The Wim Hof Method; How to Relax, De-stress and Unwind
In recent years, relaxation techniques, such as meditation, deep breathing and yoga have become more popular than ever. Whilst none of these are new practices, many people have started to incorporate mindfulness strategies into their daily routines as a way of staying calm during the pandemic and finding some much-needed peace.
It’s safe to say we all go through periods of high stress at different points in our lives. Indeed, the prolific working from home scenario we find ourselves in has blurred the lines between work and home, leading to more of us checking emails, social media and work phones outside of office hours. Many of us are feeling like we are ‘always on’, desperate for some much-needed self-care and relaxation time.
Relaxation and Mindful Practices
I like to relax by exercising, going for a cycle or a walk, or reading a book. I find I really benefit from keeping in a routine, staying active, eating well and feeling healthy. And although all of these activities go a long way to making me feel happy in myself, I wasn’t entirely sure they were truly allowing my mind and body to fully switch off. I decided to try something new…
I recently started reading the Sunday Times’ Best Seller, The Wim Hof Method: Activate Your Potential, Transcend Your Limits and decided it was time to put his methods into practice.
Benefits of The Wim Hof Breathing Method
For those who aren’t familiar with the Wim Hof Method, it is a guided breathing practice aimed at clearing the mind and reducing stress. There are many benefits to the Wim Hof Breathing, including;
- Reduction in stress
- Faster recovery from physical exertion
- Improved sleep
- Superior sports performance
- Enhanced creativity
- Greater focus and mental clarity
Learning to breathe using The Wim Hof Method
Wim Hof recommends using the following technique to enhance your relaxation:
- Start by getting into a comfortable position, where you can expand your lunges freely and fully relax. I choose to sit crossed-legged on the floor, but you can also lie down if this works better for you.
- When ready, begin by closing your eyes and clearing your mind. Take a full breath in and let go (as Wim would say). This is your basic breath and the idea is to repeat this technique 30-40 times.
When you are breathing, the trick is to focus on not releasing all of the air you inhale, as the goal is to intake as much oxygen as possible, without forcing an out-breath. This helps to pump more blood into the body, heighten your mental state and increase relaxation more.
- When you reach your final rep, inhale one last time, exhale, and hold, without taking another breath in. When you feel the urge to breathe again, take a full deep breath in, and hold for 15 seconds. This completes a full round.
- Repeat 2-3 more times until you feel completely relaxed.
Personally, I find that 4 full rounds is perfect for helping me to feel fully relaxed in a deep, alkalized state. I have tested out 6 rounds before and I was really amazed at how it made me feel, both throughout and afterwards. I truly feel like my mind has been able to actually relax and unwind by the end of each session. I couldn’t recommend it more highly if you are looking for a new way to relax! You may find yourself in a deeper state of relaxation than you ever have before.
Wim Hof’s Cold Showers
Wim Hof isn’t also known as the ‘Ice Man’ for nothing. He is king of the cold and highly recommends the benefits of taking a cold shower.
Whilst this is certainly not to everyone’s taste, I have added it into my routine and enjoyed the many benefits it can bring – once I got over the shock!
Incorporating Cold Showers into your Routine
Wim Hof recommends taking cold showers after your meditation, but it is really up to you how you incorporate this practice into your routine.
Start by taking your regular warm shower and at the end turn the shower to the coldest setting. At first, this will be a real shock to the system but try not to panic. You are in control and can step out at any time.
The idea is to slowly increase the length of time you stay under the cold water for. Start slow, staying in for up to 15 seconds and increase with confidence.
Once you hit around 30-40 seconds, I can testify to the amazing feelings you experience. I always come out of the shower with a smile on my face, feeling alive and re-invigorated. It seems so wrong to finish a lovely warm shower with a frosty one, but give it a chance, it may be just for you!
The Benefits of Taking Cold Showers
According to Wim Hof, cold showers can have an extremely positive effect on your physical and mental health. Here are a few of the results you can expect to feel over time:
- Reduced stress: in response to the shock change in temperature, your body goes into a slightly stressed state, releasing hormones associated with such a response. Over time, this leads to a process called hardening, where your Central Nervous System (CNS) becomes more acclimatised to handling moderate levels of stress, and thus, better at dealing with it.
- Increased alertness: cold temperatures stimulate the body to increase the depth of breathing. This supports the reduction of CO2 and increase of O2 in the body, enabling you to concentrate more and find a greater level of focus.
- Greater immune response: studies have shown that taking regular cold showers increases white blood cell (WBC) count in the body via an increase in metabolic rate. WBCs are responsible for protection against disease, supporting overall health.
- Weight loss: exposure to cold temperatures has been scientifically proven to increase metabolic rate, and in turn, stimulate the generation of brown fat. These fat tissues are responsible for burning calories for energy.
- Improved willpower: enduring cold temperatures is not an easy, or initially enjoyable, activity. The more you can channel your mind to overcome the struggle, the greater willpower and determination you can find over time. Fully transferable into other forms of life!
My Experiences of Wim Hof’s Relaxation Practices
Since I have started including both Wim Hof’s breathing techniques and cold showers into my routine, I’ve definitely noticed an improvement in my ability to calm my mind and relax. I am absolutely amazed at the power of simply breathing, and the peace and focus it brings. I would highly recommend it to everyone!
I plan to continue practising my breathing and want to advance my cold-water exposure over time, starting with ice baths at home and progressing to the open water.
If you are interested in giving the breathing a try, you can download the Wim Hof Method app and use the 5 free guided breathing sessions to see how you can benefit from the practice. I’d be happy to talk to you about my experiences as well, so feel free to get in touch.
You can also find lots of information about all Wim Hof’s techniques here, so read up before giving it a go for yourself.
(There’s 8kg’s of ice in that bath but you can hardly see it!)
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