The basic function of our human life is breath. With breathing exercises we can build our immune system, increase our energy levels, reduce stress, improve our sleep… I could go on all day but those are a great start.
Here is what to do at least once a day… (we will practice this breathing exercise at most of our classes for the next couple of weeks at least).
The first phase of the technique involves thirty cycles of breathing. Take a powerful breath in, fully filling the lungs. Breathe out by passively releasing the breath, but not actively exhaling. Repeat this cycle at a steady fast pace thirty times.
The body may experience normal tickling vibrations, or light-headedness. You may feel a rush of adrenaline. This is good. After completion of all the cycles of controlled hyperventilation, take another deep breath in, and let it out completely. Then, hold the breath for as long as possible. When you feel that you have to breathe, take a full deep breath in. Hold the breath for around 15–20 seconds then let it go.
The body may experience a normal head-rush sensation. This process is repeated three times. Take it lightly at first and make sure to watch a few of Wim Hof’s educational videos before you attempt to try this.
Another inspiration for this breathing technique, other than the cold, came from Tummo meditation. One of the uses of the meditation is to generate inner heat and unlock what is described as coiled energy at the base of the spine. The meditation seeks to activate the energy in the chakras across the body then use this energy for a specific purpose.
Breath retention and deep breathing are key components of the practice as it allows the energy to accumulate with each repetition, generating internal heat. This is why Tummo means the fierce goddess of heat and passion in Tibetan Buddhist tradition
Many of us are unconscious that we only take in small sips of air that stick just below the throat and we thus receive the same energy equal to that which we bring in. Hof understood that the more oxygen we can gather and hold in our bodies, the more powerful the body becomes.
Breathe properly and oxygen levels in the tissues surge and adrenaline floods the body, granting strength that we did not realise we had. He learned of this logic through his practice of submerging himself in the cold water. Hof’s breathing technique, then, helps pull in more oxygen than is usually needed and stimulate the automatic nervous system.
Adrenaline increases strength, awareness, breathing rate, energy and body temperature. If you can control your adrenaline, as Hof claims, you can control your body.
Here, Wim Hof realised the tremendous potential of heightened oxygen levels. Cold exposure now became a test that would demonstrate this potential to the world. The two elements — the cold and breathing — would come together to form what is now known as the ‘Wim Hof Method.’