Wednesday Woo: Wim Hof

A little-known fact to those who only know me from this blog… I’m a bit into woo. Not the “woo” of drunk girls at a bar on a Saturday night, the woo of those who are into more crunchy or alternative techniques for health, wellness, and relaxation. Don’t get me wrong, I am all about modern medicine and a huge supporter of vaccines. However, I love to also try out different ways to improve sleep, health, and focus on top of using tried and true scientific methods. I am not a doctor or an expert, and especially now it’s important to adhere to what medical professionals suggest for our safety and health. However, we all have a bit more time and a bit more stress and maybe some of my favorite “woo” methods may be an enjoyable addition to your routine. I’ll have a post on Wednesdays called Wednesday Woo.

Today’s Woo is about the Wim Hof Method.

I know several of you watched the series The Goop Lab on Netflix, either with curiosity or while rolling your eyes. I did both binging it one gray weekend when I was nursing a cold. I may love the woo but I find Gwyneth Paltrow and her company quite problematic. But I still watched and was excited and surprised to see one episode dedicated to the Wim Hof Method. If you watched the series you may recall the episode with the guy who really liked to wear shorts in the snow. That’s Wim Hof, and he’s a guy my husband has been into for a couple of years. See, my husband also digs the woo (he is a vegan, twice-daily meditating yoga instructor after all) and thanks to his love of the Rich Roll podcast (great for the plant-based woo athletes in the world), he learned about Wim Hof and became a fan, embracing aspects of his method. Karl’s been ending his showers with an ice-cold rinse that causes him to gasp and shutter like he’s in pain or saw a ghost and does a breathing technique with these intense slurpy breaths, often while we’re watching TV, that also sound like he is in pain or saw a ghost. He’s done both for so long they have stopped causing me anxiety and become part of daily life.

And now he has made them a part of my daily life. I have a job where I don’t really get weekends, but during all this the days can really blend together so we as a family are making weekends weekends. No school work, no work work (unless I have a last-minute assignment), no alarm clocks, and doing things that are relaxing and fun. One Sunday, Karl invited me and our kid to try out the Wim Hof breathing technique. While our kid was oh-vah it after half a session and went off to read in her room, I was hooked. If you are interested in this method, this is the video on YouTube from Wim Hof we used to learn it. Please note you will need to have it set up to pause it if you plan on doing the method with the video or watch it one time before trying (he doesn’t pause for you to complete rounds of breathing and can speak quickly). I am not going write down how to do it here as I am not an expert, Hof is.

The Wim Hof Breathing Technique

I have tried meditating, I even paid a lot of money to learn how to meditate but I still struggle with it. I have replaced meditating with Wim Hof breathing. In the morning, before I eat or drink anything, I come down on our couch, a pillow under my head, a blanket over me if it’s chilly, and I do three rounds of the breathing technique. There’s no need to be in an exact position or clear your mind or even close your eyes. Because you have to count, you need to focus on what you’re doing, which automatically makes your thoughts slow down and center on the activity. When I get to the point in the method where I need to hold my breath, I don’t look at a clock to time it but I do sing a song in my head. Since riding the bus singing it with friends on the way to school, I have known all the lyrics to “The Greatest Love of All” from Whitney Houston and it has been a way to measure time for me ever since (it’s just around four minutes in length). And so I sing it in my head when I get to those points, which makes it more enjoyable and a no-pressure way to see if I am able to hold my breath longer. After I feel awake, focused, and a bit… lighter? As Wim Hof says, you can get high on your own supply and you do feel a bit energized, sometimes giddy, occasionally lightheaded, but all of it positive and it stays with me all day. I only do it once a day, I know Hof recommends more often but that’s not realistic with my day. However, once each morning really makes me feel so much better.

Cold Therapy

I love my showers. Some people love baths, I’m a shower person. I like getting out from a relatively hot bath and being all steamy and soft muscles and put on lotion and oils and wrap up in my bathrobe like a toasty burrito. A cold shower sounds like hell to me but Karl kept telling me all the benefits to cold therapy per Wim Hof so I found a way to kinda sorta do it.

Since having curly hair, I am far gentler with my hair in the shower. To rinse out my conditioner, I flip my head over, let the shower hit the underside of my hair, catch my hair and shower water in my hands and squish the water in my hair to gently rinse. To get into cold showers, I started doing this part of my shower with cold water, since it means the only part of me that gets cold is my scalp. I did this for a couple of weeks and then added to it by flipping my head over and letting the water hit my face (eyes closed of course!) until I can’t stand it. I do angle forward and cover up my breasts so the cold water is mainly on my face and a bit on my neck and shoulders. I don’t know if I’ll ever get to putting my whole bod under the cold water and can't imagine jumping into a tub of ice water, but this amount right now is doable and in fact, I’m seeing the benefits.

First my hair seems to love it. I don’t use heat on my hair very often and the cold rinse seems to make my hair shinier, less frizzy, and all over happy. Second, I find this really helps with headaches. The other morning was chaotic and stressful and I started getting that little twingy feeling next to my right eye that is a sign that a migraine is coming. I took a shower and ended with the cold rinse and left it cold on my face for 20 seconds. I got out, dried off, lotioned up, went in my room to get dressed and realized… I no longer had a headache! I didn’t know if it was a fluke so this weekend when I started feeling tense and headachy, I went to take a shower. Did it normal, all warm and cozy and ending with the cold water hitting my face for 20 seconds and again, the headache went away. I’m not saying this is a replacement for Excedrin but it was a nice result. Wim Hof says that cold showers impose a small amount of stress on your body, which leads to a process called hardening. This means that your nervous system gradually gets used to handling moderate levels of stress. Since these were stress-related headaches, I guess it makes sense. If you want to know more about the benefits of taking cold showers per Wim Hof, I recommend visiting his website.

Take this as you will. I know it’s woo, and woo isn’t for everyone. And woo is not a replacement for science and medicine. But if you’re interested in the woo, I hope this can help you feel better during this time. Have you tried the Wim Hof method? Did you watch that episode of The Goop Lab? Do you think this is a bunch of ridiculousness? Let me know in the comments!

4 Comments

  1. Linda B
    April 2, 2020 / 11:06 am

    I loved your relationship to the “woo”–that could describe mine as well. I have never heard of Wim Hof or his ideas, but will check this out later today.

    I am gathering that part of this is about taking a cold shower. . . hmm. I will just say for now that here in Tucson, for about 4-5 months a year the tap water comes out barely cool, lol. Really, it could be called tepid or lukewarm. Especially in a house like mine, with the plumbing running just under the flat roof. Now that we have begun to heat up (highs in the 80s this week). the 100 + weather will be here in a matter of weeks. So I guess I better read up on Wim Hof’s ideas and get going on trying this soon!

  2. Jennifer
    April 2, 2020 / 9:34 am

    I have a theory/prediction about this: I think that as the world gets warmer, more and more will people romanticize being cold — instead of showing off toes in the sand, or a “bring me back!” picture of palm trees on a beach, we’ll be posting pics of our last ski trip, or dreamy images of snow falling. Based on my own experiences, I think Hof’s theories are valid, but I also think the popularity of them offer something to us as we deal with an increasing warm world and unstable climate. Love this new series! I am at exactly the same spot on the “woo” spectrum that you are. <3

  3. Anamarie
    April 1, 2020 / 9:32 pm

    Since watching that episode the first weekend Goop Lab came out, I have been finishing my showers with cold water. Hot is now unbearable, warm is not comfortable. I start out tepid for about five minutes, then do about five minutes pure cold. I focus the water on my upper back, where brown fat tends to be. I read elsewhere that cold exposure leads to an increase in brown fat which babies have when they’re born and causes them to have high metabolism. You can also apply cold packs on your upper back. I’m not a morning person, but the cold wakes me up and makes me less cranky and better able to deal with mornings.

  4. L H Carter
    April 1, 2020 / 5:21 pm

    Thank you for a dose of “woo”. In my mind I really endorse doing the cold shower or cold tub dip like winter bathers. Yep, from the neck up I’m all gung-ho. But the rest of me thinks my muscles would never unclench and I could never exhale another breath. But maybe…possibly… I could do your head and face spray with my arms crossed over my chest. You have certainly given me a distraction during this stay-safe-stay-home time. Or should I say another way to cope with being cooped up.

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