Wim Hof ​​breathing: This is how the breathing technique works

wim hof breathing
Photo: CC0 / Pixabay / brenkee

Wim Hof ​​breathing is intended to promote our health and mental strength. You can find out exactly how it works and what science says about it here.

The Wim Hof ​​breathing is one of the three pillars of the so-called Wim Hof ​​method. It is named after the Dutchman of the same name, also known as “Ice Man”. He holds over 20 international records. Among other things, he endured it longer in an ice bath than anyone else before him.

He attributes his numerous successes, with which he regularly tests the limits of what is possible or apparently exceeds them, to a special breathing technique. This was not invented by him, but has been known for a long time. In essence, it is based on the so-called tummo meditation, a specific Buddhist meditation technique.

Hof made the breathing exercise known in the western world and, thanks to the media attention surrounding his person, has numerous followers who regularly integrate breathing into their everyday lives. Science also at least partially confirms the positive effects of the special technology.

This is how Wim Hof ​​breathing works

To familiarize yourself with Wim Hof ​​breathing, you can use the app, video or audio to guide you through the breathing exercise for the first time. These are usually available free of charge. Alternatively, you can refer to the following guide:

  1. Put yourself in a quiet place comfortable position. The breathing technique is easier to implement when you are lying down, especially in the beginning. You can also sit on the floor or in a chair.
  2. For the first phase of breathing breathe in and out deeply and quickly 30 to 40 times. Breathe in and out through your mouth. With each breath, first lift your stomach and then your chest. During the expiration, the abdomen and chest sink again at about the same time.
  3. Make sure there is hardly any pause between the exhalation and the next inhalation. This first phase of the exercise may even seem a bit strenuous at first.
  4. After the last breath follows second phase. To do this, you exhale completely once more and then hold your breath after this last exhalation. Now you may feel your heart start beating slower. Your body temperature may change and your hands and feet may start to tingle. Consciously perceive these physical changes and give yourself completely to the moment.
  5. Hold your breath for as long as feels comfortable. If the urge to breathe in grows, give in.
  6. For the third and last phase Now take a deep, forceful breath. Now hold the breath on the inhalation for 10 to 15 seconds.
  7. Exhale and repeat the exercise two to four more times, depending on your individual needs.
  8. When you are about to complete the exercise, slowly straighten up and let your breathing return to its normal rhythm.

Note: Listen to your body’s signals as you exercise. Only breathe in as quickly and deeply as you can and do not exceed your individual limits. Especially if you are not used to the exercise, you can quickly become dizzy. Even if you hold your breath longer than your body tells you or do too many laps, you can quickly feel dizzy. In the worst case, you can pass out. This happens extremely rarely. However, if you are unsure whether the exercise is suitable for you, for example due to previous illnesses, you should definitely seek medical advice.

What is Wim Hof ​​breathing?

With Wim Hof ​​breathing, we train our body to better withstand stress.
With Wim Hof ​​breathing, we train our body to better withstand stress.
(Photo: CC0 / Pixabay / asundermeier)

Wim Hof ​​breathing is based on the principle of hyperventilation. This means that more oxygen accumulates in the blood through your fast and deep breaths. The proportion of carbon dioxide decreases. You feel this through the tingling in your hands and feet. A study from 2014 suggests that you can influence your so-called sympathetic nervous system. In addition to the breathing exercise, the subjects of the study also exposed themselves to the cold and trained a certain variant of meditation. However, the researchers suspect that most of the effects found are only due to the breathing exercise.

The sympathetic nervous system is part of the vegetative nervous system and is responsible for making the body more ready to perform. It is questionable whether you are actually more efficient through breathing. However, the scientists found evidence that the subjects were able to suppress an innate immune response by consciously activating the sympathetic nervous system. As a result, they developed fewer flu-like symptoms than the control group. As a result, the breathing technique could be used primarily in autoimmune diseases in which there is a malfunction in the immune system.

Wim Hof ​​himself states that he can consciously control his immune system through his breathing technique and other methods. This way he can fight pathogens better and is therefore never sick.

The psychologist Matthias Wittfoth also confirms the positive effects of the breathing technique. He regularly teaches courses on the Wim Hof ​​Method. In an article by Deutschlandfunk Kultur, he explains that we can train our body with Wim Hof ​​breathing so that it can withstand stress better. First of all, we stress our body through hyperventilation, but in a safe and controlled way. In a way, we practice how to better deal with stress physically and mentally.

Criticism: Science is divided

Even if there are some studies on Wim Hof ​​breathing and the other components of the Wim Hof ​​method, some researchers doubt the supposedly positive effects. So far, it has not been possible to clearly scientifically prove how breathing exercises actually affect health and whether they can reduce infectious diseases. According to the “medizin transparent” team, none of Wim Hof’s promises can be proven.

However, if you practice Wim Hof ​​breathing in a safe environment and according to your health requirements, you can use it as a relaxation method or a special type of meditation. You can then determine for yourself whether the breathing technique is promoting your mental strength or simply helping you to become calmer and more relaxed.

Read more on Techzle.com:

  • Relaxation techniques: These 4 exercises slow you down
  • Yoga for the home office: These 4 exercises relax
  • Progressive muscle relaxation (PME): This is how the method works


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