Like any self-experimenter worth their salt, I couldn’t wait to give the Wim Hof method a try. Not a whole course. Just the basics I could learn from reading about it on the internet.
I originally heard about it from a friend I went to visit who told me (in his cute Australian way) that he’d been spending time doing “a breathing technique that’s from a guy called Wim Hof and I have found it to be really really responsive for improving myself.”
My First Time Wim Hof Breathing
A few days into our visit, I found myself sitting a hundred yards from the ocean on a warm, breezy Australian afternoon while kind of hyperventilating with my friend and a few of his neighbors. He told us to breathe in deeply and exhale quickly 30- 40 times. On the final exhale, we were to breathe comfortably out and then try not to inhale for as long as possible. Once we could no longer resist inhaling, we were to inhale deeply and hold the fresh air in our lungs for 10 – 15 seconds. When we released the air from our lungs, we were supposed to breathe out until we couldn’t breathe out anymore, squeezing every last morsel of air from our bodies.
Repeat 3-4 times:
- 30-40 deep breaths with short exhales
- normal exhale on the last*
- hold until you can’t anymore
- breathe deeply in and hold 10-15 seconds
- fully exhale, squeeze every last drop of air from the body
It took a good ten minutes. I felt dizzy at the end of each of my 30-40 breaths in. I discovered, to my great surprise, that holding was effortless. I didn’t feel like I needed to breathe at all. I didn’t have to resist inhaling. I felt really calm and peaceful. While holding, I also felt like someone had rubbed menthol inside my skin – this amazing, cool, tingling feeling.
*I learned from this amazing book on breathing that a huge part of the benefits of Wim Hof breathing come from the hypoventilation (underbreathing for this short stretch). So holding with the lungs on the empty side is very important! Otherwise it may be harder to enter a deep state of hypoventilation.
Wim Hof Training & Day Three Results
After our second breathing session, my friend sat us down to watch the 40 minute VICE documentary on Wim Hof. I immediately understood my friend’s enthusiasm for freezing morning swims in the ocean just out his front door. I’d been joining him, giggling gleefully at the ridiculousness and also the empowering feeling one gets from such an intense physical experience.
Turns out the Wim Hof method wasn’t just a breathing technique. There’s a reason Wim Hof is known as ‘The Iceman.’ Cold exposure training is a big piece of how he’s nabbed 26 world records, many for being mostly-naked in the snow climbing mountains or being submerged in ice baths for longer than most toddlers nap. (Although his feats extend to running a marathon in the desert without water, too. NBD.)
On day three of Wim Hof breathing, my friend grabbed a stopwatch to time my last hold. Once I’d finished, he made me guess. How long could I hold my breath after three days of Wim Hof breathing? I don’t know. It felt like… maybe… 45 seconds? 50? Nope. A minute and thirty seconds. In just three days, I could comfortably go for three times longer than the average person can hold their breath. It sure made me wish I had taken a baseline!
Then Wim Hof Breathing Stopped Working
I’m prone to obsessing over data, so I began timing all my Wim Hof breathing sessions as soon as my friend put the idea in my head. By day seven, I hit two minutes! But then my times started dropping. On day 12, I didn’t get past 1:52. On day 14, I couldn’t get above 1:06. On day 16, I didn’t pass 1:25. Why is my Wim Hof breathing not working all of a sudden?
I started playing with how I was executing my 30-40 breaths. Previously, when I’d hit two minutes, I was doing something I’d heard a yoga instructor refer to as a three part breath. I imagined first filling my chest, then lower lungs, then my belly with air. Maybe I had started breathing too deeply in? Maybe the three part breath was taking too long and using up the oxygen that was supposed to be saturating my tissues? Maybe my exhales were too slow? Maybe I was exhaling too much? Or not enough?
I tried to mimic what my friend had done when he first taught me, sort of a gaping fish-mouth breath in that moved his whole body (he was seated demonstrating, I’ve done most my Wim Hof breathing lying down). That didn’t make a difference. Then I watched Wim Hof demonstrate the breathing himself in this video. Nothing got me back to two minutes.
Then I tried Wim Hof breathing on a flight. Whoa. The worst hold times so far! 0:41, 0:36, 0:55. Yuck! I tried speeding up my breath cycles, which still didn’t allow me to break 1:30. Then I went on a camping trip and tried sitting up. 0:46, 0:54, 0:56. Nope. I tried laying down. 0:35, 0:45, 0:40, 0:40. Holy, holy nope.
Hey. Wait a Minute.
And then I realized something. I’d started Wim Hof breathing at sea level. Sure, maybe changes in my breathing technique or adjustments to my environment caused my initial backslide. E.g. I’d tried breathing on a bed instead of the floor and with music that ended up amping me up instead of calming me down. But on the flight, I was breathing at 30,000′ 19,000m in a pressurized cabin with who knows what for oxygen levels. On day 19, I flew to 2730′ 2832m and couldn’t get longer than 1:23. On day 22 I traveled to 4800′ 31500m for a few days and couldn’t break a minute to save my own life. In fact, I desperately wanted to breathe in just a few seconds after I started each hold.
After ten days at 2730′ 4832m, I was finally breaking a minute again with the Wim Hof breathing method. And then I flew to 5,100 feet 51500m. (Um, I travel a lot. Oh, how do I afford it? I thought you’d never ask. For starters, I get free flights, and you can, too. The rest is in the FAQs.) Once I’d doubled my elevation, my hold times plummeted again. 0:33, 0:35, 0:50, 0:53 and 0:45, 0:53, 0:50, 0:30. I still hadn’t had the elevation revelation, so I tried everything I could think of. A thin pillow to relieve any pressure on my throat. Breathing with my legs resting against the wall. Breathing sitting up with my back against the wall. Nope.
Then on my 8th day at 5,100 feet, I finally broke 1:15. Then 1:30 the next day. Then 1:45 two days after that. I was on fire!
Like That Time When…
I thought back to my days on the university rowing team. My school’s elevation was a mere 430′ 6131m. During Christmas break I was sent with a list of workouts to my hometown, more than ten times higher – 4500′ 71400m. For a month, I trained. When I returned to school, I was shocked to discover I’d gone from the middle of the girl’s pack during our team runs to the front of the boys pack.
Then I learned about a little thing called hemoglobin. It’s a red protein responsible for transporting oxygen in the blood. To keep up at elevation, one’s blood produces more hemoglobin. Building it up takes a week or two. When the added elevation challenge drops away (e.g. returning to school), it takes a few weeks for those hemoglobin levels to drop. It’s the reason people don’t climb Everest in a single day, but rather spend time acclimatizing at a succession of base camps. It’s the reason that I didn’t stay at the front of the team pack for longer than five or six practices.
It’s seems that my changes in elevation have to do with a majority of my struggles with Wim Hof breathing. But not all.
Wim Hof Breathing Not Working? Try This.
I do think the different ways I was a breathing had a big impact on my hold times. Before my elevation challenges, I tried:
- natural deep mouth-breath in; slightly faster natural mouth-breath out
- breathing in extra deep through O-shaped mouth; relaxed, fast mouth-breath out
- deepest-possible nose breath in, relaxed, fast mouth-breath out
- mouth breath in, focusing on “three parts breath;” letting about half of the air in my lungs out
- mouth breath in, focusing on “three parts breath;” letting most of the air in my lungs out
- breathing in as deep but as fast as possible through an O-shaped mouth, fastest breath release possible
The latter is what’s worked best for me to achieve maximum hold times. Breathing in fast seems slightly more important than breathing in deep, but you need both. I breathe out until I don’t feel any pressure in my lungs.
In a no-longer-available PDF on the Wim Hof Method, the breathing technique is described as basically “inhaling deeply and exhaling without any use of force.” Wim is quoted saying:
“By not breathing out entirely, you come to a point where a residual of air remains in the lungs. After doing this thirty times, you exhale again without any use of force. This time though, you don’t immediately inhale again, but wait with inhaling until you sense your body needs new oxygen. After this, the whole process starts again.”
Now, it’s interesting to note the Wim Hof is well known for training people in just a few weeks to be able to climb a mountain in Poland in just their skivvies and a pair of sneakers. Presumably the climb involves a serious altitude gain. So maybe if you do the in-person Wim Hof course, you learn how to supersede the challenges of altitude as well. Maybe you’re actually learning to influence your own hemoglobin levels?
Wim Hof Breathing Explained
Update 2021: Thanks to the commenter who pointed out I hadn’t updated this article with what every dedicated Wim Hof Breathing participant eventually discovers. The point of Wim Hof Breathing is not to maximize hold times!
Sure, at first the miracle of comfortably holding one’s breath for minutes is captivating. The new bodily feelings and awareness this magic brings are exciting. When hold times start decreasing, it’s easy to worry the magic will disappear with that change.
Not so, my friend!
The magic has many components, which physiology labs have labored to quantify, label, and explain. I’ll leave that research to you.
From my perspective and experience, Wim Hof Breathing is another technique to pay attention to more ways your body works, to notice how choices you make affect what’s happening in your body, to increase your conscious ability to affect the connection between your brain and your body – especially allegedly subconscious systems.
With that in mind, I hope your pursuit to understand changes in your hold times is underlain by a curiosity to understand more about yourself and how your body works. If you’re focused only on maximizing hold times, that focus might blind you to learning and noticing the many ingredients that contribute to the Wim Hof magic.
Here’s what Wim has to say about changes in hold times.
Why I’m Still Wim Hof Breathing
To paraphrase another part of that (no-longer-available) PDF, breathing is one of the easiest tools we can use to influence processes in our bodies that affect our health. 8The full quote: “the amount of oxygen that we inhale through our breathing influences the amount of energy that is released into our body cells. On a molecular level, this progresses via various chemical and physiological processes. Breathing is the easiest and most instrumental part of the autonomic nervous system to control and navigate. In fact, the way you breathe strongly affects the chemical and physiological activities in your body.“ Wim Hof has been invited into medical laboratories and shown that endotoxins don’t affect him as intensely as others. More importantly, students who completed Wim Hof training underwent the same procedure with the same results. The Wim Hof breathing also just feels cool. I am continually amazed at how peaceful it feels not to breathe during holds. Plus, Wim Hof breathing is making it way easier to meet my meditation goals. For awhile I was just counting the breathing session as my mediation for the day, but at the end of a breathing session I’m motivated to tack on an actual meditation session. #killingit
After doing lots of research about the rest of the Wim Hof method, I was sold on cold exposure training, too. That’s right. I’m taking cold showers and loving it… just like everyone else singing the praises of the Wim Hof course.
I’ve got a hectic travel schedule for the next several months, so I’m sticking to intro-level Wim Hof until July 2018 when I land in one place for at least ten weeks – the length of the Wim Hof course. Can’t wait!
Update: I did the course and excitedly shared my results each week.
Be sure to check out the comments to read other’s perspectives on how Wim Hof breathing and the Wim Hof method is (or isn’t!) working for them. Lots of you are reading this – feel free to talk to each other. What are your Wim Hof struggles and solutions? Please share!
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|↑8||The full quote: “the amount of oxygen that we inhale through our breathing influences the amount of energy that is released into our body cells. On a molecular level, this progresses via various chemical and physiological processes. Breathing is the easiest and most instrumental part of the autonomic nervous system to control and navigate. In fact, the way you breathe strongly affects the chemical and physiological activities in your body.“|
Thanks for your article. I had a similar experience. My breath holds also started getting shorter. Sometimes it takes 5 or 6 reps before I can break 2 minutes. I’ve been taking about a 500 mg to 1 g of niacin during my Breathing exercise. It definitely intensifies the flush. Another thing I’ve been doing is 7 hz binaural beats to help put me into a relax state or 40 hz to get into an alert state. I have experienced long breath holds while listening to 7 hz.
I understand that the retention time is irrelevant, but the reason why the sinking time of the breath hold is bothering me, is that I don’t feel the same as before. I’ve been doing this for almost two years now and that first half year was amazing, reaching almost 3 minutes and going through incredible feeling during the retention. It felt like it is healing me and I am discovering a new great world inside of my body and mind. And then the time started to drop, now I am barely making one minute and what the main issue is that I don’t feel anything while the breath holds. Nothing. It feels like there is no time to “dive into that ocean” like before. That’s why it is frustrating to me… Any thoughts?
I had a similar response. After a couple of months of WH breathing the sensations became very muted and I wonder why I persist.
I pause for a week or two or longer, then get good feelings back when starting back up. However, there are benefits to feeling nothing and focusing on nothing too. For me I do the exercise when I feel my body needs it or if I’m extra stressed, not on routine anymore. Also if you do many rounds, like just keep going, and get the squeezing right, it tends to stimulate the Vargas nerve and give the good sensations eventually.
I found this article because I’ve had similar challenges with Wim Hof breathing. It may be partly related to altitude as well as I also travel a lot and have been in Denver for almost a year. Still, I should be used to it by now.
I’ve also been experimenting with other breathing systems, especially Oxygen Advantage (related to Buteyko breathing), and actually seem to be more consistent with that. In that system, you frequently test how long you can hold your breath after an exhale, but not taking long breaths as with Wim Hof. I like that system because of the focus on always breathing more slowly, though it’s hard to remember all the time. I’m not sure how well the two systems work together, but I’m still doing both.
I’ll also check out other articles on this blog, as I didn’t even realize it was largely about travel which is a major part of my life.
I talked too an old free diver once who told me many stories of his free diving adventures in the ocean.
One thing he claimed, was that he could hold his breath for up to 15 minutes!!
Thanks for the article. When I started my Wim Hof breathing I managed great holds of 2mins plus but in recent weeks it’s really dropped off and I barely hold for a minute. However, hearing stories of many others with the same problem makes me feel much better as I now know I’m not alone.
Hi Ray – glad to hear this helped you get some perspective. I just finished reading this book – Breath by James Nestor – that explains so much about what’s going on physiologically with a variety of breathing exercises, including Wim Hof. I haven’t gone back over my notes just yet, but he explains why the holds drop… I think something about the body rebalancing? I can highly recommend the book!
I noticed a drop-off time with my retention (holding breathe after exhale) as well. Wim Hoff directly answers this question himself. I’ll put a link at the bottom of a brief video of Wim describing it. It’s a short answer but apparently, Wim is attributing lower retention times to your body cleansing itself out, detoxing, and he says not to focus on the time. His answer is somewhat vague as it he doesn’t say why cleaning your system out will result in this. Here is his actual answer to your question and tell me what you think.
Thanks for the link, Andrew! I’ve updated the article to reflect my own experience as well as Wim’s advice and other practitioners’ experience that it isn’t about time! I added the link you shared, too. I’m reading Breath – The New Science of a Lost Art which is giving me lots of perspective on what might be going on with my various Wim Hof breathing experiences. I highly recommend the book, and perhaps I’ll write up some of what I learned when I’m through? Cheers!
Iâ€™m 64 and I started Wim Hof about a couple weeks before I contracted COVID-19. I started it for lung strengthening and immunity boosting. My retentions were between 1:30 and 2:00. Since COVID, over six months ago, my longest retention has been 1:50. Usually itâ€™s 1:15-1:40. As I have stopped watch retention times, retention improves.
Also, @ 59 I had a horrible reaction to medication which took 3 years to recover from and left me with an uncomfortable neuropathy in my legs and feet that causes burning and constant involuntary movements. After I recovered from COVID I started back with the Wim Hof method. Within the first month of returning to Wim Hof breathing and showers I noticed that the constant movement in my feet had all but gone away. I donâ€™t know all the science, but Iâ€™m grateful to God for this healing modality. It seems to be helping me where conventional treatments are unable.
Finally: Thank you for a very well written article!
HI Debbie – I’m so delighted to hear the Wim Hof method is helping you! I love having it in my tool kid. Good luck in your health journey!
I’m not sure if anyone has pointed this out..
I thought it was going to be the main “twist” in the article, but it appears that you were just confused.
Your main error was seeing hold times as something to beat/match.. The method has absolutely nothing to do with how long you can hold your breath, seeing it as a kind of score to beat ruins the whole purpose of the method.
Hi Robbie – amen! The article was written for people “struggling” with Wim Hof hold times for the first time – like I did – and trying to “figure it out.” I’ll try and make my perspective more clear that hold times are not a measure of the method’s effectiveness. Thanks for chiming in!
I’ve been doing this breathing technique for about a week now. I really enjoy it! Maybe too much. I started to get this feeling of having a lump in my throat. I haven’t read anything that says you can’t overdo it, but I know Hof says that if it ever gets uncomfortable then you should stop. This feeling goes away after some time, but I really enjoy doing this exercise so it’s a bummer! Is there anything I can do to relieve this? I stretch my neck a lot, and I’m pretty sure I am breathing correctly, as the effects are very strong when I do it.
I should clarify that I have done a ton of rounds the past week. like 500 maybe… I’m hooked on it and find it very calming yet stimulating. Don’t judge me lol.
Hi Ulyana – I haven’t personally heard of this specific experience yet, but I’ve learned a ton about Wim Hof Breathing experiences from this comment section! Someone might be along in a bit with some perspective?!
I have weird throat troubles too… I cannot understand where they are coming from. Researching this like crazy 🙁
Have you tried focusing on slowing down your heart beat while not breathing?
Hi Brendah – I’ve never actively focused on my heart beat. I know the heart beat slows down anyway when not-breathing, but I haven’t ever tried to add to that slowness.
Hi there, I have been doing the method for approximately 4 months. I have found better results occur the more relaxed i am. Also the more pronounced the “buzz” which feels like non painful electricity coursing through me and seeing lighter colour even though my eyes are closed. Definitely better results on empty stomach, even better if no coffee/caffeine. I am 60 and fit, I find my retention times can vary from 1m30s and gasping to 4m15s and doing it fairly easily. Lying down seems better.
I feel the mystery is deliberate as people teach this for a living and don’t wish to make it too easy!!
4m and 15s! Wow!
Just wondering if you done it in a fasted state or near meals, I’m thinking doing this after a good stretch , massage, meditated ,fasted and no stimulants or medications could significantly lengthen??.. Also have you ever tried focussing on something other than your desire to breathe in, like focussing on a candle?? Pretty sure our mind can block out many sensations given the proper distraction and focus.. what do you think??
I do it both fasted and near (after) meals. I prefer doing it when my stomach is empty. I use the main Wim Hof breathing technique (the one everyone starts with – not the variations introduced in the courses) before meditating sometimes.
Definitely focusing on other things – the sensations in my toes, earlobes… anything but the urge to take a breath definitely extends my hold times!
Hi guys i am an experienced freediver and have not done the wim hoff method but am interested. I n regards to hyperventilation old mate was referring to in the water any hyperventilation done outside the water is fine yes many people have died from shallow water blackout which is what hyperventilation causes due to lowering your urge to breath which lowers your signal for wanting air to the dangerous point of blacking out fro low o2 and if you blackout underwater you die unless someone tkes you to the surface and wakes you up, not the same as drowning eg: mouth to mouth. as for breath hold duration i can do 5.30 my advice is do a freediving course for maximum breath holds but wim hoff for other possible benefits hope this helps guys
This is incredibly dangerous to promote, and something the Freediving world has been actively try to stop people from doing for a very long time (base on actual science). This breathing is a cheap trick and we would implore people to NEVER repeat these ‘breathing techniques” and then do it in water. It is the main reason people “black out” while snorkelling, spearfishing, freediving etc.
We base our urge to breath on rising carbon dioxide; hyperventilation removes carbon dioxide; at the same time you experience respiratory alkalosis, which results in constriction of the capillaries in your brain (hence the dizziness etc.) a change in the chemical attraction of oxygen to haemoglobin also occurs and we reduce the physiological adaptations our body has to actually hold its breath longer. The medical world has known about this for a long time; please don’t promote this cheap trick…. it is killing people. google it.
Hi Lucas – thank you so much for sharing your experience. Are you say no one should do Wim Hof breathing at all, or no one should do it in water?
I’ve started the Wim Hoff method and am wondering if you are saying it’s dangerous just for people near the water, or in general (i.e. laying on my bed). I’ve just managed to hold breath for 2mins 11 seconds and heard white noise (felt peaceful) but wondered what it was doing to my brain and ended up here. I just want to know if it’s beneficial for people (ref lungs etc) to practice outside of the water.
Me too! I’d like clarification where you’re saying just in water, or not at all ever??? I’m just starting to look into this for what sounds like huge benefits to your health. If this was harmful, why would he be so healthy?
I’m not sure we’re going to hear back from Lucas. I have heard repeatedly about the dangers of practicing Wim Hof breathing in water… so I’m guessing that’s what he’s concerned about? His email address when he submitted his comment was from a free diving school.
Never do this in water. If this breathing practice calls to you. Do it. Wim Hof has guided exercises on YouTube.
Lucas… You need to do more research before you are actively trying to deter people from trying something new.
Seriously… Scaring people. For what?
To answer several people’s question:
DO NOT EVER DO THE WIM HOF METHOD IN WATER!!!!
NEVER EVER IN WATER!!!!
Do your OWN RESEARCH!!! As with anything, learn about it. The reason you want to do it. What it does to your body. And why? And how??
This has all been researched.
Find what works for you.
I do believe in this breathing technique. It’s based in pranayama. Old old old breathing techniques with different patterns that afffect your body in different ways.
Wim Hof has refined his method and it works for many.
You have a choice :
Live in Love or Live in Fear.
But above all, use your common sense.
If something can make you pass out potentially. No… You wouldn’t do that in water.
(to the author, great article on your experience! If I could suggest you taking down the picture of the person in the sensory deprivation tank. I think it has people confused. If you don’t read the article… It is a misleading photo.)
Hi Dee – thanks so much for the suggestion. I’ve replaced the photo. A very unfortunate coincidence that my personal experiences (one of the most peaceful places for me is in water, my acrobat friends often do underwater photoshoots that I find artistically beautiful) meant choosing a representation of the peace I get as one of the Wim Hof breathing benefits… that could encourage a very dangerous activity for anyone not actually reading the words!
Hi, I was doing the breathing exercise for about a month, with keeping breath for around 1:30, sometimes more sometimes less, I didn’t really care. Observed better shape when hiking..then I stopped with breathing as I was traveling, just doing cold water exposure. Wanted to start again but recently I came across to a woman who was leading one of the workshops of whim hof method and she realized that it seems the whole method is more convenient for men. most of the tested ppl were man anyways. She said, she for example noticed that women have very strong periods after doing the exercises regularly… Then I realized that the period I experienced after my month doing breathing exercise was the worst one of my life… So will probably just continue with the cold water, just with occasional breathing, recommending the whole method only to guys… Are you also experiencing stronger ans painful periods? (it’s mostly for women who do not take any hormones for birth control…) thanks
Hi Michaela – that’s the first I’ve heard of that, but I will pay more attention! Thanks for sharing!
Hi Michaela – just heard of another woman experiencing this. She says:
Hi! Iâ€™m doing this for 2 weeks, and I noticed too some bad cramps, backpain and leg pain during my menstrual cycle, and same happened after few days. Did you still experiencing pains?
She commented on my week 3 review, where I wrote about intense menstrual cramps. I’d totally forgotten about having those cramps – it was only one week of the whole course! I haven’t experienced them since, but I’m usually not feeling up to Wim Hof breathing on the week that I’m so menstrual-meh.
From a Chinese Medical Perspective (Iâ€™m an Acupuncturist), this breathing is creating intense movement.
It is helping to detox the Liver. Liver governs the smooth flow of blood. Symptoms of Liver imbalance are cramps/pain/bloating/distention/breasttenderness/anger.
In the healing process, things can get worse before they get better.
Always listen to your body and also allow the body to process and shift into a healthier flow.
This practice has brought up deep emotions (anger (Liver)/grief(Lungs) primarily) for me. And Iâ€™m grateful for this powerful tool.
I have also used EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) to help smooth what is coming up for me, physically and emotionally. You can find many YouTube Videos on how to do it.
May your transformation be as peaceful as possible!
Hi, This is the third day I practice Wim Hof respiration and cold shower method. I was wondering if anybody else got as sore as me on the upper back where the lungs are?
I will continue anyways, it feels good!
I haven’t had that happen… yet! Good luck Wim Hoffing, Esther. Hope that sensation doesn’t stick around!
No…but I.do get very sore on my upper.chest. Plus reading this as.my breath hold times have plummeted. I.went from 40 seconds to 2.45 within a few weeks…but.now find it.hard to.do over 1.30….I have no idea why as.I feel in good health
I found that increasing the number of breaths per round increased my breath retention time directly, after watching a shamanic breath video, I slowly increased my breath work to 30 minutes and held my breath for over 4min with out any discomfort
Great article thanks for sharing! By any chance, would it be possible for you to send me a copy of that pdf you mentionned? I’d really appreciate it! 🙂
Best regards, Will
Hi Will – it was hosted on the Wim Hof site. I used to link to it, but they took it down. If I’d thought about that, I would have taken a copy. C’est la vie. Good luck to you!
I am wondering, my friend has Pecoma, a very rare and incurable lung cancer. Would the breathing exercise have any beneficial effects on this disease ?
Hi Jan, I haven’t studied how this breathing and cancer intersect. Good luck to you in seeking relief for your friend!
Great article thank you. A simple change that got me from 1.20 to 2.30 straight away was; 20 nose breaths, swap to 10 mouth breaths, then 10 nose breaths to finish off. I found sometimes my muscles started to ache breathing hard and swapping over just changed it a little bit and helped keep focus. Hope it helps somebody as I was starting to get really frustrated with my perceived lack of progress. I know Wim says it doesn’t matter but if you regress it is quite dispiriting!
Hi Chris – that sounds like an awesome possibility. I’ll try it! And thanks for sharing here. I could definitely use the help staying focused. When I get on a stint of doing Wim every day, I can really zone out and lose track on the breaths. Cheers!
Doing WH for a couple years now off and on. Average time at 1500 feet. 2-3 min. I was reaching four and five minute holds but when the involuntary gasps come, and they will, I would fight them off, I felt like air was getting in. So I covered my nose and mouth once, way more difficult and I gasped. Not sure how to push past three minutes without air getting in.
Hi, I’ve been doing the wim hof method for almost two months now, and I experience this: when I do it lying down (in the morning, after a 30 min meditation) I have holds between 2’30 and 3 minutes.
But when I do it sitting (for instance right now, while I’m at work – I’m bored to death -) I usually hold for 1 minute or 1’30.
It might be because I can fill my belly more when I’m lying down… but as I’m pretty used to diaphragmatic breathing, this should’nt be the case.
Any idea? In the videos Wim shows both positions as giving the same results.
Hi Kasei – thanks for sharing your experience. So much about the Wim Hof method seems to be a mystery. It seems most of the scientific lab work that leads to Western-perspective/logical framework understanding about positives of Wim Hof breathing, etc. has been focused more on results of doing it and less on understanding the mechanisms.
Sorry I can’t be more helpful. Would love to hear from you if you think you hit upon any explanations in the future. And if you check out some of the other comments here, you’ll see lots of people offering explanations that they’ve experienced or studied.
Jema, what time of day were those sessions? I’ve had the same issue, but noticed a definite difference at certain times of the day.
WH says do it on an empty stomach. This would make sense, since many hormones are produced by your stomach, maybe fasting helps too?
I’m eager to experiment with this, and to hear anyone’s experiences.
Hi Jonas! Gosh – I do Wim Hof at all times of the day. My plane and mountain times would have been during daylight hours. Most the Wim Hof Breathing that I do now tends to be at night. I’ll have to pay attention in the future to see if it makes a difference at different times of day. I definitely don’t like doing it on a full stomach. When I do it in the morning, I’m fasting. Good luck with your Wim Hof breathing!
HI Jema and Kasei,
Iâ€™m very new to Wim Hof and only starting breath work and cold showers a week ago but researched on Iâ€™d to do it on my period and decided Iâ€™m not going to, just the cold showers. Doing well in terms of retention time and noticed that the times are much longer on day 3 it was 2:15 – when I focus on the body, especially slowing down the heart beat. This can make up to 1min difference. Mind is powerful. But as Wim says- ALWAYS LISTEN TO YOUR BODY 😉
Im doing WHM on and off for a year.Some days I do only once but somedays I feel doing it a few times a day. Also found more beneficial ehen I do 4times 30breaths than 3times. I wander how often daily one can do withouth hearting myself.
Could it be that after a bout of intensive Wim Hof training the body reduces hemoglobulin levels because it senses that there is more than enough oxygen, now that breathing is deeper than usual? A bit like when you train at high altitude and go for a race in the valley. The advantage that you get on race day disappears after a few days because the body senses that there is more than enough oxygen in the valley and sheds hemoglobulin cells. Wim Hof breathing therefore probably only works in the long run if practiced in cycles.
For me WH breathing works before high intensity workouts or tabatas I can complete the rounds without effort, whereas otherwise I would be breathing heavily at the end. Also after WH breathingI can add 8KG to my kettlebell swings (in my case from 24 to 32 kg), without losing grip.
That makes a lot of sense, Will. Maybe! I know I’m always excited to come back to my Wim Hof breathing. I’ve never tried it with HIIT or Tabata stuff – I will now, thanks!
I used WM method last summer to train for higher altitude backpacking 10-12k , Iâ€™ve had mountain sickness b4 at the level. Light headed, Nausea. I was able to jog around a lake at 10k with a thirty pound pack on. No issues. I couldnâ€™t believe it. I attribute that to Wimâ€™s method.
That’s awesome! Wow! I should consider that before I go high altitude again. Another commenter here says he does it before his HIIT workouts, and it makes them much easier. Awesome!
Can you share for how long you practiced the WHM before going to the higher altitude backpacking? Also, did you learn the method on your own, or with Wim? I’m going backpacking in 2 months to a high altitude and just came across this method. Any input will be helpful, thank you!
Hi Will, I have to ask how you do WH breathing before doing KB swings? Do you do several rounds holding the exhale at the end of each swing then hold your breath out while you swing?
Like the video’s with pushups? I’m on week eight of the online course and also use kettlebells.
I’m looking for any edge to use for the RKC snatch test.
Jema, I also noticed my breath out retention losing time but then noticed I seem to do better
if I am following the video practice. ie., I can keep up with Wim and the others on the video?
I’ll have to pay attention to my differences with and without the videos! I do like having him counting for me and not having to keep track of how many breaths I’ve done.
FYII I found on the FAQ from the 10 week course link a 1 minute video on this subject. see below.
Wim explains that loss of retention time is normal and has to do with the body becoming pure. I also like the extended breathing exercise video from the 10 week course. You do cycles for 45 minutes and it’s gotten me back on track.
My retention times drop/flatten out. Am i doing something wrong?
Thanks so much for sharing this, Jack! Of course it’s in week 10 FAQ. 🙂 You’re inspiring me to get back to the course and not just Wim Hof exercises at my own as they fit into my life.
Cheers! And happy Wim-Hoffing 🙂
Just tried youâ€™re recommended technique and recorded my worst ever results! I think you just have to find what works for you, I remember first starting and hitting the 2 minute mark, now I canâ€™t get past 90 seconds and just then I couldnâ€™t get past 1 minute!
Are any of you guys in the UK? Iâ€™d love to get to know/meet more people who are practising this, donâ€™t seem to know any nor be able to convince anyone!
Hi Liam – thanks for sharing your experience! Yes, Wim definitely says in the Fundamentals training things like, “Just do. Just feel it.” Lots of things that insinuate the experience is pretty personal and unique to each person.
You can also look to connect with others practicing the Wim Hof method on Facebook. There are lots of Wim Hof groups. Good luck!
I’ve been working Wim Hof for a few weeks. I’m in good shape, an ex-jock, well experienced with breathwork and meditation. Without knowing anything but the breathing pattern, initially I was holding my breath 4-5 minutes. Then, after I read the details about the process and learned 4-5 minutes was a long time, I suddenly fell back to maxing out at 1:30 min. My theory on myself is the analysis killed the natural process for me. I’m trying to get it back. I’ve been back to just over 3 minutes just recently. The altered state after 2 minutes is a zone I want to explore. Looks like when you get your body in an alkaline state, some cool pathways open up in my body and mind!
Hey Mark – thanks for sharing your Wim Hof experience! I have often wondered how much analysis takes energy that might otherwise go to the hold? But I’ve heard (see other comments) that once your body is used to higher oxygen levels (e.g. no longer oxygen deprived) that it’s normal to level out? Very interested in the alkaline state mind pathways! I love doing Wim Hof Breathing before meditation. Happy Wim Hoffing! 🙂
Out of interest have you ever experienced an OBE (or astral projection) using this technique?
You may want to consider the fact that after doing it for many weeks, your body’s oxygen levels are already super high and saturated. Therefore, your body has less crevices and areas where all that oxygen can penetrate.
That’s why newbies are amazed at their first attempts resulting in 2 and 3+ minute holds. Their cells are pretty much starved of oxygen running on empty. So when they do the method, it floods their system and are able to hold their breath because their body has a use for all that excess oxygen.
Once your system is primed, it doesn’t need as much.
I’ve been doing it for 3 years and I always am able to hold it much much longer if I don’t do it for a month but after a few days; then the exact same thing happens – 45-60 seconds.
Sam – thanks so much for sharing your experience. After hearing from so many people and comparing my experience of doing Wim Hof for two long stretches (can’t wait for the third!), I began to suspect this might be the case. Thanks again for confirming. Happy Wim Hoffing! 🙂
I tried again this morning. Went back to fast in rather than deep. Your last bullet point. Back to over 2 minutes. Basically I was over thinking it. Trying too hard by breathing in deep. Lesson is. Just do it. Keep it simple like when you start. Great article and thanks so much as I was frustrated. I had also lost the tingling and other benefits. All came back again. Thank you !!!!
So glad you’ve gotten it figured out, Julie! Thanks for adding your Wim Hof experience here for everyone! 🙂
Oh, also! Just had to laugh at “just do it.” Wim says that so much in the Fundamentals Course! “Just do it. Just GO. Go deep.”
Hi Julie. I’m from Argentina. I swim since I was 3 years old (27 now). I can hold my breath for long periods of time. I started wim hof breathing 3 months ago, and Im feeling incredible. But for some exotic reason the temperature dropped from 40 to 10 degrees celcius (it’s really crazy for this place). I wanted to know if you can give me some advice about breathing on cold weather. My throat and chest are in a lot of pain because I was running doing the breath and I’m not used to let the cold enter so fast though my nose and mouth. (I feel like a fish out of the water). Saludos!
I started out going great guns. And got up to 2.27 after only 6 days. I did a 2hr flight during that time period. Then only a few days later after flying again 3.5hrs then another short flight and little sleep, I couldn’t even get to 1 minute. I also hadn’t been training as much that week (CrossFit). Slight improvement this morning after flying back yesterday. I’m wondering if I’ve changed the breathing. I think I’m trying too hard. Breathing in too deep maybe. There was was anxiety going on too so I wonder about that. I travel a lot so I’ll keep seeing how it goes. I’ll keep a record and maybe update over time.
On day four today and for some reason I started getting hip and leg pain starting day 2. Also had the rigor Morris fingers day 1 and 2 but not any more. A lot has changed in 4 days all for the positive. Just concerned about the pain?
I’ve gotten some really strange pains in my core while Wim Hof-ing. But all were during times where my life had a high degree of stress, so I thought they might have been psychosomatic. Sorry I can’t offer more insight!
HI Alia. I’ve only done the Wim Hoff breathing method twice but it does feel familiar as I’ve done a lot of different breathing practises over the last several years. During different breathing practises I would get paralysis in my fingers and hands and abdomen. It felt frightening. I learned it was trauma in the body. After learning that it was normal I felt safe to continue breathing through these muscle cramps and slowly but surely it stopped happening at all. https://www.breathewithjp.com/get-lobster-claws-breathwork/
Hey Becky, you may find seeing a biodynaic body therapist will help you to let go of the trapped trauma in the body
Great post, I was then lead to your other post “wim-hof-method-fundamentals-review-week-1”, and I was trying to reply to that, but it seems comments are off.
Just wanted to say that I’m getting the same rigor mortis thing you described. I’m only 2 days into doing this, but both mornings, on either the second or third round, both my hands went into a kind of pincer shape, almost in semi spasm. This happened at around the same time as the all over body vibrations kicked in, I’m not sure if this is normal?
By the way, when are you supposed to end the timing, is it when you take the breath at the end of the hold – or is it after the recovery breath with the 10 second hold?
Thanks for letting me know, Kev! I’ll check out comments on those other posts. Glad to hear I’m not the only one who had the rigor mortis (although I didn’t have it in the following weeks. So hopefully it goes away for you!).
I take stopwatch splits for the breaths, the hold (until I take the breath at the end), the 10 second recovery breath, and the exhale. I think the time is meant to be just for the hold and stop when you take the recovery breath.
Hope that helps!
Thanks Jema :-),
Re the claw hands thing, I contacted the folks at wimhofmethod.com & they explained that this is caused by vasoconstriction (constriction of blood vessels, a.k.a vasospasm), and I should simply reduce the intensity of the breathing exercise.
I did more of my own research, and apparently this condition is called “tetany”, which is cause by vasoconstriction, which in turn is caused by “Respiratory alkalosis” – which means, if I understand correctly, an increasing PH level. Apparently this happens at a PH level of 7.45 or higher. In other words, it’s a good sign that it’s working ;-).
In terms of why some people may experience tetany at a higher PH level while others don’t, from what I read (and again, I may not be understanding it correctly) there can be underlying conditions that would mean alkalosis would be more likely to cause vasoconstriction, one if which is Raynaudâ€™s (narrowing of smaller arteries which supply blood to the skin) which is something I’ve started with in the past couple of years.
The interesting thing is, I usually get the symptoms of Raynaud’s when it’s cold, it’s fairly cold here in the UK at the moment, and I’ve not experienced the symptoms (what I call “dead man’s fingers”) since I’ve been practicing this method.
Kev! Amazing info. I’m so impressed by your research! The vasoconstriction makes sense as a cause of the feeling. I wonder why increasing PH causes vasoconstriction? I don’t have great circulation either. Not bad, but my feet and bum are almost always cold – even in the heat of summer! Cheers for all the info! Happy new year 🙂
Hi Jema, Its likely that your lack of circulation in specific parts of your body is due to trauma held in the body – go see a good biodynamic body therapist to help discover why you have trauma related to those parts of the body
Thanks for the nudge, Ashley! I’m curious about biodynamic therapy. Cheers!
I know itâ€™s a while back, maybe you found a solution to your cold feet hands bum problem. It could be that your thyroid is under active (hypothyroidism) look into iodine, selenium and vitamin C supplementation or rich foods in that direction, it helped me a great deal.
Hope it helps
Keep up the Wim hoffing
Thanks, Mike! They are still colder than I’d like. I appreciate hearing an idea of what to try. Cheers!
it helped! thanks!
glad to hear it! 🙂
Liked the post. Very nicely written.
I ran into the same thing when it came to breath holds. I think I have the answer. The Win Hof produces a strong adrenaline release. As you get more and more practice your body gets the hang of it and gets to the finish line quicker. If you want to hold your breath longer try the method David Blaine explains in his TED talk. It will slow your metabolism way down. On Wim Hof I have reached a 3:10 breath hold. With the relaxing method I reached 4:15.
Itâ€™s all about relaxing
Thanks, Ben. I am interested in longer holds, but it’s especially helpful to hear about the adrenaline release. That makes sense. I’m in the mountains of Peru, and my holds have seriously decreased with the reduction in oxygen carrying capacity. Hopefully that will change as I acclimatize!
If only the Wim Hof method accessed the semilunar apex of the lung to heart the ration would be much greater in ones mitochondria. As soon as a Wim Hof goes into the mainframe of a cpu, one must be prepared for the MOST gnarly registrar handshake of their life.
Hey, thanks for the post, I identify myself with your story completely. I used to reach 2:10 minutes with no air, but now I rarely reach 1:30 minutes. I don’t feel the same level of calm and peace that I used to when I was at the peak of my training. I’ll try the last technique you told and I hope to get back where I was! Thank you again.
Glad you found the info here useful! Happy Wim Hof breathing to you! 🙂
could vicinity of the ocean influence the oxygen level so that just breathing near the ocean improves the practice ? i know i always have the best experience each time when i’m near the sea doing pranayam or wim hof breathing.
maybe it is not just the oxygen but pranic potential in the surrounding that gives us more power.
I mean, in a closed space room that has the same amount of oxygen as the outdoor space but the difference when doing breathing exercises is stunning, and the process of doing the exercises is definitely more joyful.
(doing any kind of exercise near the open window even , is not the same as doing them in the open air)
Hey Mladen! Not sure, but definitely there could be an affect of all the ions created by moving natural forces. I’ve heard this is a thing with waves/waterfalls/storms etc. Thanks for the inspiration to take my Wim Hof outside!