Wim Hof Breathing, Cold Exposure & Homeostasis

Wim Hof Breathing, Cold Exposure & Homeostasis

A Collection of Research and Personal Experiences by Oleg MaryAces

For me, breathing exercises and cold exposure have been the cornerstones in my personal battle with anxiety and depression. I first felt invited by the ocean on an unusually warm (66°F/19°C) and sunny December 13th in 2015 in Brooklyn NY. Since that Sunday, I have incorporated ocean dips into my weekly routine. I found the cold dips to be invigorating, bringing about an incredible sense of might. That sensation has helped me overcome countless challenges and has been effective at overpowering depression.

Over the years, multiple friends have suggested that I look into Wim Hof, a Dutch man known as the “Iceman”. He is known for a rapid breathing technique that with 50 to 70 rapid full breaths, pumps extra oxygen into the body, increasing heart rate and circulation. Each round is followed by an extended breath hold during which the body becomes accustomed to the higher than usual oxygen levels. After 3 or 4 such rounds a person becomes highly in tune with their breathing and overall physiology.

On January 1st 2018, a friend who has been taking Wim’s training courses joined me for New Year’s Day Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge. We did 3 rounds of breathing and joined the crowd of thousands of people on the beach. In groups of 500 people, “Cold Plungers” marched or ran into the water, screaming in anticipation of their body’s cold-water shock. After a few moments of euphoria, the New Year’s Day Plungers would go out of the water to seek immediate warmth.

Thanks to our breathing exercises, my buddy and I were able to calmly stay in the water for over 10 minutes.

From then on, I have incorporated Wim Hof’s breathing exercises into my daily routines, helping me reset my body and mind to homeostasis, my internal balance.

So, let’s look into some science behind this.

Wim Hof realized that with his rapid-breathing exercises he is reaching physiological effects that scientists would be interested in researching. He volunteered to become the guinea pig for international research studies on how the aforementioned techniques may be helpful in boosting the immune system, reducing inflammation, and lowering of psychological stress.

One of the most common questions I get from people who witness my weekly ocean routine is “What if you get frostbite?” and I must admit that on some windy, sunless days in February and March, hands and toes have a hard time staying warm and therefore thermal/diving socks and gloves are recommended. However, what most people may not know is frostbite takes place at much more extreme temperatures which most of us never get to experience. We have included two charts, provided by the governments of the US (°F) and Canada (°C) which give an indication of how long a person’s skin can be exposed in sub-zero temperatures with high winds before frostbite becomes a risk.

Sunny days with winds under 10mph are optimal for beginners, as the body feels the warmth from the sun. Wim Hof provides a great safety information video for those who are interested in trying his techniques.

Check out the two clips I recorded during my latest session on February 6th, for a visual of the experience.

For me, Wim Hof breathing exercises and cold exposure have become a part of my physiological and psychological rebalancing routine. My personal journey of training my body and mind on how to naturally restore and maintain homeostasis continues.

As always, we welcome you to reach out to us with any questions or for additional tips.