range from 1 minute 45 - 2 minutes 30, the longer I hold my breath the more intensely I feel the benefits, which is a result I've heard echoed by others but I can't pretend that I know why. I have not gone back to taking anti-depressants (although I have also embarked on other types of therapy so I cannot pretend that this was the magic that cured me).
My advice if you are interested in this practice is to give it a shot! Loads of information is available via Breathing techniques | Wimhofmethod.com , YouTube documentaries and FaceBook Groups for free.
There are many Wim Hoff books, tutors, camps, and seminars around, with varying price tags attached. From my experience, they are not flogging false hope or quack medication. I have found such wonderful benefits that I will be partaking in a camp later in 2021 (dependent on Covid restrictions) and hope to provide a full review for you then!
I would LOVE to hear your experiences of this technique, good or bad. If you have been on a retreat please let me know how you got on and if you would recommend it.