Breathing to reduce stress and for good health – the Wim Hof method

A few months ago I went to a workshop on the Wim Hof method which culminated in taking an ice bath. Since then I’ve been using the breathing method for taking cold showers and find it really helps to be able to settle into the experience and enjoy it rather than finding it unpleasant. I’ve wanted to explore it in more detail and this week was watching these videos where Wim Hof describes how to breathe to prepare for the ice bath/cold shower and then the follow up exercises to do before getting into the cold water. The breathing method in itself will be very beneficial even if you don’t go on to take a cold shower, as it helps to regulate the body.

Why take a cold shower? Below are some of the benefits:

•aids fat loss by causing brown fat to be burnt up and the production of white (good) fat.
•helps treat anxiety, depression and helps with stress management
•increases lifespan
•strengthens nervous system
•strengthens immune system
•regulates blood sugar levels
•improves sleep quality
•increases will power
•increases growth hormones and testosterone
•decreases inflammation

Since starting this a few months ago I’ve found I have become more productive and feel more energised and alert. Set backs seem easier to deal with….after all, I’ve started my day by facing the most unpleasant  part of it by stepping into an icy cold shower, after that it only gets easier! I’m also noticing a greater sense of purpose and focus as it takes a moment of determined intention to step into the water.

The video below takes you through the method, which can be an effective morning meditation taking only 5 – 10 minutes.

  • Do not do this breathing method in a swimming pool, driving or operating any machinery – it may result in you feeling light headed or dizzy.
  • Do the breathing on an empty stomach.
  • Breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth.

Lie down and take breaths into the belly, then allow the breath to fill the chest, and finally fill the head – as if the breath were coming all the way into your skull. Then breath out through your mouth but without fully emptying your lungs. Your in breath will be longer than your out breath.Do 30 of these breaths, then breathe outand hold for as long as possible with your breath out. When you need to breathe in take a breath and hold for 15 seconds. Then start round 2. Do three or four rounds. Then lay and feel the experience.

It’s natural to feel light headed, to feel tingles and to hear sounds. Just keep breathing.

You can then go on to take a cold shower if you wish. If you do this then follow the next video and do the exercises after doing the breathing in the video above.

Breathe to a rhythm of 4 in and 8 out as you do the horse posture. Then keep this 4/8 rhythm going as you get ready to step into the shower.   Breathe in before going into the water, step into the cold water  as you hold your breathe and slowly breathe out for a count of 8, breathing in for a count of 4 and keeping this 4/8 rhythm going.

After a few minutes of being under the cold water leave, dry yourself and then do a faster paced horse stance set of 4/8 breaths if you need to warm yourself. You may find you are able to start to warm your body as you are in the water just through the breathing.

When I did the ice bath workshop I didn’t feel cold as my body felt so warm from doing the horse stance exercise before getting in, and then the 4/8 breath kept me feeling at ease as I lay in the water. There is a Tibetan practice for warming the body when meditating in cold conditions and this seems to be similar, tapping into the ability to generate heat from within the body.

For a more detailed set of instructions you can visit Wim Hof’s website.

 

 

The video below guides you through the breathing method….the pauses are for 2 minutes so trust your own body and if you need to take a breath in do so, but explore how you can extend the pauses until you can hold the breathe out for 2 minutes. Remember you are not fully emptying your lungs as you breathe out, just letting it go.
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