[00:00] Introduction/About Wim Hof
[02:23] Wim's Techniques
[06:26] How Wim Would Use His Techniques
[08:16] What Happened To Wim's Skin
[13:22] How Wim Taught The People He Brought To Mt. Kilimanjaro
[14:49] Why Wim Took Thrombosis Patients
[17:35] Wim's Diet
[18:40] The Effect of the Cold on The Immune System
[22:28] Wim's Marathon In The Desert and Heat Adaptation
[29:00] End of Podcast
Ben: Hey, folks. It's Ben Greenfield here, and I want you to meet the amazing Iceman, Wim Hof. Now you may have heard of Wim before, or seen him sitting in the ice or sitting on top of a snow covered mountain somewhere typically in the news or on a TV show. He's a Dutch world record holder, adventurer, and Daredevil. And they call him the Iceman because he has almost a superhuman ability to be able to withstand extreme cold. He holds 20 world records, including a world record for the longest ice bath. He stayed immersed in ice for over an hour and 50 minutes, I believe. He has reached the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro in his shorts within a couple of days of climbing, he's completed a full marathon above the polar circle in Finland where it drops to -20 degrees Celsius dressed in nothing but shorts, and he also ran a full marathon in the Namib desert without any water. Today, we're going to delve into some of Wim's tips, his tricks, how he does this stuff, and really get a chance to kind of get inside the mind of one of the most amazing human beings on the face of the planet. So Wim, thank you so much for coming on the call today.
Wim: Wow, Ben. What an introduction. But okay. Let's go!
Ben: Alright. Well, let's jump right in. You have specific techniques that you use to do things like control your body temperature and be resistant to the cold. So I'm curious how you use things like science of breathing and meditation to accomplish this.
Wim: Yeah, exactly. I'm into science these days, these years. They had all kinds of experiments with me and they saw I have a control of sustaining the inner core temperature at 37 degrees Celsius, which is in Fahrenheit the blood temperature of the liver, the lungs, the brain, and the heart needs to be constantly at the same temperature to be able to function. And I'm very well in maintaining that blood temperature inside throughout my ice immersions or running beyond the polar circle, or climbing Mt. Everest in shorts. So how did I do this? How did I learn about this? Just interest. By interest, I came upon this ice water, I got in, and I felt, “This is working. This is deep. This is what I'm looking for.” I went in to regular practice, I could expand the time span at a certain moment. You just got a deeper control of your physiology, and it showed in the universities later on that I'm able to control the physiology much deeper than scientifically is mentioned for humans to be able. That's what I showed. It showed even that I'm able to go into the autonomic nervous system, which is normally outside of the will.
Ben: Yeah. It's subconscious.
Wim: It is. That's what they say. And I showed to go deeply into that system by will. And I think the cold is very direct and it goes very deep. And once you learn to control the cold, you learn to go very deep. So deep that you go into these areas of the autonomic nervous system. And it showed in the university. So then they said, “Okay. You are the Iceman. You can do it. It takes years and years of training to be able to go into the autonomic nervous system. Others cannot do that. Normal people cannot do this.” And I told them, “No. It's not like that. What I've learned, anybody can do what I've learned. Because what I've learned is naturally trained and exercised by nature and in nature. And it was called this way, which brought me into the depth of the autonomic nervous system, which is the physiology of man.” I told, “Now I know you're talking about tricks and et cetera. There are no tricks. It is just physiology. And now I know how to bring people in just a very short period of time into the autonomic nervous system. And that related to the immune system, brings about great changes in the power within yourself. That's inner fire.”
Ben: Can you give me an example, 'cause I know that you use breathing and you also use meditation. Can you give me an example of how it actually works? Like what you would do if you were to, say, go out into the cold, if I were to walk out, my backyard right now is covered in snow. If I wanted to get that inner fire, what's an example of the type of breathing technique or the type of meditation technique that you'd use for something like that?
Wim: I would go out with you in the morning, say, “Let's do a breathing exercise.” Within five minutes, we do a very concentrated, you are concentrated right now, for example. You are talking to me, so the same attention I'm asking of you to go deep into breathing with me right now. And just in a couple of minutes, you will be quite able to go without air in the lung and push up more than you do with breathing and have less electro acid in the body. So I'm going to make you conscious of the ability of your physiology in a different way. And the same thing I will use to convince you by feeling, feeling as understanding, I always say, going into the cold. And we'll take off our shoes and walk with you 15 minutes just in the snow, barefoot, and even do exercises in the show, which inside with all the heat and warmth, we take, time to get into flexibility and a good blood stream. No, I would get you in freezing cold, into more flexibility than inside.
Ben: Do you ever experience cold burns, or skin damage, or anything along those lines when you do this? Because it sounds like because you can heat yourself internally through breathing and meditation, but what do you do about your skin?
Wim: Yeah. I had some problems once with half a marathon in beyond the polar circle in Finland in January after 18 kilometers barefoot. And the doctors told me I had suffered from inflicted, self cold injury to a degree of irreparable damage done in the cell tissue. That's what they told me. And that it was going to be black and would die off. But within a month, I showed them different. I healed all my foot. And I came back…
Ben: How did you do that?
Wim: That's part of the method I've created, is also very good in generating the regenerative neurons in the central nervous system, which is all about healing. We go deep. We go like animals. We don't have hospitals in the animal world and no pharmacy. They heal themselves. For that, they go deep into their system. And that's what I've learned from the cold as well, to go deep in the system and heal yourself more effectively than normal healing is done because I'm able to go deeper into the system. Now, that's nice. For me to be able to do that, okay, that's the exception once again. But it only confirms the rule, as they say. What I want to say is that everybody is able to do this. Everybody is able to heal better, to boost up the immune system in an autonomic nervous system level, deep, to get more energy in the cell production. All these processes, normally we could not reach. But this method is able to generate all that in ourselves again because this is part of the human potential we do not use.
And I showed it with a group of persons who had no experience in the cold whatsoever. And four days later, listen well, they began in shorts at -10 degrees Celsius, you can calculate how much that means in Fahrenheit, but in Celsius, -10 in shorts with shoes on a mountain, on this mountain slope, and we climbed up to the top, where the wind was blowing, and we had a wind chill of -27 degrees Celsius. And that was hours later. And all these guys, after four days of training, were able not only to withstand the cold, but to have an inner power of some sort go, which was able to resist completely what was going on and feel great.
Ben: Were these the thrombosis patients that you took into the wilderness in Sweden?
Wim: No, not these ones. They're a different group, a different study, which is going to be published very soon now. It's going to be worldwide. All the universities are going to know about this. But the most remarkable thing about this one was we were accompanied by doctors who were fully dressed to control us, because we were part of the research. They were going with us. It's all filmed. It’s going to be on film too, on documentaries. Probably Discovery Channel and National Geographic later in the year. But I'm telling you now, these doctors, they were suffering from the cold fully dressed and we, in shorts, were not suffering whatsoever of the cold, just feeling very, very strong. And that's awakening the human potential. And I'm telling you, everybody is able to do this, like I did just recently by taking 26 people, a complete team of 26 people in shorts in two days up to Kilimanjaro.
Ben: Now when you take those people up there and you sit on Kilimanjaro in the cold, and these folks haven't been exposed to the cold before, are they having to learn how to do things like deep breathing and meditation, or are you simply bringing them right out there in the cold and just kind of doing trial by fire, except trial by ice or snow, I guess in this case?
Wim: Yes. No. It's all about control, Ben. And everybody is able to control, by these techniques, to go deeply within control. And that's what they did. But there is no exception almost of people. The oldest one was 65 years with heart problems before, and he managed to do it as well in two days where sports at the top of their talents, et cetera, without these techniques, are just going to suffer going up. I want Noam to say something.
Noam: If I may interject, when a system consists, like you said, of breathing exercises, exposure to the cold, and so on, and so this group, even though none of them were a mountaineer and they didn't have that experience, they did get training with Wim before going on the expedition. So the method was the tools that they used, and then they went to Africa and they were able to achieve it. It wasn't like, “Okay, let's see what you can do.”
Ben: Gotcha. Now you also took the thrombosis patients, and I'm curious why you would take someone with heart issues out into the cold like that, what it is you were trying to achieve.
Wim: Thrombosis is a weakened arterial system. The skin of the arteries and the veins is very weak. Something gets in and blocks the way, and you go thrombosis. So what I do with the cold is gradually learning to adapt by feeling. I say never force your body. Don't be violent with your body, but learn to go deeper because there is more. And one thing there is more in the body is the better workings of the cardiovascular system. And the cold is being used to go gradually inside the optimization of the cardiovascular system. And it takes, it's actually mild cold exposure, which I use with people with thrombosis.
Ben: Is that because of the nitric oxide release?
Wim: No. No. No. No. More oxygen in the body brings about a better conduction. It's a relief of the body. We actually breathe shallow. I learned to bring about oxygen in the body much deeper into the tissue than ever before. That relieves the body. So that's one thing. The other thing is the cardiovascular system is very much trained and triggered by gradual cold adaptation. And there are all kinds of exercises, but the cold is needed as to dilate and contract the vascular system. That's what we do. And it all works wonders. I mean we are actually a wonder. Our physiology is developed through millions of years. But when we started to get dressed with clothes, and of course you take away the stimulation to work all these developed mechanisms…
Ben: Right. You get comfortable. Now I got another question for you, Wim. Is there a special diet that you specifically follow to enhance your ability to withstand cold temperatures, or have you found that some type of carb, protein, fat ratio or diet approach is useful for you?
Wim: Not exactly. What I'm telling is we actually need energy which is coming from the sun. Solar energy. And solar energy is directly stored in plants. More than in animals. Animals take plants. They eat plants. It's an indirect way. And the molecular structure of plants, plant food, suits better with molecular structure of our energy productive processes in the body.
Ben: So you do not eat meat?
Wim: Occasionally I eat some meat. But mostly it is vegetarian.
Ben: Interesting. Now I'm curious also about the immune system. Because we've all heard that frequent exposure to cold might make you sick. Do you find that immune system becomes stronger with exposure to cold or is there not a difference?
Wim: No, there's absolutely a difference. Because if you train the cardiovascular system, there's a hundred thousand kilometers of cardiovascular system in the body. That means capillaries, arteries, veins. Now listen very well. This is a concept, which is not only a concept, it's the way it works in the body of so many years and it just came out very simple. There are two things. The cardiovascular system is cardio. The cardio is the heart. If the vascular system is not working well because it is not stimulated too much, then all these little muscles, primitive muscles in the arteries and the veins, as well the reflexes of the capillaries, which is a total hundred thousand kilometers of transportation system, channels, all that, if that is not really stimulated, then of course it gets weakened. It's like muscle in the arm. If you do not train it, it gets weak. Like that, it is in the arteries and the veins, so then the heart needs to pump really hard to get the blood through the system. That creates stress hormones. A chronic presence of stress hormones creates a basis for lactic acid, and it creates a depletion of energy. It's no good. It's bringing under stress. And then the immune system, which is immune cells, they are fed by the vascular system. But if the vascular system is not working really well, then there is a chronic shortage of feeding toward the immune cells.
Ben: Now I noticed that there's an actual study on your website, and I'll link to this study in the show notes for folks, but it says that they did a study to investigate whether a special concentration or meditative technique employed by you could influence autonomic nervous system and the innate immune response. And in that study, they talk about what they call a cytokine response. Can you explain what that is and how it works?
Wim: Cytokines are inflammatory bodies. Like rheumatism or any autoimmune disease, the immune system is overactive and we have no capability of suppressing cytokine release, which are inflammatory bodies, in the system. And so we have no control over that. And I showed all these subjects I trained in four days to be very able to control this.
Ben: Now does that require the use of cold, or can you just use your meditation and breathing techniques?
Wim: The cold brings about a better optimization of the cardiovascular system, which then, under your will, works better.
Ben: Okay. Gotcha. Interesting. Now I know that our time is limited and I certainly didn't want to ignore the fact that you ran a full marathon in the desert, apparently with no water. So I'm curious why you did that. And kind of as a follow-up question, if you think that this cold thermogenesis that you do gives some kind of a better adaptation to perform better in the heat.
Wim: Yes. The cold trains the thermoregulative processes. And they are done by the hypothalamus. So the hypothalamus is into regulating the body and bringing out balance every time you pass into a different weather condition. That's to maintain homeostasis, a balance within the body. So I trained it in the cold, and extremely trained in the cold, and that brought about a much greater control of the hypothalamus inside. I have a real good contact with my hypothalamus in order to be able, without movement, and it has been scientifically shown to generate 300% more metabolic activity up in the cell just by thought. That means by willpower, you can control the hypothalamus then, I showed it in the university, it's a different study, and they went to a scientific conference in Florida just for scientists about autonomic nervous system and can people influence that. So it was a conference on the autonomic nervous system. You get eight minutes and two professors of the Dutch university went with my results to that conference, and you get eight minutes to present the result. Normally you get one, two questions. Now they had to answer for two hours all the questions because it is so strange somebody is generating, without movement, 300% metabolic activity in the cell. So that means you directly have a line with the hypothalamus, and you stimulate it, and it brings about all these adrenaline, cortisol, all these things at once. Boom. And it goes into the cell, which never before they thought you were able to do that without movement.
Ben: Now where does running a marathon in the desert without any water fit in here? How did you do that?
Wim: The follow-up was once you control in the cold, you can control the thermoregulator, which is the hypothalamus. Then I thought, “Why do I not go now to the desert? I did all my things in the cold, now I go to the desert to see if I'm able to do that. To make it more stressful, I won't drink. So I had a physiologist measuring me up. I lost about 5.2 liters of water, but I never lost control of the core temperature. It always remained very controlled at 37 degrees.
Ben: Were you doing your special breathing techniques for that too?
Wim: Once you get control, you'll always use breathing. Breathing is pressurizing in certain parts of the body. And specifically when you get somewhere, this or that, you use this pressurizing, and it helps, and you reach the area, and you boost up the immune system. So anytime I feel I'm becoming short in something, wherever it is, in the heat, without air, or in Mt. Everest, or in a stressful situation, or when I'm sick, or in the cold, it doesn't matter. I use the breathing, I go to the spot, and I solve the question. I just begin to boost up the immune system, and it knows exactly what to do.
Ben: Wow. Well, I know you actually teach this method. And if someone wanted to, say, attend one of these workshops or go with you out into the Swedish wilderness or in Mt. Kilimanjaro, where does somebody go to find out more about this?
Wim: That is icemanwimhof.com. That's one. But in June, I'll be in Texas, and afterwards in Tucson, and afterwards in San Francisco doing workshops and because of very nice people over there. I'm working with those people there. It's great.
Ben: What I'll do for the listeners is I'll link over to Iceman Wim Hof's website, but also to some of the articles about Wim's breathing technique, a link to Wim's really good book called “Becoming The Iceman“. That's another excellent one. And then also a few books on breathing techniques and some of the ways that you can kind of tap into this yourself, and also a link over to, well, Wim Hof's website is where you can register for any of his workshops. So I know that you guys are pressed for time, but is there anything else that you want to share with the audience?
Wim: We can do a lot more than we think and really, it is time to get into that.
Ben: Excellent. Well, I'm amazed at what you do, Wim. You're an inspiration and I would love to be able to kind of tackle the cold like you do, and that's certainly one of my goals over this year is to learn some of your breathing techniques and kind of tap into this and maybe even make it down to your workshops when you come up in the summer. So thank you so much for coming on the call.
Wim: Right on, Ben! Thank you very much too! I love your work too. We make people conscious of things, and that's great work. Thank you!
Ben: Well, thank you! And folks, until next time, this is Ben Greenfield and Wim Hof signing out of bengreenfieldfitness.com. Be sure to head over there to check out the show notes and resources for this episode.
Meet the amazing iceman: Wim Hof.
Wim is a Dutch world record holder, adventurer and daredevil, nicknamed “the Iceman” for his ability to withstand extreme cold.
He holds twenty world records – including a world record for longest ice bath, and has stayed immersed in ice for as long as 1 hour and 52 minutes and 42 seconds.
In 2007, Wim attempted, but failed (due to a foot injury), to climb Mount Everest wearing nothing but shorts.
Then, in 2009, he reached the top of Mount Kilimanjaro in his shorts within two days.
In 2009, Wim also completed a full marathon above the polar circle in Finland, in temperatures close to −20 °C (−4 °F) – dressed in nothing but shorts. He finished the marathon in 5 hours and 25 minutes.
In 2011, Hof also ran a full marathon in the Namib Desert without water.
So how does the Iceman do it?
Wim describes his ability to withstand extreme cold temperatures as being able to “turn his own thermostat up” by using his mind. And in today's audio episode, we're going to delve into his tips, tricks and biohacks to conquer the cold and get quantum leaps in performance, including.
-How Wim uses the science of breathing to control his body temperature and resistance to the cold…
-Wim's meditation technique…
-How Wi ran full marathon in the desert with no water…
-Whether cold thermogenesis give some kind of adaptation to perform better in heat…
-Why cold doesn't really make you sick, and the true effects on the immune system…
-Why Wim took a group of thrombosis patients into the icy Sweden wilderness…
-How you can learn Wim's secret techniques from the Iceman himself…
Wim's Breathing Technique
1) Get comfortable and close your eyes
Sit in a meditation posture, whatever is most comfortable for you. Make sure you can expand your lungs freely without feeling any constriction. It is recommended to do this practice right after waking up since your stomach is still empty.
2) Warm Up
Inhale deeply. Really draw the breath in until you feel a slight pressure from inside your chest on your solar plexus. Hold this for a moment and then exhale completely. Push the air out as much as you can. Hold this for a moment. Repeat this warm up round 15 times.
3) 30 Power Breaths
Imagine you’re blowing up a balloon. Inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth in short but powerful bursts. The belly is pulled inward when you are breathing out and is pulled outward when you are breathing in. Keep a steady pace and use your midriff fully. Close your eyes and do this around 30 times or until you feel your body is saturated with oxygen. Symptoms could be light-headedness, tingling sensations in the body, electrical surges of energy.
4) Scan your body
During the 30 power breaths, delve into your body and become aware of it as possible. Trace your awareness up and down your body and use your intuition as to what parts lack energy and what parts are overflowing. Scan for any blockage between the two. Try to send energy/warmth to those blockages. Then release them deeper and deeper. Tremors, traumas and emotional releases can come up. It can be likened to kundalini rising. Feel the whole body fill up with warmth and love. Feel the negativity burn away.
Often people report swirling colors and other visual imagery during this exercise. Once you encounter them, go into them, embrace them, merge with them. Get to know this inner world and how it correlates to the feeling of tension or blockages in your body.
5) The Hold
After the the 30 rapid succession of breath cycles, draw the breath in once more and fill the lungs to maximum capacity without using too much force. Then push all of the air out and hold for as long as you can. Draw the chin in a bit so as to prevent air from coming in again. Really relax and open all energy channels in your body. Notice how all the oxygen is spreading around in your body. Hold the breath until you experience the gasp reflex on the top of your chest.
6) Recovery Breath
Inhale to full capacity. Feel your chest expanding. Release any tension in the solar plexus. When you are at full capacity, hold the breath once more. Drop the chin to the chest and hold this for around 15 seconds. Notice that you can direct the energy with your awareness. Use this time to scan the body and see where there is no color, tension or blockages. Feel the edges of this tension, go into it, move the energy towards this black hole. Feel the constrictions burning away, the dark places fill with light. Relax the body deeper as you move further inward, let everything go. Your body knows better than you do. After 15 seconds you have completed the first round.
Start this practice with one or two rounds. Try to do it daily and add two more rounds in a few days. After you feel more comfortable with holding your breath you can start to add exercises and stretches. Work up to a minimum of 15 minutes or 6 rounds with exercises. You can do this practice for how long it pleases you.
If you feel dizziness or pain, get out of the posture and lie on your back. Breathe easily again and stop this practice session.
Reserve at least 5 minutes after this practice to relax and scan the body.
- 30 times balloon blowing
- Breathe in fully
- Breath out fully and hold until gasp reflex
- Inhale fully and hold for 10-15 seconds.
- Repeat until finished
- Take 5 minutes to relax and scan your body
-Add push-ups or yoga poses during the time you are holding your breath until you wait for the gasp reflex. Notice that you are stronger without air than you would normally be if you could breathe!
-Charge the energy up the spine by holding moola banda, contract the rectum & sex organ and pull the navel inward towards the spine.
-Stand up in squat position and do the balloon breath. Try to breathe away the burn. (get seated again the moment you continue the cycle, you don’t want to be standing and faint) See if you can get the energy overtake the pain. Don’t give up easily and see how far you can go if you have the willpower!
Resources In This Episode:
-Wim's 10 Week Course
-Wim's book: “Becoming The Iceman“…
-The book “Breathology“…
Did you enjoy this episode? Check out where Wim also appears in: