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Wim Hof Breathing – Better than Panadol?


Wim Hof, often known as “The Iceman” has an app, website and Youtube channel dedicated to cold exposure and deep breathing as well as 21 Guinness World Records. Check him beating his own world record here:

He isn’t just making this up either, it has been scientifically proven in a 2014 study that his “Wim Hof Method” breathing cycle can control the sympathetic nervous system and immune system, coupled with a 2018 study that showed the method activated regions in the brain responsible for pain suppression. 

So breathing is just as good as Panadol right? Sort of. Before we get started on his method, please know Wim has been training for years. These effects will not happen overnight.

Who is Wim?

Wim Hof is a dutch extreme athlete devoted to raising awareness about mindfulness, breathing and cold exposure. He does this via several social media platforms, his recently published book, and his phone application. Hof states the trauma and sadness of the passing of his first wife lead him to develop techniques to face low temperature conditions. 

What is the Wim Hof Method?

The Wim Hof Method can be described as a “controlled hyperventilation with periods of breath retention”, combined with cold exposure and meditation. We know it sounds scary, but it’s been proven by thousands of participants all over the world, as well as at live events run by Wim. 

Here’s how to start: (courtesy of Wikipedia)

  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. 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.
  4. Repeat 3 or more consecutive rounds.

According to Wim, this “oxygenates the cells”. What actually happens, according to preliminary research is that the hyperventilation suppresses the innate immune response, as well as temporarily increasing the heart rate and releasing adrenaline. Check out Wim’s guided version here:

Combine this with frequent cold exposure and daily meditation and you will be seeing the benefits within a week. These benefits include but aren’t limited to: 

  • Boosting your immune system
  • Natural Anti-Inflammatory
  • Better Sleep
  • Improve your Mental Health
  • Relieve Stress
  • Improve Cold tolerance
  • Improve your mind-body connection
  • Controlling the autonomic nervous system

Don’t believe him?

We’re not surprised. It sounds like complete garbage, but upon further inspection thousands of people have claimed they have seen the benefits, and the most damning evidence of all is a scientific study conducted at the Radboud University Medical Centre. Peter Pickkers and his PhD student Matthijs Kox took blood samples from Wim before and after his breathing method, an 80 minute ice-bath and meditation, and concluded that after this regime he had lower proteins associated with the immune response. 

To further this study, the researchers injected Wim with an endotoxin designed to produce flu-like symptoms such as a headache, fever and shivering. Hof had none of these symptoms. None. They claimed Wim was a one-off human. To prove that his method works, Wim trained some volunteers for a week, and subjected them to the same endotoxin. They too had minimal or no symptoms. Crazy.

The Wim Hof Method is definitely worth trying out. Use your common sense, and don’t try his breathing method submerged in water. Including mindful breathing and meditation into your daily routine is beneficial on it’s own, but including cold exposure is going to give your immune system a great boost and really wake you up! 

I personally do this method every day. 5 minutes after I wake up, I do the breathing exercises and follow it a little bit later with a 90 second cold shower. It kick-starts my day much more than coffee. Give it a go and let us know how you go by getting in contact on our social pages! 

  • Kaiya King – Author



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