Living authentically – something I have always believed I did until I discovered the Wim Hof Method (WHM). For me WHM is a vessel to allow myself to truly connect within.
Although I had heard of the “Iceman” a few years ago, a Dutch-born world record holder, adventurer, daredevil and human guinea pig best known for his preternatural ability to withstand extreme cold and hence his nickname. It was actually listening to a podcast about Wim Hof’s personal journey that resonated with me. He had me hooked on being able to tackle depression, chronic pains, inflammation and autoimmune diseases.
The more I uncovered I realised he challenged everything I thought I knew about human potential and left me with one indelible, ineradicable truth: We are all sitting on top of vast reservoirs of untapped, almost superhuman capabilities.
Rooted in the ancient yogic tradition of pranayama and canonized for a modern audience as The Wim Hof Method, Wim asserts that he can “turn his own thermostat up”. His experimentation and experience with specific and teachable breathing techniques has enabled him to consciously activate his sympathetic nervous system through sheer power of the mind.
This may sound far-fetched, but he is a holder of over 25 world records:
- shirtless adorned in nothing but shorts, Wim scaled above death zone altitude (22,000 ft) on Mount Everest;
- barefoot, shirtless and again in nothing but shorts, Wim completed a full marathon above the polar circle in Finland;
- he summited Kilimanjaro in less than 2 days, again in nothing but shorts;
- above the polar circle, he swam a world record 66 meters under a meter of ice;
- he can sit in an ice bath for almost 2 hours;
- in 2011, he ran a full marathon in the Namib Desert without water
But there’s more: Under medical supervision, in 2011 Wim voluntarily allowed himself to be injected with a poisonous E. coli endotoxin certain to make any human being very ill. The idea was to demonstrate that by using his meditation and breathing techniques he could effectively control his autonomic immune system response and nullify any deleterious health implications. Wim did not get sick. All of this is seemingly insane. But Wim is hardly a carnival sideshow act – the physical stunts merely a means of attracting scientific community attention for purposes of study and documentation.
Ask Wim and he will tell you that he is nothing special. He declares his feats replicable and his methods teachable – a curriculum that holds the potential to unlock a battery of human superpowers that extend well beyond extreme temperature tolerance to include control over a wide array of sympathetic nervous system and metabolic ‘reptilian brain’ functions previously thought to be beyond conscious manipulation.
Case in point? After a mere 4 days of instruction, Wim led a group of brave, volunteering students through his endotoxin exposure experiment (again, under medical supervision and scientific observation). Not one of them got sick.
He is now devoted to spreading the message of how to use his methods of breathing to maximize people’s physical and mental potential.
As one of his instructors I share my own experiences with the Wim Hof Method. My defining moment was when I was only wearing shorts and bra half way up a mountain at – 19°Celsius in winds up to 80mph when I felt my Innerfire for the first time. The cold led me deeper into myself because I had to consciously reconnect into my physiology to endure it.
The experience was empowering and since then, I have applied the simplicity of WHM into my daily life. This enabled me to walk The Camino de Santiago in Winter in shorts, run my first marathon and weeks later my ultra-marathon in the Lake District without any training. It has also allowed me to reflect where I have compromised myself and feel a paradigm shift in life’s everyday emotional ups and downs.
Hence one of my favourite quotes by Wim is:
“I do not fear death, I fear not to live fully.”