Wim Hof the Iceman

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Wim ‘the Iceman’ Hof (born 1959) is a real-life superman and fitness guru from the Netherlands who can withstand disease and extreme conditions using a mind over matter approach.

His achievements include:

  • swimming 57.5 metres under ice
  • running 22,000 KM up Mount Everest in shorts (2007)
  • running a full marathon in the Namib Desert without water (2009)
  • scaling Mount Kilimanjaro in shorts and bare feet in two days (2009)
  • running a half marathon in the Arctic circle in shorts and bare feet with a time of two hours, 16 minutes and 34 seconds (2009)
  • standing in a bucket of ice for one hour and 53 minutes (2013)

The Wim Hof method: Hof claims anyone can gain mastery over their body and mind using a mixture of controlled breathing, meditation and gradual exposure to cold.  Cold therapy pushes the human body to the edge and forces it to work at full capacity which, because of our comfortable modern lifestyles, it seldom does. His breathing technique stimulates the nervous system and manually produces adrenaline.

One cycle:

  1. Sit in a comfortable position and close your eyes.
  2. Take 30 consecutive breaths. Breathe in deep but do not forcibly exhale, just let the air out gently.
  3. Take a single deep breath, hold it for 20 seconds then exhale. You should feel relaxed and/or lightheaded afterward.
  4. Repeat up to six times

It sounds like bollocks yet Hof’s record speaks for itself. Scientists were initially sceptical, claiming he was uniquely gifted. Yet he does not owe his success to genetics:  Hof’s identical twin brother, who lives a conventional sedentary life, cannot do what he does.

In 2011 investigative journalist Scott Carney enlisted in Hof’s programme with the aim of debunking it. Within two days not only was Carney convinced Hof’s methods worked but was able to climb Kilimanjaro in only shorts! Carney documented the experience in his bestselling book What Doesn’t Kill Us (2017).

The method draws on tummo and pranayama meditation. By emptying the mind the body redirects energy from the brain to the body. Hof’s techniques of controlled hyperventilation increases the oxygen in our blood and kindles the anti-inflammatory and nervous systems. He claims his techniques can not only regulate one’s physiology but can mitigate stress, anxiety and depression. Since his teachings gained traction Hof has worked with doctors, psychiatrists, athletes and Navy SEALs.

In 2015 scientists injected Hof and 12 of his students with an E-coli endotoxin as a controlled experiment. By consciously controlling his immune system they were able to resist the endotoxin and leave the experiment unharmed and without inflammation in their blood cells.

Hof lost his wife to suicide in 1995. She had schizophrenia and Hof claimed the  medications she was prescribed only worsened her state.  To console his grief Hof turned to ‘nature’ and the esoteric disciplines of yoga, Sufiism, kung fu and Tibetan Buddhism.  Eventually he claimed the cold was the best teacher. In 2000 he broke his first world record.

Sources: 2019 Russel Brand Interview, Vice, Wimhofmethod

See Also:

  • Fuegians – Like Hof, the Yaghan tribe could dive unclothed in freezing waters