My first experiences with the Wim Hof method

WimHof

I copied the following from a private chat with a friend of mine.  Some parts are a bit too personal but that is the nature of the conversation.  One thing is guaranteed – you will read it all at once.

(Image credit: https://lewishowes.com/podcast/wim-hof)

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Meditation – do you know Andrew Huang? He is a planted aquarium guy. Andrew studies to be a doctor. We were talking about non-traditional medicine. He told me about Wim Hof.

I keep a certain mindset – it is about habits – that allows me to accept some things right away without questioning and give them a try. That is actually how I became vegetarian almost 2 years ago – a friend of mine suggested it, I told him I like the idea and will start literally right that very moment.  He laughed at what I said.  A week later he asked me if I tried.  I said I’ve been doing it and from what I see I am a vegetarian now.  He was kind of blown away.  Who can just promise something like that and do it?  But yes – there is a longer story behind things like that.  Topic for another chat.

So when Andrew told me about Wim Hof I watched a bunch of videos. Next morning I tried it.

The practice is simple. Actually super simple. I will tell you how it’s done later.

It started to work for me from literally day 1 – the very first try ever. I’ve been lifting weights for about 17 years and usually in very stupid ways. So I know how some exercise or stretching or something like that make me feel. That’s why since the very first time trying Wim Hof I recognized that something is working. On Day 3 it was already very obvious.

Now… The following is very strange to read. It sounds simply made up. Some months ago I stopped telling people about it. It is just very, very unusual.

A number of tangible, actually VERY tangible, things happened:

1. Sensations.

From Day 1 during the meditation (which is a specific type of breathing, nothing special, will describe below) I started to get really vivid and realistic visions. They were always memories from my childhood. It was getting cold here – it was November I think – and I was laying on my back on the porch. Had clothes and all. But it was chilly. Soon after I started the breathing I got warm, very warm.

Basically you can say that I sped up my metabolism through simple breathing and that explains everything and it worked in about 2-3 minutes and I felt it and that’s all there is to it.  Well.. there is more to it…

My visions were mainly about me living in Cuba when I was a kid. I literally felt the warm tropical sun on my face, on my chest, my arms and hands. It did not feel like heat coming from inside me (metabolism) but it felt like the sun touching my skin. What happens during this meditation practice is actually very well researched by very reputable universities and hospitals. It is very simple (if you want to lable it “simple”) – your brain releases substances that are classified as opioids and canabinoids (found in marijuana). You start to feel super relaxed, you feel rested, you feel happy. Also – just like smoking marijuana I understand – you get hungry.

So visions were the first thing to definitely feel.

2. Fat loss

I started to loose fat. I worked as usual and I ate as usual. But the fat around my waist kept going away. In about 2 weeks I had no pants that I could wear without a belt. I actually got tired of belts and bought suspenders, hahaha. Everybody called me an old man. I smiled and you know why now.

3. Flexibility

My flexibility increased dramatically from one day to another. Somewhere about Day 3 or 4 I did one of my stretching exercises. I have done it for many years and I know how much I can stretch. That day I just did it and held the position… But I feel something different. I look to see what it is and I realize that I am holding a position that I have seen only on pictures and I could never go so extreme. It felt like nothing. As if I always have done it. Nothing special. So I tried other stretching positions and on some there was a small difference on others not so much. All of them were better though.

The one that was best had to do with my lower back. I had completely relaxed and allowed me to arch back in a very unfamiliar for me way. My back has been hurting for about 20 years at that point. I had recently fixed it through weightlifting and stretching. But it was still tense – especially one side – unless I worked to relax it. That day I arched it in a shape that was very extreme to me because of some kind of relaxation that was completely new to me.

4. Getting over diseases.

The practice is actually 2 parts – breathing (and meditating, disconnecting from everything, in the process) and exposure to cold. The exposure to cold looks pretty extreme. But if you try patiently and not rush it you really can do insane things. There are people on videos on YouTube doing things like that. I thought I could never do anything like that. Well.. I was wrong… The first advice is to try to stand in a cold shower for a few seconds.. Then you gradually increase the time… You walk outside in the cold winter in just shorts for a few seconds and increase gradually every day.

When I tried cold exposure for the first time it was in my shower.  The “cold” water here in Texas is 60F.  I put my whole hand under that “cold” shower and screamed.  That was how I started.

The cold exposure is what triggers the stress processes in the brain and releases those drug like substances. That cold exposure also mobilizes some kind of internal resources and you are able to do completely unbelievable things. One of them is fighting off diseases. I didn’t realize I was doing that until for about a 4-th time I fought off flu-like symptoms and a very severe cough that woked me up about 2AM and for 10 minutes I could not even breath normally.

What happened was that as I kept doing the meditation and exposure to cold and working my job long hours I’d feel getting sick. It was just too much work. But at night I’d come back home and no matter what time it was I’d do the breathing/cold and immediately feel much better. In the morning I still felt getting sick but I’d do the meditation/cold and bam! I could immediately tell that I was now healed. That is pretty stupid to say like that but you know when you are good to go. It is like the time when you are getting over a cold or flu and you feel it and you know it but now you are doing it ine one single night! I could just feel it right after I came back from the cold back yard.

That winter I fought off flu 6 times. There was a weird flu around here last winter. Everybody I knew was sick. It was kind of “light” – not much coughing and sneezing but you felt like shit for a few weeks. Really like shit. So that winter I “fixed” myself overnight 6 times. The severe cough was a different problem. I had it 4 times. Every time it started during the day but not as bad as I’ve had it in the past years. Some years during winter I literally could not talk for days. As soon as I open my mouth I start to badly cough. Suffocating cough – you just cough out and can’t take a breath in. Last winter I’d get the cough during the day but it was ok to handle. In the evening I’d do my breathing/cold and I immediately feel I’m getting better but not there yet. In the night the cough would wake me up about 2-3AM like an alarm clock. 10 min I lay in my bed trying to get a gasp of air in between coughing like a screaming animal or something. In the morning.. after a night of such insane cough.. I’d go straight into my breathing/cold… Basically you have a guy that coughed his air out that very night and is now walking in shorts in his back yard and it is snowing sideways because there is wind. It is early morning too – the coldest time of the day. Immediately after the practice I’d feel a rush of energy. I knew I was good. The cough may return that day but very weak. The evening practice fixed it more. Maybe 2 out of 4 times it took maybe 3 days to completely get well from the cough. Every time same thing – go out in the cold practically naked and breath deeply.

So the bottom line is – that winter I fought off cold/flu 6 times. Always overnight. And I fought off severe cold 4 times. That kind of “magic” healing is documented on videos too – by a reputable European hospital. Totally controlled environment. They freaking inject Wim Hof with E. coli and watch the infection develop. It is supposed to develop fully in 20 min. You get fever and things like that. But he never does. The blood tests and other tests show that something happens in the first 10 or so minutes and then it is all over. But he never gets the fever and other symptoms. And get this – the doctors told him that he is the exception of the rule. A man that can actually fight off infection because of his healh, immune system, genetics. But he offered to train random people to do the same. He trained them for 4 days… He picked the number of days randomly he says in an interview. The results were shocking to both doctors and trained people. The trained people thought that the doctors were not really injecting E. coli in their veins but faking it (control injections that contained nothing, placebo) because they did not even feel anything – fever or anything.

5. Libido.

I’m 50. I told you I got some experience weightlifting and training. I can tell you clearly that you can stimulate your hormones and libido through exercise. Actually in a younger man the combination of normal sexual hormones and weightlifting is a pretty bad combination – years ago I could not get rid of sexual thoughts 24/7 because naturally I’m apparently high sex drive and I was overstimulating it through my exercise and diet. The lesson is that I do know how it all goes up and down. After about Day 3 I noticed a definite increase of my libido. Basically breathing and walking in the cold in my back yard. No weight exercises. No change in diet. Nothing but stretching. The change became more and more pronounced the next few days. A side effect is increased energy so I was able to work at a very high pace and not getting tired after lunch. So definitely a profound hormonal change had happened as a result of breathing/cold exposure.

6. Sleep and stress relief.

From Day 1 it was obvious – I slept like a baby. I was able to turn off worries and anxieties. Very much like taking a drug I guess. I’ve never taken a single drug (not even alcohol or smoking) in my life so I really do not know. But I can tell you that the feeling was VERY pronounced. Also I got really calm during the day. Once again – as if you are on some kind of very light drug I guess.

For me the calming effect of the breathing/cold exposure lasted about 8 hours.  After that I felt a little different.  Basically wanting to do the practice again and feel good and healthy again.  Just like a drug I guess but in a good way.

7. Push ups.

Now this really starts to get crazy sounding. During the breathing phase of the practice you are supposed to hold your breath without forcing yourself for as long as you can hold it. The idea is … hahaha… You will find that funny because we’re just talking about aquatic plants and O2/CO2 relationships… To expell the Oxygen from the cells and tissues and saturate them with CO2 as much as you can. After that you are breathing in such a way so you reverse the O2/CO2 concentrations. So at first I just laid on my back breathing and meditating. Holding my breath when needed, breathing deep when needed. Wim Hof says that you can make the CO2 saturation better by holding your breath and doing a safe weight exercise. Basically making the muscles use up O2, not just waiting to passively remove it. The problem is that you are holding your breath and if you are doing squats for example you may faint and fall back and hit your head or something. So a very safe exercise is a push up – even if you faint you will fall on a blanket on your face from a few inches and no harm done. So I tried to force the usage of O2 by doing push ups.

The problem for me was that no matter how many years I weightlifted I could never do a good number of push ups. I could fly 90 lbs dumbells laying on my back (going really low, stretching back the shoulders in a very dangerous way) for many reps – I’m somehow naturally strong in that exercise – but I could not push myself up from the floor for more than 5-10 times. And that is over the course of the day! Not at once! Basically my entire life I could do 1-3 push ups at a time. And no more than 10 over the course of the day. In the past I had tried to increase that. My max was 30 over the course of the day. Then I pleateau and have to wait literally 3-4 weeks and try again and start with 5-10 over the entire day again. Weird. So the first day I tried to hold my breath and do push ups I expected to stop at about pushup #3. But I did 12. That was VERY strange for me. The practice calls for breathing deep about 30-40 times and holding your breath after that for as long as you can without forcing yourself. You do that 3-4 times total. Basically 3-4 sets of deep breathing+holding breath. So on my first holding of breath I did 12 push ups. That was weird for me. On the next holding of breath I did 10. Then 12 again. Then 10 more. Jesus! So in total I did 44 push up that morning! A number that I’ve never, EVER, done in my entire life in the course of the day. And in the evening I did a total of about 30 more! Total of 70 pushups for the day from the very first try in many years. I didn’t even know what to think about that.

So I started to incorporate push ups in the holding of breath part of the routine. And that is where the weird thing happened. In 3.5 weeks, not even a month, I was doing 250-300 pushups a day! And that was not my maximum. I never tried maxing out (where you can’t do a single push up any more). 300 totaled like this – about 140-160 in the morning during the breathing practice and after the cold exposure. Keep in mind that after the cold exposure some resources kick in and you are ready to freaking take on the world. So I could do as many pushups as I could after the cold exposure but I kept them normal – never going to failure. Then during the day while working I’d do a total of maybe 60-70 more. And at night, during the evening breathing/cold exposure I’d do the rest and total 250-300. All of that is totally unbelievable even for me, today.

Eventually I stopped doing the pushups because I noticed that they’ve become the focus of my breathing/meditation/cold practice. That is how you start to do things wrong. So I just stopped doing pushups. I tried again some weeks later and had to start with a much lower number all over again. If I try to do pushups right now I maybe able to do 8, hahaha. It is hot here in Texas during summer and although I did my breathing all right this summer I could not find cold water or air anywhere. The results are to be expected. All of that tells you really one single simple thing – that breathing/cold exposure practice mobilizes some basic, fundamental processes in your body. You literally start to function at some other level. And that happens literally from the very first time you try the practice.

8. Calmness.

One habit that I have from all that breathing and meditating is to intentionally try to stay calm in stressful situations. Below are two recent examples – in the last month I’ve gone to a dentist and to a dermatologist.

The dentist did a crown + a triple bridge on my teeth. At the end he told me 3 times, like back to back, how calm I was through the entire procedure. I didn’t even shift my feet when they were doing this and that. Yes, here they use a lot of anaesthetics but still. I actually felt that I was sleeping with my eyes open. At some point.. this is weird and funny.. I also got an erection – as if peacefully laying in my bed or something. All while they were exchanging terms, commands, and using different tools, water, pumps….

The dermatologist had to cut out a 5 or so mm of some growth from my face – near my nose. They did that with local anaesthetic and freaking burning the wound 3 or 4 times with something that (I imagined) looked like a soldering iron and filled my nose with barbeque smoke – which I inhaled deeply, haha.

After the procedure the doctor told me that I was unusually calm during the procedure.  He basically exchanged a total of 4 sentences with me from the time he walked in to the time he left and one of them was to comment on how calm I was.

Something interesting happened during the procedure – they asked me to lay on my back on the bed. I did and immediately started to breath deep as if I’m doing my breathing practice. It calms me down you know and I needed that at that moment, haha. They jumped up and immediately asked if I was ok, and not worried, or heart problem or something. I said I’m ok. So I kept deep breathing during the cutting and burning. I literally felt like I was somewhere else. But at one poiint I did a little experiment – when the nurse leaned over to burn me yet again I slowed down my breathing. Immediately, I mean that very second, I felt fear creep in. It was amazing. As if the breathing was a shield against that fear and freaking out. I took a deep breath again and I literally felt the fear being pushed away. It was crazy. I do know that that was probably all mental but remember – at the end the doctor commented on how calm I was. I just smiled. What was there to say really?

9. Strange presence

During the cold exposure you start to feel a presence around you. It is all around you. Something living. At first I thought it was the “Spirit of the Earth” as some people call the feeling you get at night in the forest or somewhere else in Nature. But later it felt very distinct – like a person standing in the middle of the yard or in the corner of the yard. It felt like a very tall creature and I could only feel it if I stood still, no movement. The best way was to also look at a tree or a cloud or just the grey sky and not move. I am aware that such a feeling maybe a result of the drug-like substances but the feeling was VERY pronounced. After some time I started to call the creature “Father Frost” and on my way to the cold back yard I’d tell the dogs “Let’s go see Father Frost”. A pretty weird way to put it but you will only know the feeling when you get it.

A few months ago a researcher contacted me about my Wim Hof experiences. He had a million questions. I guess he had compiled them after talking to other people. All of them were very relevant – including the experience of some kind of physical presence of a person or something. Apparently I’m not the only one to feel that.

So that is it. This winter I hope to do the same thing with the cold exposure. This time I have a small swimming pool (about 350 gals) setup. For the Wim Hof practice it is common to dip in cold water during the cold exposure. You can see YouTube videos where people enter mountain rivers in the dead of winter and talk to the camera from there as if nothing. I find that extreme and dangerous but you can see them doing it – no tricks.  All I hope for myself is to be able to get in my pool in the dead of winter and be able to relax.  I’m sure there will be a lot more to say after that.