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Wim Hof, also known as The Iceman, is teaching his disciples how to deal with stress in a radically new way

Harry Davies

25 Mayo 2018 13:47

Wim Hof earned his title as The Iceman after taking the longest ice bath in history, along with 25 other world records. More impressively, however, he’s managed to turn this circus act into a serious spiritual institution.

His disciples follow the Wim Hof Method: meditation, cold exposure and a breathing technique that trains practitioners to retain control and keep calm when they face some form of stress. These sources of stress can range from emotional strain, physical illness and, of course, extreme temperatures.

Wim is a multilingual Dutch eccentric who has searched the globe for spiritual meaning. He is between spiritual guru and goofy surf dad, complete with some dodgy dad jokes; charismatic, magnetic and disarming. But this alone doesn’t explain his far-reaching appeal.

Wim has undergone test after test to amass an ever-more convincing collection of studies from respectable institutions that prove his technique really does allow us to change the acidity of our body, store oxygen in our cells and control our immune system. His work with scientists has seen textbooks rewritten and won more than a few critics over.

We can all do it by mastering his method, Wim claims. Thousands have given it a go too, including elite athletes and A-listers like Jim Carrey, Harrison Ford and Beyonce ‘Queen B’ Knowles herself.

Celebrity participation, devoted fans and pricey courses don't necessarily assure authenticity in themselves. For example, a morning session is around $200 and private sessions can run up into the thousands. There is, of course, the possibility that Wim’s enterprise could simply be a money-making business venture - or even a cult. These thoughts didn’t escape me.

The company touts the marketing and costs as part of their mission to bring the practice the attention it deserves – but nevertheless, lucrative spirituality can be hard to swallow. Regardless, I was going to find out what the ice could teach me, with an open mind.

After Wim ran us through the facts and figures, all 200 attendees sat down to meditate together. This is the crux of the entire process, and if you want to know exactly how I felt about it watch the video above.

It is divided into three main parts:

1. Controlled hyperventilation

The first step requires you to give yourself something akin to a panic attack, ideally without the panic. You fill your lungs thirty times with deep and sharp inhalations and then let the air go.

Unlike your typical meditation breath, you disregard the exhale and just let the air out. Your main focus is getting that good oxygen all through your body. I felt pretty light-headed and tingly, but apparently that's totally normal. Once you settle into it, the rush is actually quite exciting.

2. Exhale and hold

Next, you take one final big breath in and empty your lungs.

The realisation that your lungs don’t need to be full for you to hold oxygen is a weird one. As it hits you, you’re given some brain-bending instructions: hold your breath for as long as possible, but breathe if you want to. This brain stretching is part of the process of training your mind to get over matter. After just a couple of rounds, the notion becomes a little clearer – you need to give it a whirl to see how it works.

Disclaimer: make sure you’re in a safe and comfortable place before trying the method.

I ended up holding my breath for a lot longer than I ever thought I could by using my mind to tell my body it was doable. This is also common apparently.

3. Breath retention

When the urge to breathe becomes too much, you take one more big slug of air and hold it for ten or fifteen seconds more. This can cause a serious head rush. It gave me a pulsing sensation not too dissimilar from a laughing gas balloon (if you have ever tried one) as Wim shouts at you from the stage to enjoy the buzz.

Finally, let it out and repeat.

Controlling your urges and impulses is the aim of the game, assuring we are equipped to stay calm and happy in the ice afterwards.

It worked. The ice bath was – well, icy, and took my breath away, but by meeting the rush with this attitude and breathing technique, I was able to enjoy something I would usually travel a long way to avoid.

In fact, I liked it so much I have been practicing the breathing technique every day since, finishing it off with the coldest shower you could imagine. Whatever my reservations about the business side of things, there is an integrity to Wim and his practice that feels useful.

The theory goes that if we can stay calm and happy in the ice, we can do the same with any other upset in our lives. It’s a little early to report on my personal trial but, so far, I feel the beginnings of a new sense of control, stability and acceptance.

If you want to know more about the Wim Hof method, visit his website here.

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