An essential part of the Wim Hof method for developing cold tolerance is breathing. “The breath is a door,” Hof explains. “It’s where life begins.”
Research on anxiety has shown that controlling one’s breath can modulate the body’s autonomic nervous system, which is the primary mechanism regulating the fight-or-flight response. Hof’s approach is outlined here; use it when you’re preparing for imminent exposure to cold, or when you’re working to improve your cold tolerance overall.
Step 1. Lie down in a quiet, safe environment. Wear something that allows your lungs to expand on the inhale.
Step 2. Close your eyes and clear your mind. Take 30 to 40 deep breaths through your nose or mouth. Imagine you’re filling your body from your belly all the way to your head. Don’t force a large exhale; instead, relax and let it out.
Step 3. At the end of the last breath, inhale once more and fill your lungs without force. Relax and exhale the air. Hold until you feel you need to breathe again — this is what Hof calls the retention phase.
Step 4. When you feel the urge to breathe, take a deep breath and hold it for 10 to 15 seconds. He calls this the recovery breath.
Step 5. Repeat the cycle three to four times.
This originally appeared as “Take a Breather” in “Chill Out” which was published in the October 2021 issue of Experience Life magazine.