Deep Belly Breathing and the Wim Hof Method

Thanks to a friend who is a certified instructor of the Wim Hof method, I experienced the wonders of deep belly breathing on and off over the past several years.  I have recently gotten back into it and describe my experiences.*


For those unfamiliar with Wim Hof or his Wim Hof method, here’s a couple of background videos:

The first is a documentary that I’d highly recommend watching.  It’s astounding to watch Wim Hof and the interviewer each only in shorts, shoes and a knapsack hiking up a snow-laden mountain in Poland in sub-zero temperature while others are bundled up in winter clothing (from about the 32:20 min mark).   The second is Wim Hof’s Ted Talk.


With the Wim Hof deep belly breathing, I’d notice the following:

  • After finishing:
    • The absence of thoughts.  No worries, issues, concerns, self-talk.  Only space, being, awareness, peacefulness, sensations.
      • This aspect alone was priceless and more than enough as a “reward.”
      • Perhaps this was mushin 無心 (no mind) [KendoNotes_MushinQuotes] and a physical approach to experiencing it.
    • No tension.  Only release, relief and exhilaration after the pain and resistance experienced before finishing.
    • I’d feel invigorated, refreshed and calm.
      • On a couple of occasions, I apparently would fall into a deep sleep according to my friend.
    • My nasal passage would clear up for easy breathing through the nose.
      • Normally, there’s sinus congestion through one nostril.
  • During the deep breathing,
    • The initial set of breathes were fairly easy.  However, it would become progressively tougher for me to do.   Thoughts such as “This is too hard”, “Gee, how many more of these breaths are left?” or “Maybe I should stop” would arise.
    • At the end of each phase of thirty deep inhalations and exhalations, which is exhausting for me, I’d hold the breathe.  That was a major welcome source of relief and release.
      • It was interesting to learn later that I had held my breath two to three minutes without trying.
    • I’d notice at times “seeing” colors (like pink, purple or teal) while the eyes were closed.
    • I’d experience some disorientation and lightheadedness.
      • For that reason, I prefer inhaling through my nose rather than the mouth and doing the inhalation and exhalation cycles at a more comfortable and relaxed pace.

Some further comments:

  • I think that deep belly breathing and breathing exercises in general would be an ideal precursor to meditation.
    • Indeed, Max Strom in the following video recommends starting off with breathing exercises in meditation sessions.
      • Breathe to Heal | Max Strom | TEDxCapeMay (18:32 mins)
      • “If you teach people to breathe first, this calms the nervous system, this triggers fight-or-flight to switch off and the rest-and-digest to switch on.   Then, people can sit and meditate without a problem.” (8:40 min mark).
  • According to my friend, the deep breathing makes the body more alkaline which helps make people more resistant to illness.
  • There are many online “testimonials” of individuals’ sharing experiences with the Wim Hof method like this one:
  • If the Wim Hof deep belly breathing interests you, there are many online resources by Wim Hof and others.
Be well!

* I also took part in the cold water immersion component of the Wim Hof method but have focused on the breathing component here.

 

References

[KendoNotes_MushinQuotes] “Quotes on Mushin, Flow and Open-Focus – Overview,” KendoNotes.com, Dec. 13, 2017.

 

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