Over the last few months, people have asked me how I found the Wim Hof Method, what I thought the main benefits were, and whether or not I continued with it. Three months after finishing the course, here are my thoughts.
I’ve written quite a lot, so feel free to scroll to which parts are relevant to you.
Wim Hof Method review — quick summary
I’ve started with some mini reviews about how the Wim Hof Method affected me — physiologically, physically spiritually and mentally.
Physiological effects — At the time of practising the Wim Hof Method I ran some exercise sessions for obese children which also involved working with nutritionists. About five weeks into the course, one of the nutritionists I worked with did some medical health readings for me, which included weight, height, BMI, blood pressure, as well as less obvious readings such as estimated metabolic age.
It turned out that I had an estimated metabolic age 15 years younger than my actual age which is 29, which makes my metabolism only 14 years old. It’s unfortunate that I didn’t have any readings done at the start of the course to verify the information, but I’m convinced the Wim Hof Method was the reason my estimated metabolic age was so young, as everyone else’s was pretty accurate.
Physical effects — By the end of practising the Wim Hof Method, I was able to do 40 full press-ups. At the start I could do just 10. I was also able to do some more advanced exercises I couldn’t do before — such as the peacock (Wim Hof calls the exercise the shelf) — which is a pose I’d been trying to master in yoga for a long time.
Physically, I was pushed to my edge and my whole body felt much stronger, healthier and more muscular by the end.
Spiritual effects — When I meditate, I go into a much deeper state of meditation when I do the Wim Hof power breathing exercises before hand. I’ve experimented with quite a few meditations in the past, and I can say that this method allows you to go deep inside yourself and experience what meditation is about in a meaningful way without leaving you feeling confused.
Having a clear structure and something to work towards also helps. Sometimes, in meditation, it can feel like you’re wandering around in the dark, unsure where exactly you’re going, but you won’t find yourself saying ‘I don’t get meditation’ with this technique.
Mental effects — The mix of cold therapy, specialised breathing techniques, meditations and physical exercises left me feeling really recharged after each session. Not to get all cliched on you — but I really did feel like I was plugging myself in for an energy boost. It also makes you happy — bold claim I know, but I mean it.
I feel like unhappiness is partly caused by being in a certain place and wanting to be somewhere else. The Wim Hof Method works in a similar way to mindfulness — it grounds you into the present moment — where you can’t not feel happy and more content. Perhaps at peace is a more apt way of putting it.
What were the main benefits of the Wim Hof Method?
Being able to withstand freezing temperatures, control my immune system, and become a little bit superhuman were the main things that initially attracted me to the Wim Hof Method, but what what were the actual benefits for me?
Befriending the cold
As a yoga teacher I was taught during my physiology and anatomy training, that it was impossible to consciously influence the autonomic nervous system. I love that it becomes possible with this method.
As I practised, it became clear that as the course progressed, I was able to immerse myself in freezing temperatures without feeling the cold as much, take cold showers and train myself to like it…eventually, and generally become a friend of the cold. I can say that after doing this course, that it does work, and being able to control your autonomic nervous system is perhaps an ancient skill we’ve all forgotten how to use.
We can do more than we think we can. — Wim Hof
The unexpected benefits
It was the unexpected benefits, however, that really hit me. The Wim Hof Method mainly focuses on being able to control body temperature. When you train, it’s clear that pretty much anyone can do this to some degree — maybe not to Wim Hof’s standard, but when you practise daily, you end up doing things you didn’t think your body or mind was capable of.
For me though, when I practised, I found that it wasn’t really being able to control my body temperature that was the main benefit.
I meditated regularly before practising the Wim Hof method and would practise certain pranayama breathing exercises prior to meditating such as alternate nostril breathing. I know they’re two completely different practices, but after finishing the course I continued with the Wim Hof Method. I might not take freezing cold showers every morning, but I still do all of the other exercises most days along with my yoga practice.
I don’t believe in craving blissful states when you meditate, but what I will say is that, when I meditate after practising the Wim Hof physical exercises and breathing techniques, I feel happier and more in control. It sounds simple, but I genuinely mean it. I also think this is perhaps what Wim Hof was looking for too when he created this technique.
I talked briefly about happiness in the quick reviews at the start of this article, but not about control. In a strange way, practising the Wim Hof Method actually allowed me to ‘let go’ more and as a result, feel more inner control, as well as feeling more confident in myself and a lot less anxious.
When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves. — Viktor Frankl
Do I have any constructive criticism of the Wim Hof Method?
I don’t have any complaints, but there are a few things worth mentioning.
The Wim Hof Method involves physical exercise which is great. However, as the course progressed, so did the intensity of the exercises. I would say that I’m physically quite fit, but there were some exercises I really struggled with, such as the shelf!
My yoga teacher head was concerned that some people might be intimidated by some of the exercises or find them way too hard to do, so perhaps it could have been clearer that it was OK to stick with the routines from weeks one and two. I think it’s great to push yourself, but there shouldn’t be any excessive force otherwise it could lead the person practising to get frustrated.
By the end of the course, there were exercises you’d only find at an advanced yoga class, which would never usually be taught to beginners. However, you do have the full spectrum here — if you are physically really fit or advanced at yoga, you too will be pushed to your limit. I certainly was. However, don’t be put off if you’re not, because the course really does cater for people of all fitness levels.
What does the Wim Hof Method entail?
The Wim Hof Method is a mix of physical exercises which progressively get more difficult each week, breathing exercises, visualisation exercises, meditation, and cold exercises.
At the start, you’re given a workbook that goes into detail about the method as well as allowing you to record your progress and set yourself goals. In addition to this, you have access to the online Wim Hof community where you have access to the full course, plus extra information such as information on adapting the exercises if you don’t have enough time, a free ebook of ‘becoming the Iceman’ and information on scientific research. If you have any questions there’s also a whole community of people to ask and support you.
**September 2017 update**
Here’s my first YouTube video where I demonstrate the Wim Hof power breath exercise in three steps, which is just one element of the whole Wim Hof Method.
Excerpts from my Wim Hof workbook
Everyone who does the course is given a workbook which allows you to document your progress, set goals, and record your breath retentions and daily press-ups. I’ve selected a short excerpt a week from my workbook in case you’re interested.
Week 1, day 1: I feel really clear headed and inspired. Prior to starting this, I’d been feeling a bit anxious and worried, but I felt incredible after the breathing exercises and cold shower. My outlook is much more positive and I feel much happier. I was also really blown away by how long I could hold my breath for with no air in my lungs — 3:18 minutes!
Week 2, day 2: I don’t know whether it’s just today or it’s been a gradual process, but I feel a lot less fearful. I’m just going with the flow and riding whatever emotions come my way. The sun is also helping! Absolutely loving the cold-hot-cold showers. I feel alive!
Week 3, day 5: I finally saw light! Not just sparkles, but the ‘strobe like’ light Wim Hof was talking about. My meditation felt so light and peaceful. I had to stop myself getting excited halfway through whilst thinking — this is one of the best meditations I’ve done.
Week 4, day 3: 10 minute cold shower — I did it! I was shivering for a while afterwards. I won’t lie — it felt hard. Swimming in a freezing lake in Sweden was easier than this.
Week 5, day 7: I mentally struggled a bit to have the 10 minute cold shower every day this week, but my body adapted really quickly. I can now do it without feeling the cold or shivering. Am I starting to be able to actually control the autonomic nervous system? I think maybe I am.
Week 6, day 4: I felt slightly anxious last night which is the only time since starting the method. Any anxiety I felt, disappeared pretty much as soon as I started the breathing exercises though. I think the Wim Hof Method could actually help to massively reduce anxiety in people, if not get rid of it completely — just my humble opinion!
Week 7, day 5: Physically, I’m much stronger. My whole body is more toned — not that it’s about having a toned body, but it’s a nice side effect.
Week 8, day 6: Ice bath time! I filled my bath with four big bags of ice cubes and cold water. It was actually much easier than I thought. I couldn’t feel the cold. All those cold 10 minute showers had prepared me well. Then again, maybe I just needed more ice.
Week 9, day 3: I’m blown away by the brown fat activation technique. This is something I’d never heard of before. This could change the way we look at and treat obesity if people take it on board.
Week 10, day 6: It’s the last week and I feel really alive — physically and mentally. What an inspiring and eye opening experience. Definitely feeling more confident after this and can’t wait to try my next cold adventure.
How much time do I need?
I put aside about an hour of my time each morning to practise. However, it’s not necessary to dedicate this much time. If, for example, you only have 15 minutes one day, the exercises can be adapted to fit and there are additional videos to watch in case you’re pushed for time. You’ve also got access for life, so I felt no need to rush the course or complete it within the prescribed 10 weeks.
When is the best time to practise?
I practised in the morning, because I liked how it made me feel. However, I did sometimes practise in the evenings, but definitely preferred the cold showers in the morning as they helped to energise me.
Who can do it?
I’d say that anyone who can breathe and shower can practise.The physical exercises might get quite difficult as the course progresses so it might seem like only really athletic people are suitable for the course — but, this isn’t true.
You’re basically presented with the full spectrum of exercises, so you’ll physically feel pushed if you’re already quite fit, but equally, there’s stuff for fitness phobics too.
The Wim Hof Method is basically a powerful technique for anyone who wants a massive health boost for the body, mind and soul — if you’re that way inclined.
Finally, I’m a Wim Hof Method affiliate. This means that if you get the Wim Hof course through my site I will make a commission which will go towards future yoga teacher trainings.
***September 2017 update***
Or, check out Wim Hof’s new course here: Wim Hof Method Fundamentals Video Course