Does Wim Hof really consciously control his autonomic nervous system?

Does Wim Hof really consciously control his autonomic nervous system?

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While there is no question about the validity of Wim Hof's abilities, I question some of the claims made about his ability.

He is claimed to be able to consciously control certain aspects of his autonomic nervous system with his mind.

But while his feats are undoubtedly impressive, and his training program was proven effective, I find it hard to believe he's reached a point where all he needs is his mind.

As much as I'd like to believe one can do the things he did without the special breathing techniques he uses.

Is there any reason to believe there is something to it beyond conditioning the body and breathing in a specific manner (which, from what I understand, causes the body to react in a certain way leading to the desired effects)?

Disclaimer: just an opinion of someone on the web, it's not health advice. And I might be wrong.

With that said…

In my opinion it's wrong. He can't control his ANS just by using his mind. He uses: breathing techniques, exposure to cold and having the right mindset in order to withstand the cold. There's also a Dutch article on the site that says this. The way he handles the cold is also the same way he handles his ANS in general.

I think the wikipedia page is wrong about it. Also, the researchers that did studies on him at the Radboud University of Nijmegen are not specialized in understanding meditation. In most cases I'd disagree that what Wim does is meditation at all. While I respect the knowledge of the researchers, I think they were dead wrong in understanding what meditation is back then. It's really more of a behavioural thing with your breath. The meditation I know is more about mentally focusing on your breath or body, not physically altering it. Their expertise is in all sorts of: viruses, bacteria and the human body in general -- including combining the 3 for experiments.

Here is a better source about the science of Wim Hof:

In my opinion that source is a lot better. Then again, it is a very wise to be sceptic (hint: also with my post). I think a lot of people made wrong claims about his method. I think almost everyone involved made at least a wrong claim about something of it. People are enthusiastic and lack expertise in some area and that's when claims might be overstated or misinterpreted by the one reading about them.

You don't have to be too sceptic though, it definitely works and improved my life. I love all weather now with regards to temperature. I sometimes use his method as a natural painkiller as it releases adrenaline, though I'm still on the experimental side with that.

The reason I believe to know all this is because:

  1. I participated in one of the experiment and trained for 4 days with Wim and other participants
  2. I asked a ton of questions to the researchers who were there from the Radboud University.
  3. I have 400 hours of meditation experience and read about 100 articles on them from Science Daily, and about 30 real papers and 1 book about meditation that uses science as its way of justification (Search Inside Yourself by Chade Meng-Tan).

Come On In, the Water’s Fine

If there’s one thing most everyone agrees on, it’s that we are all stressed out. Tech overuse, work pressure, environmental and political issues, relationships—being human in the 21 st century is hard. We live in a state of constant low-level distress, even as we’re surrounded by a plethora of conveniences and creature comforts that pushes us ever farther from nature and from our own essential nature.

“We’ve disconnected from our natural rhythms and chained ourselves into a state of perpetual comfort that is driving us toward chronic stress, inflammation, and disease,” says Kripalu presenter Samuel Whiting. “We’ve lost our innate capacity to be healthy and happy.”

But what if you could enhance your ability to handle all of life’s daily irritations and its bigger challenges—and also reconnect to the natural world—by learning how to tolerate extreme cold? That’s the basis of the Wim Hof Method, which has become a topic of fascination for everyone from spiritual seekers and adrenaline junkies to research scientists and Joe Rogan fans.

“This practice gives you the inner confidence to face whatever life gives you,” says Sam, who was among the second group of Wim Hof teachers trained in North America. “It’s not about freezing into a popsicle. It’s about consciously engaging with an acute stressor, and coming out successfully on the other end.”

From the Slope to the Mat

Sam has never been afraid of the cold. He grew up in the great outdoors—riding his bike through the woods near his home in western Massachusetts, going to wilderness camp in Maine every summer, and learning to ski not long after he could walk. As a young adult, he became an alpine ski racer, traveling the world to compete.

But his body didn’t always want to go as hard as he did. “I was training really hard, and I dealt with a lot of anxiety and burnout that would lead to illness,” he recalls. “Every winter, I would get the flu and be sick for a month, which would leave me debilitated at the peak of the season. I could never catch up.”

So he retired from competitive skiing, went to college, and dove into another passion: music. He was pursuing a career as a deejay when he took his first yoga class. “It kicked my butt,” he remembers. “I was totally spent, but not drained or defeated. It was like I had cleared out a bunch of energy that wasn’t supporting me. I felt this clear space in myself that I had never felt before.”

He began practicing Baptiste Power Yoga, first three days a week, then every day, and became a certified teacher in 2015—soon leading up to 12 classes per week. And then he stumbled upon a video of Wim Hof on YouTube.

Into the Cold

Wim Hof is both a man and a myth—a superhuman legend among those who thrive on pushing the body to its outer limits. Born in the Netherlands in 1959, the Iceman, as he’s called, has set Guinness World Records for swimming under ice and for prolonged full-body contact with ice, and ran a barefoot half-marathon on ice and snow at the Arctic Circle.

Sam heard Wim’s origin story directly from the man himself. “He was walking to church on a Sunday morning and there was a frozen pond on the way. He walked out to it and felt called to get in the water. When he stepped in, that full-body immersion and the deep, gasping breath that the body responds with brought him into a deeper sense of feeling alive. He felt this connection to life itself, and he started diving into all these different disciplines to find that feeling again.”

Wim pursued that spark around the globe—climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in shorts, running a full marathon in the Namib Desert without drinking water, hanging by one finger at an altitude of a mile. And he always came back to the cold, accomplishing feats such as standing in a container while covered with ice cubes for more than 112 minutes.

It was the death of his wife by suicide in 1995 that drove Wim to further develop his techniques for entering low-temperature environments. “He started going back in the cold water, intuitively playing with breath practice,” Sam explains. “It was an outlet for healing the grief and pain.”

Unlocking Potential from the Ice

There are three pillars of the Wim Hof Method: breathing, cold, and mindset. Sam started with the breathing. “It was like yogic breathing practice, so it was easy for me to focus on,” he says. “I tried a simple breathing technique Wim teaches, and I burst into a whole different sense of what’s possible and a whole different sense of capacity in myself.”

Like many of us, Sam was very young—second grade—when he began creating self-limiting stories about who he was and what he could and couldn’t do. It started when he struggled with reading and didn’t learn how until after all his friends were already deep into the Redwall series. “I created this whole perception that I was stupid, and that followed me for a long time,” he recalls. “I held myself back because I was always looking for the easy way out. I didn’t believe I had the ability to do it on my own.”

With the Wim Hof Method, you don’t need to have blind faith in your own abilities, because you actually prove it to yourself. Using specific breathing techniques and mental focus, you learn to tolerate cold exposure and tap into your inner power. As Sam puts it, “You can’t hide in an ice bath.”

For him, as for thousands of others who ascribe to the method, achieving two minutes in a deep freeze unleashed a sense of confidence and of his own potential. The method allowed him, he says, to dig into his psyche, see the tricks his mind was playing on him, and free himself of those old thoughts and beliefs.

“The three pillars give you access into the power of your mind and the expansion of your awareness, awakening innate and adaptive capacities on a cellular level,” says Sam. “You’re able to consciously enter into stress and understand it as a process of growth.” He became a Wim Hof teacher in 2016, and transitioned from yoga teaching to focus entirely on sharing the method with others—including elite athletes, special operators, and corporate executives.

How It Works

According to Wim Hof, the benefits of the method are both mental and physical, including increased energy, better sleep, heightened willpower, enhanced focus and creativity, improved sports performance, and stronger immunity. Some of that can be explained by biological mechanisms: Consciously expanding our habitually shallow and constricted breathing, in combination with the effect of cold exposure on the body, strengthens the cardiac and respiratory systems, promotes blood flow, and changes the body’s pH and carbon dioxide levels.

“You’re getting a very dynamic nervous system workout,” Sam explains. “At first, there’s a sympathetic (fight-or-flight) nervous system reaction—the body wants to survive, so it kicks into heightened arousal. Then, through the techniques and focus you deploy in facing this acute stressor, you recalibrate the nervous system to break the loop of that stress and down-regulate into the parasympathetic (rest-and-digest) system. By stimulating both systems, you’re building a more balanced and versatile nervous system.”

In 2012, Wim Hof backed up his claims that he could influence his autonomic nervous system by allowing himself to be injected with an endotoxin that typically causes flu-like symptoms. He spent the next 80 minutes in meditation in an ice bath while researchers measured his response to the toxin, which was minimal (he had only a mild headache). Wim then set out to prove that anyone could be trained to do the same thing: For a second study, he trained 12 people in the method, and their responses to an endotoxin were compared to that of a control group who was not trained. The Wim Hof subjects were able to successfully control their immune response to the endotoxin, experiencing much less severe symptoms.

In a nutshell, the method trains the nervous system to lean into stress and challenges and find a balance, Sam says, promoting health, growth, and faster recovery. Like yoga, the Wim Hof Method strengthens the vagus nerve, which helps control parasympathetic activity and heart rate variability, a measure of stress resilience.

“Your nervous system is being reprogrammed in how it perceives and adapts to stress—whether it’s a traffic jam, a challenging situation with your boss, or a difficult conversation with a friend,” Sam says. “You can consciously engage with and regulate it instead of having it control you. This work sets you free to tap into the full expression of who you are and feel the true potential of who you can be. You can take down the walls that are keeping you from living an extraordinary life.”

Three Ways to Start a Cold Exposure Practice

You can start small when building a cold exposure practice, Sam says, working incrementally with the principles of stress and stimuli to promote growth and adaptation.

First and foremost, he cautions, always consult your primary care physician if you’re dealing with any health issue. People who have epilepsy or cardiovascular issues, or who are pregnant, should not practice these techniques.

For the rest of us, here are three simple ways to begin reaping the benefits of the big chill.

What Science Is Telling Us

Rigorous testing was done on Wim and the results were astonishing.

Study #1: The Endotoxin

Hof claims that he can influence his autonomic nervous system and immune response through concentration and meditation.

Professor Peter Pickkers and PhD candidate Matthijs Kox investigate the effects of the autonomic nervous system on the immune response.

Pickkers said: “We administer endotoxin, a dead cell-wall component of bacteria, to healthy volunteers. The immune system reacts as if real live bacteria have entered the body and mounts an immune response characterized by the production of inflammatory mediators and flu-like symptoms like fever, chills and headache. These experiments are completely safe and have been performed on more than 240 subjects in our centre.”

The Results

Wim Hof is well known for his remarkable activities in extremely low temperatures. Hof claims that he can influence his autonomic nervous system and thereby suppress his immune response through concentration and meditation.

To investigate this, Hof was administered endotoxin while practising his concentration and meditation technique. During this experiment, various measurements were performed, including brain activity, autonomic nervous system activity and inflammatory mediators in the blood.

Pickkers said: “After endotoxin administration, the increase of the stress hormone cortisol in Hof was much more pronounced compared to other healthy volunteers. We know that this hormone is released in response to increased autonomic nervous system activity and that it suppresses the immune response. In accordance, the levels of inflammatory mediators in Hof’s blood were much lower. On average, Hof’s immune response was decreased by 50 percent compared to other healthy volunteers. In addition, hardly any flu-like symptoms were observed. These results are definitely remarkable. However, so far, they have only been obtained in a single individual and therefore cannot serve as scientific evidence for the hypothesis that the autonomic nervous system and the immune response can be influenced through concentration and meditation techniques. Further research is warranted in which a group of volunteers that have acquired Hof’s concentration and meditation technique is compared to a group that does not master this technique.”

This study showed effectiveness in Wim but could the same results be gained from others?

On March 23rd, 2013, twenty-four scientific study participants were injected with a dead strain of Escherichia coli, a bacteria that normally induces violent sickness for days on end.

Just like the past results, neither Wim nor the other participants trained in the Wim Hof Method experienced any adverse reaction. Proving without a doubt that Wim’s methods and training are effective.

Bottom Line: The conclusion of this study is inspiring! Wim is not an anomaly. The experiment showed that anyone with the right training can effectively control their immune response.

Study #2: The Cold

What happens to Wim when he is exposed to extended cold temperatures.

Wim is placed in a box and covered to his neck in ice. There is no air layer in between, there is full contact with ice and his body. He should experience frostbite and hypothermia very quickly.

The Results

His skin temperature does drop but his core body temperature barely drops. Normally the heart rate should increase, Wim’s heart rate does not until 45 mins in. His metabolism goes up tremendously to produce extra heat.

This video recorded in 2010 shows some test results. Since then, it has been proven that his abilities can indeed be replication by anyone, INCLUDING YOU READING THESE WORDS!

Bottom Line: It is now proven that we can regulate our body temperature despite outside factors.


I am standing exposed in my swimmers with only a towel wrapped around me at the edge of an ice bath surrounded by a crowd of strangers.

My heart is pounding, goose bumps upon my skin and the sound hitting my ear is hollow. Anticipation is high, energy is soaring, thoughts are roaring. Resistance is strong and worry is rising.

But still nothing has happened. I am still standing in the same spot. This is all just my imagination and current state of mind…..

Its only now, I slowly stepped into the water. One foot at a time, it is cold – ice cold. I begin to immerse myself deeper, first my legs, then pelvis, my upper body, chest and shoulders – I am submerged. My heart begins to race faster, my breath becomes no longer my own and uncontrollable, I am in state of contention. I close my eyes and begin to pull myself together. After my initial reaction of resistance and a few seconds of shock I begin to relax and stabilise my breath.

Refocusing and internalising my surroundings and what my body is experiencing I almost instantly started to create my very own heat and inner fire. My body had naturally embarked in the process of thermogenesis – the process of heat production in warm-blooded organisms – within me. My body instinctively began to equalise the force of the cold. Meeting my yin, with my yang.

This was me, at my Advanced Module Wim Hof Method Training in Melbourne early 2017 with Wim watching on closely. No pressure!

I have encountered some pretty extraordinary people on my travels, but this guy takes the cake! Wim has an aura of wisdom and fortitude, with passion streaming from his being – he is infectious.

The reason Josh and I created H.E.L.P could almost be answered with The WIM HOF Method. With a benevolent and conscientious approach together we envisioned creating a like-minded society to share and connect with fellow humans. We are honest, open and vulnerable with each other and those around us. We now have the courage to talk to strangers and no longer listen to the social narrative of not talking to people we are connected.

Sadly society has taught people that these relationships shouldn’t exists, along with humanity’s growing estrangement from nature over time we have lost connection with each other. We crave to clear out the bullshit that society has bestowed upon us.

So What Is This Wim Hof Thing?

‘The Wim Hof Method‘ — a breathing technique that allows you to control the autonomic systems of the body.

The autonomic nervous system is a control system that acts largely unconsciously and regulates bodily functions such as the heart rate, digestion, respiratory rate, pupillary response, urination, and sexual arousal. This system is the primary mechanism in control of the fight-or-flight response.

Wim has demonstrated he can consciously control his autonomic nervous system and immune system with a meditation technique used within The Wim Hof Method, defying something thought to be impossible.

So how can we consciously control the immune system to fight off diseases? It is undoubtable that our immune system plays a significant role in almost all devastating diseases plaguing the modern world, and finding a way to improve it can help us discover new avenues for medicine.

The modern man is too comfortable. We never test our limitations, never going hungry, never too hot or too cold – we have become lazy as a species. I am sure we are all aware of the term “use it or lose it” but movement is truly medicine! If we don’t use our muscles we begin to deteriorate and the same goes for your immune system and all the little muscles around your veins. In order to get stronger again we need to train ourselves, preferably every day.

Wim has undying faith that with sufficient training all of us can learn how to tune in and control our own ANS (autonomic nervous system) and begin to live healthier, stronger and longer! So this is not isolated to just him self, we all have the same physical mechanisms and can all tap into the possibility. So how does he do it? Even better, how can you do it?

Documentary Explores the Possibility of Gaining ‘Superpowers’ via Meditation and Focused Breathing

(Greg) Here’s a fascinating Vice documentary on the possibility of much greater conscious control of our bodies, using meditation and focused breathing to allow direct modification of our autonomic nervous system, cardiovascular system, and immune system.

by Greg, July 2015

Such abilities are of course part of a number of ancient Eastern traditions, but it was interesting to see it through the prism of a modern European practitioner:

Wim Hof first caught the attention of scientists when he proved he was able to stay submerged in ice for one hour and 53 minutes without his core body temperature changing. Since then, he’s climbed Mount Everest in his shorts, resisted altitude sickness, completed a marathon in the Namibian Desert with no water, and proven—under a laboratory setting—that he’s able to influence his autonomic nervous system and immune system at will.

Almost everything Wim has done was previously thought to be impossible, but he’s not a freak of nature he’s a master of meditation.

To demonstrate that any human can learn his methods, Wim offered to teach VICE hosts Matt Shea and Daisy-May Hudson how to climb a freezing cold mountain in their shorts without getting cold. But when Matt and Daisy signed up for the training, they had no idea that the so-called Iceman was planning to lead them on a psychedelic journey across Europe that circled the chasm between science and spirituality.

Not sure how to make sense of this? Want to learn how to discern like a pro? Read this essential guide to discernment, analysis of claims, and understanding the truth in a world of deception: 4 Key Steps of Discernment – Advanced Truth-Seeking Tools

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Childish Movement, Speed, and Lightness

One thing we might want to borrow from Shaolin monks for instance, is their incredible flexibility which allows them to hold incredibly deep stances, kick extremely high, and in some cases perform almost superhuman-looking feats of contortion.

They train this with a series of movements across 18 styles called ‘tong zi gong’ (tóngzigōng). This is very similar in many ways to yoga, and claims to increase ‘body intelligence’. It literally translates to ‘boy power’, but that’s a little weird sounding, so it is more often referred to as ‘kung fu of the child’. The insinuation here being that the forms can help to restore the effortless and flexible movement of a child.

Shaolin monks believe that flexibility is crucial for fast and elegant movements. Indeed, increasing flexibility can improve strength and speed by reducing the amount of resistance applied by antagonistic muscle tendon units.

I’ve been looking for a good flexibility routine to follow lately, but I’m having a hard time coming across a beginner-friendly tongzi form. If I find one, I’ll be sure to share.

Tong Zi also includes numerous moves for training lightness and agility

Likewise, Shaolin monks train for speed, endurance, and lightness. Speed training is accomplished at least partly through rote learning – repeating the same moves over and over. They will simultaneously practice maintaining proper breathing. The aim is to perform fast movements without increasing breathing rate. The argument here is that speed without endurance is useless.

As for lightness – what we would likely refer to as agility – the monks use a training method called ‘Plum Flower Formation’. Here, they draw five circles a foot in diameter in the shape of a plum flower. They then move between their different stances and directions while keeping their feet at all times within the circles.

Eventually, those circles will progress to inverted bowls, and eventually to poles around 7 foot high. While getting poles like these installed in your home would represent a significant investment, there I little to stop you from doing the same training with bowls!

Likewise, they also use a similar technique called ‘through the woods’ where they attempt to move between the poles quickly without touching them. You could easily accomplish something similar with hanging rope for instance.

Getting Stronger

Wim Hof can raise or lower his body temperature at will, overriding his autonomic nervous system. He is able to sit in a box of ice for almost two hours. He can swim 50 meters under arctic ice. Wearing only shorts and going barefoot, he has run a marathon in Lapland and climbed through snow to the summits of Mt. Everest and Mt. Kilamanjaro. In carrying out these feats, he is able to avoid hypothermia, the normal human response to extreme cold. Monitoring by physiologists show that he keeps his core temperature constant and normal during these challenges.

Yet Wim is not a genetic freak or Tibetan monk. He is a 52 year old Dutch man without much body fat. He believes that anyone can adapt to the cold and learn to control body temperature.

In this article, I will try to answer two questions:

  • How does he do it, and can anyone really do the same?
  • Is this basically an impressive stunt, or is there any benefit to learning Wim’s methods?

No stunts. First, just to be clear about what Wim has been able to accomplish, take a look at these two short videos:

1. Wim running a half marathon in the north of Finland:

2. Wim swimming 50 meters under arctic ice:

An enjoyable account of Wim’s remarkable adventures and methods is detailed in the book Becoming the Iceman, co-authored by Wim Hof and Justin Rosales. Rosales is a college student who became so intrigued with Wim’s abilities that he managed to earn enough money washing dishes–while still attending classes–to travel to Europe and learn Wim’s methods. The chapters alternate between those written by Wim and those by Justin. While their account suffers from a lack of editing and is sprinkled with grammatical errors, the excitement of Wim’s remarkable sense of fearless adventure and Justin’s learning process make this book a real page-turner.

Changing how body temperature is regulated. How does Wim Hof manage to keep his core body temperature elevated, maintain peripheral circulation, and avoid frostbite and hypothermia? Nobody knows for sure, but there is no doubt that he does it. Dr. Kenneth Kamler, an expert on hypothermia, frostbite and high-altitude medicine, who has himself climbed up Everest, has observed that Wim’s trained body responds differently than yours or mine.

The normal response to extreme cold exposure starts in the peripheral blood vessels in the extremities — the ears, nose, fingers and toes. Blood flow in the extremities at first increases, in order to stimulate warming. If the cold exposure is prolonged more than a few minutes, goosebumps and shivering kick in to induce warming of muscles and skin. But if the exposure continues beyond that, a process of biological “triage” takes place. To preserve the high priority organs – brain, heart, digestive tract — the body shuts down blood flow to the extremities to prevent further heat loss. The peripheral veins snap shut to segregate warm interior blood from cold peripheral blood. After all, these extremities have a lot exposed surface area, so cutting them off greatly conserves heat. But the cost of doing this is frostbite and the irreversible tissue damage that often results if the cold exposure is sustained for more than a brief time. Finally, when the core temperature falls below 95 F, the various stages of hypothermia set in, ultimately leading to death if sufficiently prolonged.

But Wim, and Tibetan practioners of the ancient art of Tummo, are able to significantly alter this normal process. As Kamler explains, the key adaptation occurs within the brain during meditation–specifically the yoga and controlled breathing exercises that Wim and the tumo practitioners follow. Of these exercises, breath retention exercises are key. As a result, there is a significant activation of blood flow and electrical activity in his frontal cortex and hypothalamus — areas that regulate peripheral nerves and veins involved in the regulation of body temperature. Normally, the circuit between the hypothalamus and these temperature control circuits is involuntary, governed by the autonomic nervous system. Kamler reasonably speculates that, through meditation, Wim is able to override the normal function of the hypothalamus, allowing the peripheral veins to remain open and heat the extremities, preventing injury. He points out that Wim must be generating heat and distributing it more efficiently, but he admits having no idea mechanistically how Wim’s meditative techniques accomplish this.

The monks who practice Tummo are able to tolerate cold, but they do so in a meditative pose, while sitting. They speak of being able to generate an “inner fire”. Wim Hof’s method has diverged from that of classical Tummo. He has innovated significantly, since he is able to control his body temperature while moving about, in fact while exerting himself under conditions of running, swimming, or high altitude climbing which would be challenging for most people even at ambient temperatures! Yet, while Wim is certainly a one-of-a-kind personality, he is insistent that anyone can apply his techniques. His success in teaching Justin Rosales and others seems to bear that out. More recently, Wim has devoted himself to training others through seminars and training expeditions.

Other abilities. Wim’s ability to voluntarily control what what we consider to be automatic, involuntary responses does not stop at tolerance of extreme cold. He has also learned to tolerate extreme heat, consciously overcome pain and cramping, and even moderate his immune response to endotoxin. A fuller discussion of these abilities is given in Becoming the Iceman.

Possible benefits. I’m particularly interested in Wim Hof, because of my own positive experience taking daily cold showers. As I discussed in my post, Cold Showers , making a daily habit of cold showering results in a remarkable degree of adaptation. The initial intense discomfort of cold shock rapidly shrinks in both intensity and duration, and the self-heating process of thermogenesis becomes more prominent after only a few weeks of the daily habit. I’ve found benefits in weight control, mood enhancement, and generalized stress resistance. I’ve not had any colds since starting cold showers. When my family was suffering with a stomach flu that lasted several days, the net effect on me was a 12 hours of achiness which I slept off on a single night, with none of the nausea that they had.

Could more aggressive exposure to the cold provide benefits that go beyond that of daily cold showers? Hof and Kamler have suggested that the ability to open up peripheral veins and capillaries may help to enhance more than just temperature regulation. It likely improves blood circulation overall, particularly in the smaller peripheral vessels. Because there are so few individuals that do what Wim Hof does, there is not yet any body of clinical science regarding the benefits to circulation. But it is not hard to speculate that cold exposure could be a great way to fend of a wide range of cardiovascular and circulatory maladies. So it intrigues me.

Total cold water submersion. Cold showers are great, but what Wim Hof does is far more extreme. Not only is the temperature of the water significantly colder — 32 F vs. the 55-60 F of my showers — but the total body immersion involves much more extensive skin surface area contact, meaning more rapid heat loss. A few times a year, I go for a brisk 10 minute swim in the ocean. Here where I live in northern California, the ocean temperatures range between 53 and 60 F, similar to my shower water, and ocean swims are definitely more bracing than the cold showers.

My first experiments. I want to see if I can up the game beyond cold showers. I first read Tim Ferriss’s account of cold water exposure in his book, The 4-Hour Body. In his chapter “Ice Age”, he recounts the method of Ray Cronis, a NASA scientist who was able to lose almost 30 pounds of fat — fat, not weight — in 6 weeks, by taking cold walks, cold swims, and by drinking cold water. Ferris himself tried immersing himself in cold baths — with added ice — for 20 minutes. But he first heated himself to the point of sweating by consuming a thermogenic cocktail of ephedrine, caffeine and aspirin. So what Conise and Ferris did doesn’t really approach the level of unmediated cold exposure undertaken by Wim Hof.

I want to see how much I can directly adapt to the cold. My first effort will be to attempt this without any special meditative technique or breathing method, and certainly without taking any thermogenic medications or supplements, as Ferriss did. So I did my first experiment today, and here is what I did and what I experienced:

I filled a bath with cold water, which I measured at 58 F (14 C). I first submerged my legs. It was painful, so I decided to allow myself to adjust before filling the tub with more water. Fortunately, after about 2.5 minutes, my legs no longer hurt and by 4 minutes they felt a kind of paradoxical warmth and I could wiggle my toes again. So I filled the cold water up to my chest when laying back. I was completely submerged at 9 minutes. At first, this was very uncomfortable, and I started shivering. I felt some numbness, but that went away and I was comfortable again at 14 minutes. I could easily flex my toes and fingers. I continued laying in the tub, submerged up to my neck. The sensation alternated between shivering and coolness. I stayed in until 20 minutes had passed from the initial plunge.

After I got out of the bath, I felt warmer and tingly at first. But 5 minutes after getting out and drying off, I started feeling very cold and shivering uncontrollably. I was not really expecting that I thought I would instantly feel warmer, just as I always do after stepping out of a cold shower. But in the book Becoming the Iceman, Justin Rosales and Wim Hof describe a phenomenon they refer to as “the afterdrop”, an experience of getting colder after you emerge from cold water. This is exactly what was happening to me. I needed to put on warm clothes and move around to fight off the shakes. I was still cold and shivering 30 minutes after emerging from the cold bath, and my fingers were stiff, making it hard to type up my notes.

However, a full hour after finishing the bath I started to feel great. I became warmer throughout the evening, even though it has been a chilly evening. Psychologically, I have been quite alert all evening long. So there is some evidence of adaptation, even though the experience has been quite different than what I would have predicted from my familiar habit of cold showers.

I plan to continue experimenting with cold baths over the coming weeks, varying both the duration and the water temperature. I’m interested to see how readily I adapt, and what other benefits or problems occur along with the adaptation.

Wim Hof – Secrets of the Iceman

Wim Hof holds twenty world records, including a world record for the longest ice bath. Nicknamed ”The Iceman”, Wim stayed immersed in ice for 1 hour, 13 minutes and 48 seconds at Guinness World Records 2008. In 2011, Wim broke the ice endurance record once again and it is now set at 1 hour, 52 minutes and 42 seconds.

In 2007 he climbed to a 6.7 km altitude at Mount Everest wearing nothing but shorts. Wim has spent many years showing what the human body is capable of, and passing on his method to others.

Wim Hof has taught himself how to control his heart rate, breathing and blood circulation. According to current scientific knowledge, the autonomic nervous system cannot be controlled, yet Wim can, by steering his hypothalamus (an area in the brain which regulates the body temperature).

Even after 1 hour and 52 minutes sitting in ice, Wim’s core temperature stays the same.

In the Netherlands, Prof. Maria Hopman of the UMC St Radboud Nijmegen examined Wim’s physiology while he was up to his neck in a cylinder filled with ice cubes. According to Prof. Hopman, the things that Wim is capable of are scientifically viewed as impossible.

An untrained person would likely die from hypothermia Wim, however, can maintain his body temperature constant at 37 degrees Celsius.

Her theory is that Wim can influence his autonomic nervous system, which regulates the heart rate, breathing and blood circulation. Hopman is continuing her investigation on Wim so she can determine how his feats are accomplished.

According to Mr Hof, his method can provide you with the following benefits:

1 – Influence on the immune system.

2 – Influence on your mind.

3 – Improvement of blood circulation.

4 – Improvement of concentration and targeting.

5 – Greater confidence and conscious development.

It all begins with proper breathing. Wim is able to hold his breath with ease for over six minutes, while his entire body is submerged under water. Through proper breathing, you can train to hold your breath longer and make conscious contact with your heart, autonomic nervous system and immune system. The next step is to make your body stronger by exposure to the cold. For example, take a cold shower after a hot one. As you progress, you can even sit, walk, or run through snow and ice.

Wing Chun Origins has had a chance to ask Mr Wim some questions that we believe are relevant to all Martial Artists. Within Wing Chun, there is a long and rich history of ”Mind” training, where emphasis is placed on using the ”Intent” to generate soft, relaxed power.

It can be argued that the hidden treasure of the ”Siu Nim Tao” is precisely this type of ”Mind Intent” training. In fact, the late Grandmaster Tsui Sheung Tin, often spoke of this ”Mind Intent” as one of the fundamental factors of Wing Chun.

There can be no argument that Mr Wim Hof has reached a level of control over his body that most of us can only dream of. We hope you will find this interview an enlightening as we did:

Mr Wim, can you please tell us how you came to discover your unusual abilities?

I studied many religions, traditions, cultures and esoteric diciplines but nothing touched the depth which I was looking for, until the ice- water, in my own backyard.

Since then, I knew from within, that mother Nature has the answer. From there, I developed my skills, practising regularly in ice-water. I learned to breathe right and to concentrate without thoughts. A deep and tremendous understanding suddenly arose.

What forms of meditation have you studied in the past?

I learned much from Yogic practices, Kung Fu, Buddhism, and many more disciplines, but nothing compares to cold water.

Do you believe that there is a relationship between emotional states and our physical body? It is taught by many internal arts that the secret to using the ’mind intent’ to control the physical body is through the use of emotions. Have you found this to be true in your experience?

Emotion goes up to our DNA and thus influences us at the very depth of our Physiology. We found that out already in the studies. Believe goes deep. The Mind is chemistry, it is electrical signals and neurotransmitters.

Thus emotions are signals which travel directly to the cells and their DNA. Emotion causes thoughts in the Mind …through neurotransmitters. We are able to change our emotions by going deeply into the Brain and influencing it.

Amygdala is the ”Seat of Emotion” in the primitive brain. We are influenced deeply in the brain-stem, and this has been shown in studies. I can generate more adrenaline lying in bed through focus and breathing exercises, than somebody doing their first bungy- jump.

Do you make use of visualisation when exposed to extreme cold?

Visualisation is a natural thing to do. You think about what you do and want a positive outcome. That’s the way I do my feats as well.

With the cold water, thinking stops. If you love somebody your thinking stops. Find the driving force that makes you feel like you are in love and you can do the impossible.

Anybody can do it! How? We have a great online course.

Can you tell us a little bit more about your online course?

Yes, the online course can be found at During 10 weeks, you will get a new video each week. You can start practicing right away, using the videos as an example.

We have a video mini-class about the online training, so you can experience it for yourself. By subscribing (at www. for the free video mini-class, you can start today with the basics of the method.

In your experience, is there a direct correlation between stretching and emotional states?

Stretching relieves muscle tension… psychosomatically. Doing a good workout relieves the (emotional) tension and frees the mind.

What role does the Solar Plexus play in calming one’s mental state? Can manipulation of this area through posture and stretching result in reduced fear/ anxiety?

The Solar Plexus is related directly to our personality, attitude, and stance toward the world. In work and in exercise, we want to stand out. Freeing the Solar Plexus by good breathing and exercise has a calming effect, because the tension accumulated by emotional interactions and any daily stress, is relieved.

We must develop the physiological insight on how to relieve tension related to the Solar plexus.

Thank you for your time Mr Hof. As a parting message, can you tell us what you hope to accomplish by sharing your methods with the world?

Life is about focus, energy, and sensations. Because of my practices, these have became much more profound and controllable. Learning about physiology and psychology in the cold has allowed me to perform spectacular feats whilst raising 4 children on my own. What more can I ask for?

We can accomplish much more than we ever thought possible. My mission is to show (scientifically) the insight that happiness, health, and power are a choice for everybody. Ω

From "Average Joe" To "Superhuman": The Iceman Trains 12 Students

Wim says that his feats and superman abilities are available to anyone and everyone who practices his meditative techniques. Intrigued by the possibility, researchers put his claim to the test.

For 10 days, Wim trained 12 students  --> with the very same deep breathing meditative technique that he practices.

In the lab his meditators were injected with dead E. coli bacteria, which invokes the same immuno-response as a living pathogen.

And The Researchers Were Astonished

The meditators showed little to no effects  --> from the injection, quickly squashing any flulike symptoms and inflammation.

How did they do it? By "breathing" high levels of oxygen into their blood, the meditators triggered a cataclysm of immuno-upgrades, starting with better tissue alkalinity and elevated levels of adrenaline/epinephrine.

(Note: An acidic body is linked to countless diseases. Luckily, meditation makes the body more alkaline  -->, as this study clearly shows.)

Study author Matthijs Kox, told Livescience: "The adrenaline levels were higher than in people who bungee jumped for the first time. The acid-base [blood] balance oxygen levels… could lead to this effect."

The Takeaway

As your body’s first line of defense, your immune system can be upgraded to "superhuman" levels. The potential is within each and every one of us.

You don’t need to be a freak of nature, as the "The Iceman’s" 12 students have so convincingly proven in only 10 short days. Meditation is the way.

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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