Marta Taylor spends 4 days with Wim Hof where she learns all about his special breathing technique as part of her cryotherapy biohacking experiment.
DAYS 1 - WHAT HAVE I GOT MYSELF IN TO??
Before you start, have you read Part 1 yet??
Going to a Wim Hof retreat is not about luxury camping! No Sirree Bob. It’s all about going back to basics, getting in touch with the elements of nature & keeping it simple & real. Personally, I like 5 star camping & my favourite climate is the desert (no joke)…So why am I, not only doing a cryohacking (cryotherapy + biohacking) experiment, but coming to a Wim Hof workshop in a camping ground and with mulitiple daily ice baths? Yeah…good question! Ha ha…
INTRODUCING WIM & THE WIM HOF METHOD (WHM)
There were 68 participants and only 11 of us were female – an interest dynamic. At 9am we gathered in the small hall prior to breakfast, to experience our first introduction to the Wim Hof method (WHM). I don’t know what I was expecting to be honest. Before the workshop, I was only really focused on the fact that I was going to be cold – whether it was through wearing minimal clothes or sitting in an ice bath. Although the brochure had all the ‘salesy’ stuff in it about becoming superhuman & invincible; and explained that Wim would be teaching us about breathing & meditation. At the time, I thought to myself, ‘what’s this guy going to teach me about breathing & meditation? I’ve been doing it for years’. Boy, was I wrong! But we’ll get to that later.
The hall slowly filled up with everyone sitting around and watching as Wim played the guitar & sang. He was totally absorbed in the music for about 15 minutes during our arrival. Then he stopped and greeted us. This ‘wild’ looking man with his rugged exterior & very Dutch-like way of speaking (ie to the point & no nonsense) introduced himself & launched straight into the deep scientific benefits of this method and also shared with us his very philosophical viewpoints.
Wim also explained that he would teach us how to hold our breath for many minutes and after the 4 days of training, we would be able to consciously control our immune system to protect us from any sickness. We would also be able to stay warm without clothes in the cold or sit in an ice bath comfortably by regulating our body temperature
He’s quite cryptic in some ways as he talks very philosophically with a higher purpose. He is very funny & is self-deprecating. He doesn’t want anyone to think of him as a guru, just as someone who has important information to share because that is his calling.
Before we started breathing, we were given PH strips to check our alkalinity. They were just little strips that you pee on to check your levels of acidity via the colour coding. Mine showed that I was slightly acidic.
We then lay down to do our first breathing session. We started breathing as instructed by Wim. After about 20 minutes, I started getting a bit bored – we were supposed to be experiencing some tingling or ‘something’…but for me there was nothing unusual. I thought to myself…is this it? Is this what I paid all this money for. We kept going. In the background Wim was guiding us “Fully in and let go, fully in, let go!”. Around me, people were having ‘experiences’ – uncontrollable shaking or crying. I kept laying there & breathing…still nothing. From the deep breathing, people were really oxygenating their cells & their bodies & realeasing a lot of ‘shit’ (ie cell memory, emotions, issues etc). I felt disappointed because I felt nothing out of the ordinary. In hindsight, I now realise that as a long term meditator & professional singer, I have already spent over a decade breathing in deeply & enjoying the effects of increased oxygen levels – so in essence, I was already prepped with the basics to learn the WHM.
After a solid 2 hours of breathing, it was now time to re-check our alkalinity…and you know it…data talks baby! I had a glimmer of hope, my alkalinity had changed from being acidic to alkaline – the strip went from being a lime coloured green to a slighter darker green. Wow, that’s cool. Ok…so I might not have had any ‘releasing’ today, but I definitely altered my body through the breathing. Sickness cannot survive in an alkaline environment. I felt like I had just stumbled across something so simple yet truly amazing!
Our session ended up being for 3 hours & we eventually went off to breakfast at midday! Ha!
"The most valuable assets of life....happines, strength & health" Wim Hof
GOING WITH THE FLOW
It was obvious from the way we had been given our schedule (oh yeah, there wasn’t one) and from observing Wim’s manner, to eating breakfast at midday, that this was not going to be a rigorously structured workshop that had been scheduled to the hilt. It was a very ‘go-with-the-flow’ & ‘we’ll work it out, somehow’ setting which, for a person like me, a highly organized project manager, would normally be very frustrating. But I have to say, I made a conscious decision to not have any expectations or feel frustrated by this. Instead, I embraced the fluidity & enjoyed the fact that there was nowhere to really be at all times, except when we were together as a group. Remember those days? Remember when you were a kid & got bored because there was nothing to do? I had that again during these 4 days…and loved it! Although, I have to say, I didn’t really get a chance to be bored…I wandered from one bench – where I sat & contemplated life, to another bench to chat with someone, to going for a walk & feeling the wind on my face…it was so good!!
MY FIRST EVER ICE BATH
Growing up in Australia, avoiding cold water my whole life and the fact that I have previously loved living in the desert (ie Middle East), let’s just say that I had no concept of what an ice bath would really feel like! I mean sure, I knew it was going to be cold, but you don’t really know what that is or what that means until you get in one.
We gathered in the hall at 3pm to hear our instructions from Wim & do some more breathing in preparation for our first ice bath. He then abruptly jumped up & asked a question – a rhetorical one – “are you ready for the ice bath…let’s go!”…ok then…here we go.
We all went outside & gathered around an inflatable pool that was half filled with water & the other half with 100 bags of ice…OMG!!!
This first ice bath experience was going to be for three minutes!….Say what??? I thought the organisers had told me only 1 minute ice baths per day. Let’s just say that I was scared…I didn’t know what to expect. Would the ice be burning my skin so bad that I would get injured. Can you pass out from being too cold? All these things were racing through my mind.
Now, I’m the type of person that the more scared I am of something, the more I want to do it quickly, to get it over & done with. I know if I ponder too much then I might not do it. Having said that though, I definitely did not want to be in the first group of people, so I waited for the third group to get in. Whilst I was waiting, I was doing my WHM breathing to prepare my mind & body. Of course, even though I was focused on this, I was also interested in seeing people’s reactions while they were in the pool.
Ok, now it was my turn! I stepped into the pool…ooh that’s cold! It was 3.4 degrees Celsius. I sat down. OMFG…the ice started burning my legs & my stomach. Then I started to, not shiver, I can’t really explain what it was, but it was similar to when you get ‘winded’…and I could hardly catch my breath. The cold made it feel like I could hardly breathe because it was constricting my chest. After a few seconds of being in there my mind was going crazy – this was the script:
“I want to get out.
I’m going to get out.
I’m getting out.
I can’t do this.
I don’t want to do this.
I don’t need to do this.”
I looked at Wim, who was standing opposite me and looked him in the eyes. I was shaking my head and I wasn’t saying anything but my mind was screaming:
“I can’t do this.
Please help me!
Tell me what to do.”
Wim then said, “You’re doing well…”
I felt comfort & strength in Wim’s confidence in me. But of course, I was having to fight the urge to jump out & find the mental strength to stay in. My mind was still churning:
“Why do I put myself in these situations?
Why am I doing this?”
Then after a while a shift (even though it was still difficult)
“Oh that’s right, I have a steel mind.
I can do whatever I put my mind too.
Look no one else is getting out.
How come they can do it & you can’t.
Come on MT, you can do whatever you set your mind too.
OK, I’ll stay in for another minute & that’s it.
Oh look, you have your breathing under control.
Just keep doing that.
Look, you can’t even feel the cold that much anymore”
The feeling of cold on my body that was submerged in the water seemed to diminish with the focused breathing, although another crazy thing happened, which I’ve never experienced before. My hands were not just tingling from the cold, but they felt like they were fully vibrating. In and out an inch from my body. It was such a weird sensation. I just kept staring at them & shaking them wondering what that was all about.
Anyway, I managed to stay in there till the end. I was so happy about that. Happy that it ended & happy that I have the ability to talk myself into doing whatever I need to do. I DO have a steel mind! #boom
After that it was time to hit the hot shower & man, did it feel good…even if it did sting a bit in the beginning.
We had lunch at 4.30pm and dinner at 8pm.
DAY 1 COMES TO AN END
So that was Day 1. What a trip!. Even though we didn’t physically do a lot, or leave the location, it was such a full day with so much mental & emotional input/output and processing. Day 1 ended for me by about 8.30pm straight after dinner from pure exhaustion. I don’t know if it was just the intake of all that oxygen (including the rural fresh air) or the huge adrenalin rush from the fight or flight mode the ice bath put me in (most likely it was all of it)…but I was definitely happy & glad that I came – even if I was sharing a room with 8 other females in metal bunk beds and sharing a common bath room! he he
Below you will find a link that will take you to a bunch of scientific research that backs up Wim’s breathing methods. He is very keen to show that there is a scientific basis to his technique so that people take it seriously and as Wim would say, “Just do it!”.
A warning from Innerfire.nl – important message, please read carefully:
The breathing exercise has a profound effect and should be practiced in the way it is explained. Always do the breathing exercise in a safe environment (e.g. sitting on a couch/floor) and unforced.
Never practice the exercises before or during diving, driving, swimming, taking a bath or in any other environment/place where, should you pass out, a serious injury could occur. Wim Hof breathing may cause tingling sensations and/or lightheadedness. If you’ve fainted, it means that you went to far. Take a step back next time.
The cold is a powerful force. We strongly advise to gradually build up exposing yourself to the cold. Always train without force and listen to your body carefully. If it is not practiced responsible, there is a risk of hypothermia.
Do not practice the method during pregnancy or when having epilepsy. Persons with cardiovascular health issues, or any other (serious) health conditions, should always consult a medical doctor before starting with the Wim Hof Method.