A man climbed Mount Everest shirtless, wearing only a pair of shorts. Though this may seem unbelievable, it’s true. This feat was accomplished by a Dutch man named Wim Hof, otherwise known as “The Iceman.” Hof’s nickname comes from his seemingly superhuman ability to withstand the extreme cold. He currently holds 26 world records; including the world’s longest ice bath, which he endured for nearly two hours. Though he seems superhuman, Hof claims that everyone can learn to do what he does.
Hof has developed a method anyone can follow. Hof’s method includes a regimen of cold exposure and breathing techniques. The breathing technique is an adaptation of the Tibetan Tummo breathing meditation, which, according to Hof, raises one’s body temperature. The steps of Hof’s breathing technique to raise body temperature are as follows:
The deep breaths in step two saturate the cells in your body with oxygen, creating the tingling sensation. The saturation allows most people who try this technique to hold their breath for much longer than they ever have before. Retention without any air in the lungs teaches your body to more efficiently utilize the oxygen already in your cells without the constant supply of air coming from your lungs. Once all of the oxygen in your cells is depleted, step four’s inhale replenishes your cells with a rush of new oxygen. To me, this feels like an intense whole-body vibration that warms my body and leaves me clear-headed.
Hof claims that this breathing increases the alkalinity of one’s blood. This increase of alkalinity is good for the body because stress causes the blood to become more acidic, which can be unhealthy if it persists chronically. Aside from combating the negative health effects of stress, he also claims that his breathing can help fight a whole host of diseases and autoimmune disorders—too many to list here.
As evidence for the validity of his findings, Hof recruited a group of ordinary people to take part in a study in which the participants were injected with an endotoxin. The endotoxin should have induced hours of intense fever-like symptoms; however, everyone in the experimental group who performed Hof’s breathing method experienced diminished or no symptoms. The researchers at the University Medical Center St. Radboud in Nijmegen concluded that using this technique allowed participants to voluntarily control their autonomic nervous system; which was previously thought impossible.
Hof claims that this breathing technique, in combination with regular cold exposure, such as replacing your warm showers with cold ones, can cause increased energy, better sleep, heightened focus and determination, improved sports performance, reduced stress, greater cold tolerance, and increased creativity.
One major benefit I have noticed after daily practice of the method is that I have quit habitually biting my nails. Personally, though I have noticed these benefits, my favorite part of the technique is the high feeling of having all my cells flushed with fresh oxygen after holding my breath.