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Review of Wim Hof Fundamentals

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Review of Wim Hof Fundamentals
Answer
10/3/18 4:15 AM
Hi everyone.  I have just finished the 10-week Wim Hof fundamentals course, and I thought the DhO might be interested in my observations.  Wim is well known for breath work, concentration, and cold resistance – his closed Facebook group now has over 100,000 members. A lot of people think he is practising Tummo (Tibetan Inner Fire meditation). This doesn’t seem to be the case, but he clearly does have a lot of meditation knowledge.

Wim sounds like a bit of a crank at times, but in fact he is the real deal. He holds 26 world records for endurance and cold exposure, including records for sitting in Perspex boxes up to his neck in ice, hanging by one finger, swimming under the ice, and running half marathons in the arctic circle wearing nothing but his shorts. He can partially control his autonomic nervous system, as shown by his ability to suppress flu-like symptoms that are supposed to arise after the injection of endotoxins. And he can teach other people to resist severe cold and resist endotoxins in in as little as two weeks.
 
BUT BE WARNED:  These is risk of hypothermia and fainting with his method, so do not try it without reading the safety instructions.  www.wimhofmethod.com. Also he says NEVER FORCE – listen to your body and take it easy.
 
His method has three components – the breathing exercise, cold exposure, and mindset practice through stretching and endurance exercises.

(1) The breathing exercise is a kind of controlled hyperventilation, followed by a long hold on the outbreath (building up to well over 90 seconds), and then a short hold on the inbreath for recovery. This is repeated three or four times. The purpose is to charge the body with oxygen, change the blood chemistry to increase oxygen utilisation, develop concentration, and prise open control of autonomic bodily systems. 

(2) The cold exposure builds up to a 5-minute cold shower and later an ice bath. The purpose is to exercise the vascular system, reduce inflammation, build mental determination, and learn to shut off heat transfer between the skin and the body core. Wim also encourages outdoor yoga, swimming and walking in cold environments.

(3) The stretching and endurance exercises vary, with different yoga poses used in different weeks of the course. The purpose is to prepare the body for the breathing, to develop determination, and to learn to connect the breath to the body. These exercises also develop access to some autonomic systems – such as the ability to breathe away lactic acid build up. Really!

There are scientific accounts of what is going on, but I’m not sure they are completely accurate. So all I will say is that there have now been quite a few studies of Wim’s abilities, including one published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  The mechanisms are subject to disagreements, but the results seem indisputable.
 
Anyway, back to tummo. I didn’t come across any Tummo visualisations in the course. But by halfway through the course, after four or five minutes of the cold shower, I would feel quite energetic, my torso would go bright red, and when I left the shower I would find that I was sweating slightly, despite the water being 56 dF.  So there is definitely activation of some kind of inner heating system.
 
There is also anapanasati. Wim describes the breathing exercise as a ‘four minute meditation’ and after doing this three or four times I find myself totally relaxed, mind calm and clear, and what I believe to be access concentration is right there, if I want it. It seems a much easier route than struggling with dullness and distraction in standard anapanasati.
 
The method is also soaked in mindfulness of sensations. If mindfulness slips during the cold shower, then I start to get cold and chill my core. The stretching is full of mindfulness, and progress occurs through close connection of breathing, mindfulness of the muscles and commitment. The retention of the outbreath involves total mindfulness of the body (Wim says ‘Feel the magic’ and ‘Go deep’). It is like a simultaneous whole-body scan and includes skin tingling, deep muscle sensations, and then later cold sensations, and other changes (a bit like mild piti, but more to do with muscles than the nerve system). This focus on mindfulness really builds concentration.
 
The weekly exercises are also cunningly constructed to progressively loosen up the body, build strength and activate different glands/chakras. The method gives huge benefits in energy and persistence, and mood, and leads to much more active, positive engagement with the world.
 
I have observed many tangible physical benefits. This includes better vascular condition of the legs, rapid wound healing, improved skin colour (that healthy ruddy tone), much reduced allergies, greatly increased exercise endurance, very rapid exercise recovery, improved mood, better sleep and so on. For example, I now charge up and then do 50 push ups on the outbreath retention, two mornings out of every three. I set that as a goal and thought I was dreaming (I am fit, but in my fifties). But it didn’t take long to get there.
 
On the final week he does try to encourage out of body experiences, ‘bigness’, and non-duality through meditation, and he mentions some siddhis.  But all I got out of that was a really nice buzz. Having been through the course, I really don’t think it has much to do with liberation. There is no examination of the mind or mental qualities, and if anything it grounds you in the body. I guess there is a kind of vipassana of the body, as he uses mindfulness, breathing and commitment to hack into the hormonal and autonomic systems of the body. But this tends to reinforce rather than loosen the sense of self.
 
Nonetheless, the method definitely builds mindfulness, energy, determination and positive mood, as well has having substantial health benefits. I have also learned things that will help my anapanasati, such as the importance of reducing oxygen use by eliminating subtle muscular effort.
 
So if you are interested, I recommend browsing the website www.wimhofmethod.com and then downloading his app.  If you record attempts at all exercises in the app, it then unlocks a discount code for the Fundamental course.  It is not cheap, but it really is worthwhile.
 
Happy to answer any questions to the best of my ability.
 
Metta

Malcolm

RE: Review of Wim Hof Fundamentals
Answer
10/3/18 6:12 AM as a reply to curious.
Fascinating. As a teenager, I once went swimming in a river near the Canadian border during the winter. Came out nearly hyporthermic and dripping blood from getting sliced up by the ice, but what a rush! And the breathwork/attempts at autonomic control remind me a lot of various martial arts exercises I've learned over the years. Even more than gaining concentration or physical health benefits, I think it can be very helpful to practice doing things that are difficult or unpleasant with mindful awareness. Very much in line with Stoic philosophy. Epictetus said something like, "If you wish to train for your soul's sake, in hot weather when you are very thirsty take a draught of cold water and spit it out, but tell no man."

Thanks for sharing!

RE: Review of Wim Hof Fundamentals
Answer
10/3/18 8:01 AM as a reply to curious.
curious:
Hi everyone.  I have just finished the 10-week Wim Hof fundamentals course, and I thought the DhO might be interested in my observations.  Wim is well known for breath work, concentration, and cold resistance – his closed Facebook group now has over 100,000 members. A lot of people think he is practising Tummo (Tibetan Inner Fire meditation). This doesn’t seem to be the case, but he clearly does have a lot of meditation knowledge.

Wim sounds like a bit of a crank at times, but in fact he is the real deal. He holds 26 world records for endurance and cold exposure, including records for sitting in Perspex boxes up to his neck in ice, hanging by one finger, swimming under the ice, and running half marathons in the arctic circle wearing nothing but his shorts. He can partially control his autonomic nervous system, as shown by his ability to suppress flu-like symptoms that are supposed to arise after the injection of endotoxins. And he can teach other people to resist severe cold and resist endotoxins in in as little as two weeks.
 
BUT BE WARNED:  These is risk of hypothermia and fainting with his method, so do not try it without reading the safety instructions.  www.wimhofmethod.com. Also he says NEVER FORCE – listen to your body and take it easy.
 
His method has three components – the breathing exercise, cold exposure, and mindset practice through stretching and endurance exercises.

(1) The breathing exercise is a kind of controlled hyperventilation, followed by a long hold on the outbreath (building up to well over 90 seconds), and then a short hold on the inbreath for recovery. This is repeated three or four times. The purpose is to charge the body with oxygen, change the blood chemistry to increase oxygen utilisation, develop concentration, and prise open control of autonomic bodily systems. 

(2) The cold exposure builds up to a 5-minute cold shower and later an ice bath. The purpose is to exercise the vascular system, reduce inflammation, build mental determination, and learn to shut off heat transfer between the skin and the body core. Wim also encourages outdoor yoga, swimming and walking in cold environments.

(3) The stretching and endurance exercises vary, with different yoga poses used in different weeks of the course. The purpose is to prepare the body for the breathing, to develop determination, and to learn to connect the breath to the body. These exercises also develop access to some autonomic systems – such as the ability to breathe away lactic acid build up. Really!

There are scientific accounts of what is going on, but I’m not sure they are completely accurate. So all I will say is that there have now been quite a few studies of Wim’s abilities, including one published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  The mechanisms are subject to disagreements, but the results seem indisputable.
 
Anyway, back to tummo. I didn’t come across any Tummo visualisations in the course. But by halfway through the course, after four or five minutes of the cold shower, I would feel quite energetic, my torso would go bright red, and when I left the shower I would find that I was sweating slightly, despite the water being 56 dF.  So there is definitely activation of some kind of inner heating system.
 
There is also anapanasati. Wim describes the breathing exercise as a ‘four minute meditation’ and after doing this three or four times I find myself totally relaxed, mind calm and clear, and what I believe to be access concentration is right there, if I want it. It seems a much easier route than struggling with dullness and distraction in standard anapanasati.
 
The method is also soaked in mindfulness of sensations. If mindfulness slips during the cold shower, then I start to get cold and chill my core. The stretching is full of mindfulness, and progress occurs through close connection of breathing, mindfulness of the muscles and commitment. The retention of the outbreath involves total mindfulness of the body (Wim says ‘Feel the magic’ and ‘Go deep’). It is like a simultaneous whole-body scan and includes skin tingling, deep muscle sensations, and then later cold sensations, and other changes (a bit like mild piti, but more to do with muscles than the nerve system). This focus on mindfulness really builds concentration.
 
The weekly exercises are also cunningly constructed to progressively loosen up the body, build strength and activate different glands/chakras. The method gives huge benefits in energy and persistence, and mood, and leads to much more active, positive engagement with the world.
 
I have observed many tangible physical benefits. This includes better vascular condition of the legs, rapid wound healing, improved skin colour (that healthy ruddy tone), much reduced allergies, greatly increased exercise endurance, very rapid exercise recovery, improved mood, better sleep and so on. For example, I now charge up and then do 50 push ups on the outbreath retention, two mornings out of every three. I set that as a goal and thought I was dreaming (I am fit, but in my fifties). But it didn’t take long to get there.
 
On the final week he does try to encourage out of body experiences, ‘bigness’, and non-duality through meditation, and he mentions some siddhis.  But all I got out of that was a really nice buzz. Having been through the course, I really don’t think it has much to do with liberation. There is no examination of the mind or mental qualities, and if anything it grounds you in the body. I guess there is a kind of vipassana of the body, as he uses mindfulness, breathing and commitment to hack into the hormonal and autonomic systems of the body. But this tends to reinforce rather than loosen the sense of self.
 
Nonetheless, the method definitely builds mindfulness, energy, determination and positive mood, as well has having substantial health benefits. I have also learned things that will help my anapanasati, such as the importance of reducing oxygen use by eliminating subtle muscular effort.
 
So if you are interested, I recommend browsing the website www.wimhofmethod.com and then downloading his app.  If you record attempts at all exercises in the app, it then unlocks a discount code for the Fundamental course.  It is not cheap, but it really is worthwhile.
 
Happy to answer any questions to the best of my ability.
 
Metta

Malcolm

Hi. I saw a couple of documentaries about Hof a few years ago and followed some of his FB groups. Been taking cold showers in the mornings myself for a number of years, though not because of Hof's influence.

Cold water is used by different schools of Japanese buddhism and Shintoism. They often chant something like the Heart Sutra sitting in water or standing under a water fall. Its lovely.

Glad to hear of your positive experiences in Hof's program. One thing that I felt was quite alarming in his FB support groups was how people filmed themselves doing those breathing practices. Some of them were repeatedly passing out doing it, while some did it in a way that I hope they didn't end up in psychosis/prana problems. I don't know if they did it wrong because the instructions lacked clarity or were insufficient.

Hof has a number of world records, sure. In Finland we don't count world records. Every once in a while there is someone in the news who doesn't wear clothes expect short pants all year round. They don't know about breathing practices or cold tolerance exercises. It can get as cold as -30-40 Celsius here in the Winter. There are people like that here, also in Russia.

Kim

RE: Review of Wim Hof Fundamentals
Answer
10/4/18 5:18 PM as a reply to Kim Katami.
"One thing that I felt was quite alarming in his FB support groups was how people filmed themselves doing those breathing practices. Some of them were repeatedly passing out doing it, while some did it in a way that I hope they didn't end up in psychosis/prana problems. I don't know if they did it wrong because the instructions lacked clarity or were insufficient.

"Hof has a number of world records, sure. In Finland we don't count world records. Every once in a while there is someone in the news who doesn't wear clothes expect short pants all year round. They don't know about breathing practices or cold tolerance exercises. It can get as cold as -30-40 Celsius here in the Winter. There are people like that here, also in Russia.  Kim"


He says if you pass out, back off a bit on what you are doing. I think the 15 second hold on the in breath is also designed to prevent problems from oxygen deprivation, as I found using a pulseox meter that it reoxygenates the blood from quite low levels achieved during the outbreath retention. Still, people might not follow the advice, and there ceratnly could be problems for some. He has a lot of enthusiasts but of course there is a risk of survivor bias in those positive reports.  

I should have said there are a few other mild meditatiave elements, like calming down the neocortext and activating the limbic system, an opening up of areas in head and throat in the latter weeks, and some mild energetic body movements some weeks.  But all the meditative elements seem pitched at a level that has light effects, rather than the deeper effets I found from MCTB and The Mind Illuminated.  It's like a baseline maintenence practice, more than a deep dive.  So that is maybe the strongest protection against prana problems?

Yes there do seem to be some amazing people in Finland!  I recently saw picture of an old Finnish guy with big white beard standing naked with an axe as he hacked a hole in the ice for his daily swim ... wow ... that is something to aspire to.  Hopefully Wim Hof can make those kinds of concentration and health practices a bit more widespread and achievable for others. 

RE: Review of Wim Hof Fundamentals
Answer
10/9/18 8:55 AM as a reply to curious.
Hi, thanks for the fascinating review!

I skimmed the website but am having this question still, do you need to be in a cold climate to do the 10 weeks video course? I'm guessing dumping a couple of trays of ice cubes into the bath won't hack it? I'm interested but perhaps not enough to migrate or invest in an ice machine...

RE: Review of Wim Hof Fundamentals
Answer
10/10/18 2:07 AM as a reply to Jun W.
Hi Jun W, thanks for your query.

You don't have to be in a cold climate.  Wim says you can wait until evening for the shower, and provided the water temperature has cooled below 16 dC that is ok.  Alternatively, he says you can just lie at night without covers until your skin and vascular system respond by closing off to retain heat.  On the ice bath - I used 9 kilos of ice in a small bath and got the water down from 13 dC to 6.4 dC.  But if you start at 17 dC then I think cooling it down to 10 or 12 dC would be fine.  Some people buy an old chest freezer, fill it with water, and then cool the water down to the desired temperature. So that is another option in a hot climate.

But be careful when doing the ice bath.  It comes towards the end of the course, and if you do it for too long, or too early, you will be at risk of hypothermia.  Best to do careful research and preparation, and Wim says no more than 2 minutes at first while you learn how to handle it.  It's not just a matter of determination in the face of unpleasantness, rather, it is using concentration to connect your mind to your body, and then controlling your body so that is propertly sustains itself in the stressful environment. 

Hope this is helpful.
Metta, Malcolm

RE: Review of Wim Hof Fundamentals
Answer
10/11/18 5:18 AM as a reply to curious.
Thanks, Malcolm! Very helpful information for someone living in a tropical area.