Wim Hof, known as The Iceman, is on a mission. And it’s not about the breathing techniques he’s developed for his superhuman resilience to extreme cold. The ones that have earned him 25 world records; the ones that have earned him fans and followers across the world, from the likes of Oprah and Rick Rubin, to Tim Ferriss and Laird Hamilton. These self-taught techniques are merely tools. Wim’s mission is to free the mind, recognise and overcome our limitations, and creatively express ourselves with our natural gift: our bodies.
But before exploring the mission, to those tools. Wim uses three: breathing techniques, extreme cold, and meditation. The first two deliver extraordinary health benefits (scientifically proven in 2012) by increasing our oxygen intake, enabling us to train our circulatory systems to run more efficiently. These, combined with meditation and performed simultaneously, enable us to influence and direct our nervous and immune systems. The benefit? We’re able to consciously increase the amount of cortisol released into the bloodstream, which means we can fight infections when we need to. By decreasing the volume of immune proteins in the immune system, we can mitigate autoimmune disorders (when our bodies ‘trick’ themselves, and self-attack). This is genuine, from-the-inside-out self-healing.
But freeing the mind is the why behind the how. Freeing the mind of our own learned limitations and the social constructs built around us, day in, day out. Wim believes that it’s only when we learn to free ourselves from these that we can achieve our best and greatest selves:
'Let’s live up to our standards which is the soul. The soul has evolved on this planet. And this is the fruit of the life and now we make it simple. Bring it back to simple. And then the greatness of it all will come to our consciousness, expanding consciousness from the heart. Love and caring. Be simple, get into the greatest thing and evolve there…'
Wim’s technique to deal with the extreme cold is inspired by an ancient Tibetan system known as ‘Inner Fire’ or tummo. Practised by Tibetan monks, the mediation’s principle aim is gaining control over the body’s inner processes. They expose themselves to the cold wrapped in wet blankets, and use breath control and the power of the mind through meditation to heat their inner core, drying the wet blankets in the process. Simply put, they transcend learnt limitations. It’s the same neurological technique Wim uses, mirroring the monks’ ability to control their immune and autonomic nervous systems. Science – and scientists – claimed it impossible. Wim proved them wrong.
'If you’ve been told a long time to do things this way and that way it changes neurological pathways so we gotta return and bring on happiness, strength and health, which is there, which is our natural state of being. We are perfect. Now the matter is to get there consciously. If we do this consciously, then neurologically, we will make the pathway for real into this learning how to tap into the deepest parts of the brain and guarantee for every mother in this world (for their child), happiness, strength and health. We do this by breathing'
With the breath practice, the regular cold exposure and the mediation, Wim is giving us the ability to be free. Free from our fears, free from our learned limitations, and free to have control over our health: 'That inner power, we need to open up, and this is the time and the way we do it is consciously, make it happen, feel it, so no fear anymore, no inhibitions, no blockages, let it flow. We don’t need directly ice water at -1, to get it going, to break it open, become conscious of the fact that it’s here already.'
Nature also plays a huge part in Wim's teachings. As Wim puts it, nature is our greatest teacher: ‘Live in harmony with beautiful nature. She teaches you to really get through your mind and get into happiness and real strength... Did you see rabbits going to psychiatrists or pharmacies, or hospitals? Mother Nature is much motherfucking stronger than you ever will be, but she will teach you. Then you (will) become the best in yourself, over yourself, not over an opponent, no, you in yourself is what you truly seek to overcome it is simple. We just need to get our minds together, and point out it is simple. And don’t complicate things. And if it gets complicated, then you go mirror yourself in Mother Nature.’
And how long do we need to learn Wim’s techniques? Do we need to suffer the 30 years of ridicule Wim has endured? No. We can do it ‘within a day, within 10 mins, within a blink of an eye, right now, right here.’ Changing the world starts with changing our own, and we’re all able to do that. If Wim teaches us one thing, it’s that we’re masters of our own mission. Just like him.