I’ve been doing the Wim Hof breathing method off and on for about a year.
I initially dove into it and discovered the benefits right away, namely, the euphoric feeling I felt in my physiology and the deepening of body awareness that it allowed me (I guess I gravitated to this as a pretty regular meditator and mindfulness practitioner).
I moved away from doing it habitually for a few months but recently I’ve begun practicing it again, in combination with microdosing and taking cold showers.
In my time doing it, I’ve learned a few things that I’ve found helpful for accessing its benefits on a more consistent basis.
Relaxation is key
One thing I learned is that if you are trying too hard, you will tense your body and this will inhibit your breathing. This is more an issue on the inhale.
So after exhaling fully, let your body relax. This includes your legs, hips, stomach, chest, and shoulders. Consciously relax these areas before inhaling and allow them to remain relaxed on the inhale.
On the exhale, Wim directs you to “let go”, so try to let yourself “release” the breath instead of forcing it out.
You don’t have to breathe fast
One of the main critiques I get about the Wim Hof method is that you have to breathe quickly. If you watch the guided breathing tutorial, Wim’s pace starts off pretty quick and this can cause a lot of people to think that they need to breathe fast to do the technique properly but this isn’t really the case.
Wim also says in the beginning “go with the flow of your breath”.
What I’ve learned from experience is that you don’t need to breathe fast but you do need to inhale deeply and breathe cyclically.
Also, inhaling strongly will supercharge the benefits of the breathing technique.
What does “inhaling strongly” mean?
It means to inhale (through the nose preferably) with energy and strength. Do this and take a full breath in.
Inhale through the nose deeply and fully, and with energy, and then let the breath go. Wait for the natural conclusion of the exhale and then inhale strongly again.
Going with the natural flow of the maximum inhale and complete exhale is enough, so you don’t need to artificially speed up your breathing speed.
For the last 5 breaths, you can increase the pace more to supercharge the last 5 breaths, but before that, focus on deep, strong inhales and easy releases, and go in a cycle without stopping.
This article from Healthline explains it simply:
- Take in a strong inhalation through the nose.
- Let out a relaxed exhalation through the mouth.
- Repeat for 30 breaths.
- On the 30th breath, exhale to 90 percent and hold for as long as you can.
- When you feel your body really needs to take a breath, inhale fully and hold for 15 seconds before releasing.
How to Inhale
You can inhale through your nose or your mouth.
Breathing through the nose is preferred for several reasons as detailed in the awesome book Breath by James Nestor.
I have experimented with both and both can produce equal results.
If you have trouble breathing through your nose, the mouth can work just be careful not to open your mouth too widely when you inhale.
Instead, you want to suck air in as if you were sucking air in through a big straw. This helps to control the inflow and helps with keeping the breath more cyclical.
The best way to imagine what this is like is to model how you would breathe if you jumped into freezing water – you would purse your lips and suck air in quickly through your mouth, most likely (at least, this was my experience when I jumped into a cold shower after not having done it for months. I noticed I automatically took in quick, sharp breaths through my mouth!)
Breathing this way won’t hurt your throat AND you’ll be able to take air in quickly which helps with keeping an accelerated pace.
However, if you can, breathing through your nose is easier on the throat and lungs, I find, and you can still achieve the benefits of the Wim Hof method.
What’s happening when you do the Wim Hof breathing method?
Ever wonder why you might feel lightheaded or tingling in the body while doing the Wim Hof method?
It all has to do with the balance of carbon dioxide and oxygen in the body and what happens when you “supercharge” the body, as Wim says.
Essentially, when you’re breathing this way, you are actually reducing oxygen availability in your body. If you were to keep this up for long enough, you would pass out!
This video does a really good job of explaining what is actually going on when you do the Wim Hof breathing method:
There’s a lot more that can be said about the Wim Hof method but I wanted to offer my personal tips for what I found to make doing the Wim Hof Method more consistently powerful and effective. I’ll keep adding to this post as I learn more.
If you want to learn from the man directly, check out Wim’s tutorial on YouTube!