Wim Hof, also known as ‘The Iceman’ is a Dutch man and creator of the Wim Hof Method (WHM), who rose to fame when he began bagging seemingly impossible world firsts like;
- Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in nothing but shorts,
- running a half marathon above the Arctic Circle completely barefoot,
- hanging on just one finger at an altitude of 2,000 meters,
- running a marathon in the Namib Desert without drinking any liquids,
- and standing in a container, neck deep in ice cubes for almost 2 hours.
The Iceman holds 21 Guinness World Records, and describes himself as a ‘circus act to scientific breakthrough and global health leader
He uses ‘cold, hard nature‘ as his teacher, from whom he has learned to control his breathing, his heart rate, and his ability to effortlessly withstand extreme temperatures.
A superhuman? Well not according to him! Wim Hof’s motto is ‘what I am capable of, everybody can learn’.
So what can yogis learn from the Iceman and the Wim Hof Method?
In this article, we are going to take a look at:
- Wim Hof’s long standing relationship with yoga,
- What the Wim Hof Method is and how you can practice it,
- and we will unpick the science behind the Wim Hof Method.
Wim Hof On The Meaning Of Yoga
Wim shared a video to his YouTube channel on International Yoga day.
In it, he speaks about the meaning of yoga.
He describes yoga as the connection between mind and body that makes you able to control the depth of your body.He describes yoga’s poses- the asanas- as being tools through which we can make our soul’s seat (our body) strong and by which we can gain more body awareness.
What Is Wim Hof’s Favourite Asana?
This one’s easy.
If you Google Wim Hof, you’ll be able to see pictures of him everywhere doing the splits, or Hanumanasana.
Apart from the fact that he ‘just loves’ this pose, he claims that it is very good for the blood flow in ‘the loins’.
Wim, always a character, has his own name for the Hanumanasana; the ‘get your genitals on the floor exercise’!
How Wim Hof Got Interested In Yoga
In 1972, when Wim was 12, he was already interested in psychology, Hinduism and Buddhism, and their music and scriptures.
He was intrigued by the teachings that were coming across to Europe from the East. It was mysterious to him, and he thought it could lead him to a deeper meaning…
…and he was perhaps a little influenced by the Beatles too.
So he taught himself how to read and write in Sanskrit so that he could have a more complete understanding of the ancient scriptures.
Once he dove deep into the yogic scriptures he discovered, that for him, they were the best non dogmatic ancient technique.
Wim Hof’s Yoga Manuscript
After studying them, Wim felt that the scriptures needed to be updated so that their ‘real depth’ was made clearer for the modern reader!
So in 1988, when Wim was 28, he wrote a manuscript, with his old typewriter, on what he had learned from Hinduism and yoga.
The old style traditional yoga appealed to him but he found it to be too esoteric, too far away in history.
So Wim Hof intuitively developed his own style of yoga.
Wim Hof’s Invented Asanas
In his manuscript, Wim documented many of the asanas which he had invented.
With his knowledge of Sanskrit, he was able to name these poses in alignment with the language of the ancient asanas.
One of the more famous poses which was invented by Wim is the Eka Hasta Sarira Utthana Asana. You may have seen him perched on an icy mountaintop practicing this pose.
In this asana, the yogi balances their entire body on one hand, their supporting elbow digging deeply into their core, whilst their body is lifted up off the ground, hovering parallel to it.
It is an incredibly difficult asana to master and it takes a lot of hard work and full body awareness.
This is what the pose means:
Eka Hasta = One limb
Sarira = Body
Utthana = Lifting up
What Is The Wim Hof Method?
The Wim Hof Method is a practice based around three key pillars; breathing, cold therapy, and commitment.
The first pillar of the Wim Hof Method in a specialized breathing technique that is meant to elevate the level of oxygen in the blood.
The particular technique Wim Hof uses (which is outlined below) has deep roots in ancient Pranayama breathing practices.
2. Cold Therapy
Pillar number two is cold therapy.
Exposure to the cold can take on may forms, from cold showers, to wild swimming, to ice baths.
3. Commitment (or Meditation)
The third and final pillar of the WHM.
Commitment makes for a strong foundation for the other two pillars.
The Benefits Of The Wim Hof Method
According to Wim Hof, a consistent and committed practice of the prescribed breathing techniques and cold therapy can unlock a host of incredible benefits, including:
- Increased willpower
- Increased energy
- Heightened focus & determination
- Better sleep
- Lowered stress levels
- A stronger immune system
All of these listed benefits have the potential to massively boost your yoga journey.
The Wim Hof Breathing Technique- 5 step Guide
This is a simple five step guide to pillar one of the Wim Hof Method- breathing.
1. Relax and breathe deeply for 60 breaths.
2. On your final breath, draw in a deep inhalation and hold your breath for at least 15 seconds, or for as long as feels comfortable.
3. As you hold your breath, squeeze your whole body ‘towards your head’. Do this by tensing your pelvic floor muscles and allowing the pressurised feeling to move up your spine and to the crown of your head.
4. Relax, let your breath go. This marks the end of round one.
5. Repeat steps 1 through to 5 until you have done 3 rounds.
Is The Wim Hof Method Legit?
You are right to be sceptical.
Quite often, when things seem too good to be true, they are. Especially when you are being nudged towards buying something.
You also have to be mindful when you get immersed in a community which seems to place a lot of emphasis on one particular individual, or ‘guru’- in this case, The Iceman.
So is Wim’s practice science, or is it a bit cult-ish?
Scientific Backing For The Wim Hof Method
Wim Hof, although not a medical professional himself, regularly subjects himself to scientific scrutiny, paving the way for groundbreaking research that is challenging our current understanding of the mind body connection.
Wim Hof has worked alongside universities and research institutions, including the Dutch Radboud University and Wayne State University, in Michigan USA.
But it’s not just Wim who’s gone under the microscope! Many of his students who practice the method have also undergone scientific investigation.
The studies have suggested that there is a scientific basis behind Wim’s claims.
There is evidence to suggest, from the studies, that implementing the method does in fact reduce inflammation, ease symptoms of pain and improve immune function.
For a deeper look at the science behind the Wim Hof Method, check out this page on the Wim Hof website. It takes you through a timeline of the studies he has gone through, and it gives you access to a free e-book which details the science.
4 Ways You Can Practice The Wim Hof Method
Sounds great, right!?
Luckily, Wim Hof’s life goal is to share his technique with as many people as possible.
This means that there are quite a few ways that you can practice the Wim Hof Method:
1. Via The Wim Hof App
This app is free to download and offers 5 free guided breathing exercises and a free 20 day cold shower challenge.
After these free trials, you should be armed with the skills to be able to continue with the method on your own.
But there is a premium version available, which grants you unlimited access.
This premium version costs €38.99 / 45 USD / £33 yearly.
The premium version also gives you access to different challenges, including flexibility challenges, push up challenges, and ab exercise challenges.
2. Through Online Video Courses
Wim has recorded two different online video courses:
- ‘The Fundamentals‘ a 10 week course: 40 lessons, €249.00 / $299.00
- ‘The Classic‘ a 10 week course: 39 lessons, €179.00 / $199.00
3. With In Person Coaching
There are certified Wim Hof Method coaches based all over the world.
Wim himself also leads week long winter expeditions and will often host various talks, conferences, and in-person courses.
4. On YouTube
Or, you can watch this 11 minute YouTube video which will guide you through the Wim Hof breathing technique.
Just find yourself a comfortable spot and get ready to tune in to your breath.
Want to know more about the mind boggling world of Wim Hof?
Check out this documentary for a deep dive into his world, his philosophy, and his practice: