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“We accept to change our behavior about what’s accessible for the animal body,” says Hof, apparent actuality in Iceland. “You are your own doctor.” (Photo: Courtesy Wim Hof)
In a apple absorbed to comfort, it isn’t accessible to argue a all-inclusive admirers that what they absolutely charge is to booty teeth-chattering swims and ice baths—but Hof has managed to do this. These canicule he’s a broadly admired counterculture hero. His bulletin that best of our self-limiting behavior are wrong, and that we’re able of far added than we think, has resonated. He has added than a actor Instagram followers, hosts sold-out seminars about the globe, and evangelizes nonstop, at top volume, about a new apple of active bloom and beatitude in which we chargeless ourselves from the claws of a arrangement that profits by befitting us ailing or diminished. Earlier, at breakfast, he formed his anchor on the table: “It’s time for change! Bodies are waiting! There’s assignment to do for the action force!”
This action for—and immediate affirmation of—expanded animal abeyant is authentic oxygen for the high-performance set. Recently, Hof accomplished a accumulation of Fleet SEALs how to abide algid water. His admirers accommodate Laird Hamilton, Joe Rogan, Tim Ferris, Dave Asprey, Russell Brand, and alike Gwyneth Paltrow, who afresh filmed a Netflix appropriate with Hof. “I anticipate we all accept the accommodation to do all-powerful things,” explains Hamilton, a circadian practitioner of Hof-inspired exercises. “Wim is one of those guys who’s able to appearance you what’s possible.”
But it’s not aloof celebrities and pro athletes who are fatigued to Hof. He has accomplished a abundant bigger audience. On any accustomed day, Instagram is abounding with photos of Hof followers up to their necks in ice baths, adventurous into the ocean for arctic plunges, continuing beneath chill waterfalls. A Vice Media documentary about Hof has been watched added than six actor times on YouTube; accession video, on the Yes Theory channel, blue-blooded “Becoming All-powerful with Ice Man—Wim Hof” has about 11 actor views. Anniversary year, Hof hosts a scattering of one- or two-day workshops, on his home accommodation in Amsterdam and abroad about the globe, and a scattering of weeklong expeditions into the mountains abreast Przesieka, Poland, area he owns a abode that serves as a abject camp, and in Morillo de Tou, Spain. Now aback he accuse up albino mountains, he takes bands of followers with him. For anyone with a Speedo and a able admiration to analysis themselves, accession Kilimanjaro campaign is slated for aboriginal 2021, apprehension developments in the COVID-19 pandemic. (The accretion from the fee to appear will go to a bounded charity.) There are additionally about 600 certified Wim Hof advisers alms their own workshops, graduates of an eight-to-ten-month training affairs alleged the Wim Hof Academy, in accession to a chargeless minicourse on Hof’s website and best online courses, the prices of which accept been bargain aback COVID hit to acquiesce added bodies to participate. All of which is to say that the Iceman is accepting a aloft moment.
As Hof tells it, his feats are powered by a simple accepted of animation exercises, algid exposure, and brainy focus, accepted as the Wim Hof Method. The animation is controlled hyperventilation, done in three to six sets of 30 to 40 abysmal breaths (strong inhale, airy exhale). On the aftermost animation of anniversary set, you breathe and authority for one to three account afore demography a accretion animation and captivation for 15 seconds. As with added rhythmic-breathing disciplines like pranayama, kundalini yoga’s animation of fire, or the Tibetan Buddhist brainwork convenance of tummo, it’s accepted to feel tingly, woozy, and, frankly, high: bodies accept appear seeing spots and stars, capricious lights, and added visions. It’s a bit boundless as well, which is why you should do it built-in or lying down.
Maybe you’ve apparent photos of Wim Hof continuing encased in ice for about two hours or active up Mount Everest cutting alone shorts. Or summiting Kilimanjaro in 31 hours—again, about naked—a ascend that about takes a week.
The abutting footfall is algid exposure—Hof brand to asperse himself in freezing water, but alike a minute beneath a algid battery will do—during which the apperception panics, activating the fight-or-flight response. The point, Hof says, is to override this, calm your shrieking abutting voice, relax, and focus on breeding amore in your body. (“Visualize a brawl of blaze in your chest,” he advises.) Meanwhile, you’ve abounding your academician and beef with oxygen, perked up your vascular system, squirted out endorphins, taken your apperception by the reins, and brought yourself absolutely into the present moment. “It’s a full-body reset,” Hof says. If this dieting enabled alone the adeptness to bear absinthian cold, that would still be worthwhile. But it appears to do far added than that.
Over the accomplished decade, advisers from aloft universities accept advised Hof and begin solid affirmation that aback practicing his method, he can ascendancy his own anatomy temperature, abashed system, and accustomed response—findings that are head-scratchers for medical science, because bodies aren’t declared to be able to do any of that. It’s now accurate in peer-reviewed affidavit that, amid added things, Hof may be able to about-face on at will his body’s tap of opiates and cannabinoids—euphoria-inducing chemicals that accommodate accustomed affliction abatement and an all-embracing faculty of well-being. What’s more, Hof insists, if he can do this, so can the blow of us. “Everybody has ascendancy by their attitude over their physiology,” he says. “It’s an congenital capacity. It’s like you’ve got a adjustment to your own house, but you don’t apperceive it.”
Hof’s algid altruism and physiologic ascendancy would be arresting abundant if he were a Fleet SEAL himself or packing an added hundred pounds of careful anatomy fat. But he’s lean—six foot, 200 pounds, and aloof a adumbration of a belly—with no appropriate able-bodied accreditation aloft actuality a aloft chargeless climber and accepting a amazing amount of adaptability from years of yoga practice. The adeptness to put your bottom abaft your head, however, is no agreement that you’ll be able to run a bisected chase aloft the Arctic Circle in a bathing suit. So is Hof some affectionate of abiogenetic mutant? How does he abstain crippling algidity or hypothermia or worse? What the hell is action on here?
To date, accurate studies on the specific bloom allowances of algid acknowledgment accept been inconclusive. But there’s growing affirmation that it contributes to all-embracing wellness by revving metabolism, abbreviation inflammation, abating depression, and deepening the cardiovascular system, amid added benefits. And Hof’s recipe, which adds animation exercises, may crop added advantages.
“The aggregate of animation assignment and algid plunges is actual effective,” says Kevin Davison, a Maui naturopathic physician who specializes in adorning medicine. “First you’re accretion aqueous breeze through the breathing. That recruits lymphocytes and accustomed analgesic beef into the bloodstream—they’re the beef that are out there attractive for advancing bacteria, viruses, and pathogens. Again the algid attempt bliss that in alike more. So you’re accepting your accomplished arrangement jumped up to the abutting akin of accustomed protection.” Undeniably, at a time aback coronavirus is dervishing through the population, we could all use an added edge.
Suddenly, algid has become actual hot.
Participating in analysis at a university in the Netherlands (Photo: Henny Boogert)
I went to Iceland aftermost abatement to absorb some time with Hof and watch him in action because, like so abounding others, I’m absorbed by his story. Here’s a guy who’s afterlight the rules of bloom and wellness in awful ambrosial ways. While added 61-year-olds are bustling Lipitor and bitching about hip pain, Hof is training himself to adhere by a feel amid two gasbag balloons. In Wim’s world, assignment and comedy are the aforementioned thing: you do what you love, with bodies you love, and you adulation everybody, alike society’s affliction assholes. Attributes is everything, afflatus and fuel. “If you assurance the letters of nature, attributes will assurance you as a messenger,” he says simply. At the end of anniversary day, you bless with abundant food, affluence of accompany and family, and acceptable portions of music and laughter. What’s crazy to Hof is allotment to action on low throttle, actuality array of miserable, action affectionate of crummy, and cerebration that’s the sum of what’s on offer. “I’m not abashed to die,” he says. “I’m abashed not to live.”
As it happens, Hof’s action about concluded afore it began. His mother hadn’t been assured twins, and yet there he was, still adherent in the abyss afterwards his brother André was born. “I about didn’t get out in time,” he says. “I accept this larboard an banner on me. I was consistently different.” Growing up in the Netherlands, Hof was a seeker. At 12, he was account books on abstruse aesthetics and Zen Buddhism, dabbling in yoga, and teaching himself meditation. At 17, he abdicate academy and lit out for India, analytic for… something. Aback home, he jumped into a frigid Amsterdam aqueduct and accomplished he admired the action of it: the blitz of adrenaline, the blow of presence, the awe-inspiring animation of time. He began to booty icy plunges every day, and to agreement with breathing; he noticed that his body’s accustomed acknowledgment was to blow aback he hit the water. During yoga, he’d accomplished the ability of animation work, so he again the automatic blow to analysis its effects. This wasn’t a new strategy—ask any freediver—but Hof eventually discerned the best intervals for algid tolerance. “It was instinctive,” he recalls. “If you breathe deeply, you accouter yourself suddenly. You become stronger in this actual adverse environment. And you learn, hey, I can break best and longer.”
He’d begin his teacher—the “merciless but righteous” cold. But Hof still bare to accomplish a living. He’d met a admirable Basque woman alleged Olaya, married, and started a ancestors in Amsterdam. “I did all kinds of things,” he says. “I was a postman, a bout operator, a writer. I was alive in the harbor. Gardening. Mountain guide. Teaching yoga. Whatever, you know.” It wasn’t a action you’d absolutely alarm settled, and his wife was decumbent to aphotic bouts of depression, but Hof was captivation it together. Until one day in 1995, aback Olaya leaped to her afterlife from the top of an eight-story building.
“That’s area it all began,” Hof says now, attractive sober. Crumpling with affliction wasn’t an option; now he was a distinct ancestor to the couple’s four children, two girls and two boys, all beneath the age of 12. Hof kept breathing, kept freezing. “I fell into the basin and got myself back,” he says. Bodies began to booty apprehension of the guy who was consistently sitting about in the ice. Soon, Hof was assuming his icy stunts on TV, claiming to be able to adapt not aloof his anatomy temperature but added autonomic functions as well. “And again science came in,” he recalls. “They arrive me to be tested.”
Over the years, Hof has again offered himself up as a guinea pig, aiming to accretion adamantine affirmation of his method’s effectiveness. The after-effects accept been impressive. In one study, he was injected with an E. coli bacterial adulteration that induces fever, nausea, headache, chills—the works. Aback Hof sailed through that analysis with about no flu-like symptoms, doctors were stunned. It appeared he’d been able to flood his anatomy with adrenaline to avoid off the baneful effects. “We thought, This is aloof not possible,” Matthijs Kox, abettor assistant of intensive-care anesthetic at Radboud university medical centermost in the Netherlands, told an accuser afterwards the abstraction was published. The advisers affected that Hof was a concrete anomaly; Hof accepted them amiss by training a accumulation of 12 volunteers to do the aforementioned thing. “These after-effects could accept important implications for the analysis of altitude associated with boundless or assiduous inflammation, such as autoimmune disease,” wrote Kox and his coauthors in a cardboard appear in 2014 about the agreement in Proceedings of the Civic Academy of Sciences. “We accept to change our behavior about what’s accessible for the animal body,” Hof explains. “You are your own doctor. You’ve got your own power. And because bodies anticipate that’s hippie bullshit, that’s why I go through science.”
Taking a algid attempt (Photo: Henny Boogert)
In the afternoon, we hit as abounding icy locations as accessible while the aggregation films Hof accomplishing Hof-like things. There’s no curtailment of affecting options: icebergs, ice fields, ice boulders, ice caves, icy lakes, icy streams, added ice-filled lagoons. “We can aces annihilation here?” Hof asks gleefully. “Shit! It’s like the bonbon store!” He meditates in the lotus position on a slab of ice, breeding so abundant anatomy calefaction that aback he gets up there’s a broiled abasement area he was sitting.
We’re traveling in a ample van apprenticed by Thor Gudnason, Iceland’s aboriginal certified Wim Hof instructor—a bounded who knows his way about the backcountry. Hof rides shotgun. As we bang bottomward a bone-rattling washboard road, Hof swivels about in his bench to allocate stream-of-consciousness riffs. “In this association we anticipate too much. We charge to get aback to our senses! Spirituality is appropriate here, appropriate now!” he exclaims, gesturing at the jaw-dropping scenery.
One aloft Hof action is that we’ve accustomed ourselves to become broken from attributes and too abased on technology, and as a aftereffect we’ve absent blow with our age-old abilities. We’ve attenuated ourselves, abashed abundance with happiness, and now we’re aggress with affection disorders, addictions, depression, illness, and all kinds of added maladies. Hof emphasizes that none of this happens alfresco of us, inflicted by armament aloft our control; it stems from an alterity in ourselves that we can actual at will. It’s aloof a amount of chief to do it. “Becoming able at the core—not actuality rattled, confused, this or that—there is no alibi anymore,” Hof says with a snort. “Get up!”
Researchers from aloft universities accept advised Hof and begin solid affirmation that aback practicing his method, he can ascendancy his own anatomy temperature, abashed system, and accustomed response.
He’s still clad in shorts and sandals, with a alpha blush T-shirt. His wet bristles is pulled aback into a man bun, and for some acumen he’s cutting a fleet dejected bolt bag on his arch like a hat. We ascend out of the van. Advancing off the trail, a aggregation of mountaineers in arctic jackets, snow pants, adamantine hats, crampons, and harnesses, accretion ropes and ice axes, accord Hof’s accouterments a bifold take. “Looking good, guys!” Hof shouts, waving, as he active into a aciculate broken amid two rocks. Albino peaks belfry in the distance.
Now we’re hiking aback into the glacier, afterward a ridgeline that advance forth a argot of ice. A half-mile beneath us, dejected shards of berg jut out of a silty river, lined up for afar like marchers in the Night King’s army. Hof stops to do a few one-armed yoga antagonism poses, ambiguous aloft a behemothic bedrock perched at the bend of a ravine. He’s dangling in such a ambiguous position that I accept to attending away.
It’s not the aboriginal time I’ve apparent Hof do article that makes me flinch: there’s a don’t-try-this-at-home affection to abounding of his admired pastimes. To date, no one at a Hof-sponsored retreat has bound up from cardiac arrest aback jumping 20 anxiety off a arch into a 32-degree stream, or absent fingers in a blizzard, or anesthetized out from hypothermia—but there’s consistently a faculty of an edge. In the Yes Theory video, one of the hosts has what looks like a mild access while accomplishing the animation contest but comes out of it laughing. Hof monitors bodies carefully and emphasizes his assurance rules: never do the adjustment aback you’re in the baptize (shallow-water blackout is a hazard) or if you’re epileptic or abundant or beneath the age of 16. Consult a doctor aboriginal if you accept medical issues. Increase algid acknowledgment slowly, and ideally, alternation with a buddy.
Before we leave, Hof can’t abide a final dip amid icebergs amphibian in a runoff lake. One huge berg resembles the Sydney Opera House; a abate one brings to apperception a behemothic shark’s tooth. He ventures in and swims abaft the tooth, dematerialization from sight. In abbreviate order, however, he’s aback on shore, and there’s article in his eyes that suggests this wasn’t an accessible one, alike for him. His bark looks like it’s been scalded. He dresses hastily, in accidental silence, as Gudnason, Schagen, and Burhan adapt to go in next.
Hof and I angle on the bank and watch them. Burhan has waded in up to his knees and appears stricken. Gudnason and Schagen booty a abbreviate bathe out and back, but annihilation that can be alleged lingering. “The baptize is algid here,” Hof notes.
“Colder than the ice lagoon this morning?”
“I anticipate so,” he says. “Here, it wants to eat you.” He gives the icebergs a nod of respect. “These are aberrant beings aback you get close,” he says. “Altogether mystical. They showed their colors like bags of diamonds. Aback you get close, it’s all diamonds.”
Leading a branch in Melbourne, Australia (Photo: Courtesy Wim Hof)
It’s a gray and blah Saturday morning in Reykjavík, with a raw wind whipping off the North Atlantic, but the bodies filing into the Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Centermost don’t apprehension the cold. Why would they? This is mild compared with what’s coming. The day will be accustomed over to the Wim Hof Experience, a branch that culminates in anybody here—all 450 of us—going into ice-cold baptize with the Iceman.
The army is about 70 percent macho and 80 percent adolescent and 100 percent association you’d appetite on your aggregation during the apocalypse. There’s a calm, able warrior vibe befitting the birth of Vikings, but added than that, these bodies attending happy. I run into Gudnason, who’s apprehension the commitment of three bags of ice, to be dumped into carriageable tubs. He’s cutting a T-shirt that says “Ice Crew” on the back. “We’re a baby country, but Hoffing is in our blood,” he tells me. From what I’ve apparent that is absolutely true, but as he walks abroad I admiration if it’s in mine. I’m Canadian, so I should be genetically winterized, but two decades of early-morning bathe practice—diving into frigid pools in the predawn darkness—left me so afraid to algid that I eventually confused to Hawaii. I’ve never met a hot tub I didn’t like. An ice tub is a adamantine sell.
In the greenroom I accommodated Laura, one of Hof’s two daughters, a serene 33-year-old with shoulder-length albino hair. Hof’s business is a close ancestors affair. Laura is the accident manager; his beforehand son, Enahm, 37, serves as CEO. Their sister Isabelle, 35, runs the training academy; Michael, the youngest at 31, is listed on the website as the “resident botheration solver.” Alike Zina, Hof’s dog, has a abode on the roster. Hof additionally has a two-year-old son with his partner, Erin, an Australian woman he met in Poland, and a 15-year-old son from a aloft relationship. “We adulation anniversary other,” Hof says of his clan. “The absolute love, not the affected bullshit.”
In the auditorium—a bottle cube with alveolate ceilings and walls lit up like the aurora borealis—people booty their seats. Afterwards a abrupt addition and abundant cheering, Hof comes onstage. He’s barefoot, in the aforementioned shorts and T-shirt he was cutting on the glacier, with a woolen tuque on his head. “After today you will be able to go into the centermost allotment of your academician and adapt your affection and your affect for the blow of your life, in any situation,” he tells the audience. “You won’t be afflicted by any anatomy of stress. And if you can do that, what abroad can you do?”
Hof mentioned beforehand that he never scripts his appearances, and abiding abundant his commitment is freewheeling, with dollops of swearing. Some of his accurate claims assume facile—“You can accompany added neural action in through the breath”—but the army is rapt. “What do you charge if you are happy? If you are healthy?” Hof asks rhetorically, pacing the stage. “Money makes us crazy. More, more, more, more. Keep the bodies ailing and you get added money. The systems are obsolete! The systems that are base and communicable and authoritative bodies insensitive—it’s over! It’s done! It’s now alone a amount of cat-and-mouse until they leave.” Hof stops pacing and wags a feel in emphasis. “I anticipate the activation is imminent. It’s coming. Humanity is alpha to apprehend that batshit is batshit.”
Instantly, I appetite to do it again—in fact, I crave it. The ice ablution is a high, alright, a full-spirit wake-up alarm served with a cocktail of the body’s finest chemicals. Now that I’ve accomplished it, I’m sold.
Later, Hof invites bodies onstage to accord testimonials. Gudnason goes first. “I’m alleged afterwards the Thunder god, Thor,” he begins. “And a few years ago I didn’t feel actual powerful. I had three inhalers, ADHD medicine, and abhorrence pills. I don’t use any of them anymore. I don’t charge them.” Watching Gudnason, it’s adamantine to brainstorm him enfeebled. He’s coarse with beef and has a baldheaded head, a fiery beard, and eyes that attending like they could bore into metal. In Reykjavík, he owns a gym alleged Age-old Iceland.
Next up is Lea Galgana, a adolescent Icelandic woman with a long, bright ponytail. She’s additionally visibly athletic, beaming health. “Eighteen months ago, I was ailing with fibromyalgia,” she says. “I had crutches. I could almost walk. I couldn’t sit down. No affliction medication worked. So I bare to acquisition article new.” Afterwards adopting Hof’s training and action her affection recede, Galgana sat in an ice ablution for 42 minutes, a new civic record. “I was able to get off all the medications,” she says, smiling. “And I hated the cold! If I can do it, you can do it.”
“Forty-two account in ice water!” Hof bellows from the sidelines. “No medications!” The allowance erupts in applause.
“We have, I don’t know, 50,000 testimonials from bodies who couldn’t be advised with approved bloom care—completely healed,” Hof tells me later. “They say I shouldn’t say these things too abundant because of the pharmaceuticals and the aliment industry—the ones who will absolutely fuck us up. But it’s over, guys! It’s over. We’re not demography it anymore. We’ve got millions of bodies accomplishing this now. But it needs to be at atomic a billion.”
After a medical presentation and an account of how Hof’s adjustment works by Bart Biermans, an M.D. and Hof instructor, it’s time to try it. We do the animation contest calm in the auditorium, guided by a timer projected on a screen—six sets of 40 breaths. Some bodies break seated, but others, including me, lie on the floor. The acquaintance is intense, and by the end of it I’m spinning, tingling, and bashed with endorphins. I like the action actual much.
En masse, we band bottomward to our bathing apparel and book outside, area three adolescent pools anticipate us. The pools are almost three anxiety deep, anniversary with allowance for about 15 people, and they’re awash with so abundant ice that you can’t see any water. Hof laid bottomward the protocol: no wavering, waffling, or whining. Aback it’s your about-face to get in, you sit low abundant that the ice hits your chin, and you break there for two minutes, application your animation to altercation your apperception into submission. “The algid is a mirror to activate you to your own power!” Hof shouts. “You are the bang-up within!”
The ice ablution isn’t fun in the accepted faculty of the word, but it is thrilling. I can feel the algid as a absolute force, but somehow I’m alone from it—probably because I’m pumped with adrenaline and I’ve spent the accomplished 30 account shouting and punching the air in accord with hundreds of adolescent ice bathers. I beam into the average distance, cerebration calm thoughts and bustling loudly. Whenever the appetite arises to bolt from the water, I blow that actuation abreast and focus on my breathing. The afire awareness in my easily and anxiety is confusing but not intolerable; two account zip by fast. “I’m alive!” a guy abutting to me roars. My accumulation stands up and we’re all as blush as shrimp. Instantly, I appetite to do it again—in fact, I crave it. The ice ablution is a high, alright, a full-spirit wake-up alarm served with a cocktail of the body’s finest chemicals. Now that I’ve accomplished it, I’m sold. (This action doesn’t disappear, either: in the months aback I larboard Iceland, I’ve connected to convenance Hof’s method, ambience up an ice ablution in my backyard.)
We absorb a few account all-embracing and high-fiving, milling about barefoot on the sleet-encrusted cement. Nobody fails to complete the challenge. Everybody looks like they’re accepting a blast. Hof watches us, animated like the Cheshire cat, and again he calls the abutting accumulation into the ice.