Wim Hof Breathing: Learn the Method, Science, Benefits & More

January 26, 2022
Try Othership free for 30 days
Use Code: Allaboard

In recent years, people have been searching for natural ways to improve their physical and mental health. Many have turned to practices like breathwork and cold exposure therapy as ways of improving their lives. So it’s no surprise that there has been growing interest in the Wim Hof Method.

If you’re wondering if the Wim Hof breathing technique is for you, you can learn everything you need to know in the following sections:

  • What is the Wim Hof Method?
  • Wim Hof Method science: how the technique works
  • Top 10 Wim Hof breathing benefits for everyone
  • How to do the Wim Hof breathing exercises
  • 3 best Wim Hof breathing apps
  • 6 FAQs about the Wim Hof breathing technique
  • 5 best resources to learn more about the Wim Hof breathing method

Before you can learn how to practice the method, you need to know what exactly the Wim Hof Method is.

Want to explore other life-changing forms of breathwork? Check out our guide to psychedelic breathing techniques.

What is the Wim Hof Method?

A group of people sitting near water

The Wim Hof Method refers to a lifestyle practice created by Dutch extreme athlete Wim Hof, known to many as The Iceman. His method consists of three pillars: breathing, cold therapy, and commitment. The belief is that regular breathwork and cold exposure will make you happier, healthier, and stronger.

Wim Hof method science: how the technique works

A man meditating in water

As it has grown in popularity, many have wondered why Wim Hof breathing works. Wim Hof, the creator of Wim Hof breathing, explains that his method allows him to voluntarily control his autonomic nervous system. 

The Wim Hof Method science was first established by a 2011 study by Radboud University. The study demonstrated that the combination of breathing, meditation, and cold exposure allowed Wim Hof to limit his innate immune response and relieve his stress. This led to a decrease in inflammation and promoted a relaxed state that contributed to a variety of physical and mental health benefits.

Top 10 Wim Hof breathing benefits for everyone

Adopting the Wim Hof Method benefits everyone and anyone in many different ways. These are some of the top Wim Hof breathing benefits that can be gained through practice.

1. Relieves stress

A man and a woman smiling

Using the Wim Hof breathing technique is a great way to relieve the stress of everyday life, as it helps to send signals to the body that it’s safe. When stressed, the body activates the stress cycle, which many people struggle to complete. The combination of breathwork and cold therapy activates the parasympathetic nervous system, allowing the body to return to normal functioning and enter a relaxed state.

2. Lowers blood pressure

Can the Wim Hof Method lower blood pressure? Absolutely! When practicing Wim Hof alkaline breathing and exposing oneself to cold, their veins begin the process of vasoconstriction and vasodilation. This removes pressure from the heart and allows our blood pressure to stay low. The elimination of stress during these steps also helps to lower blood pressure. 

3. Reduces inflammation and boosts immunity

One of the most significant Wim Hof breathing method benefits is the ability to use the Wim Hof Method for inflammation control and immunity boosting. The combination of breathwork and cold exposure serves as a natural anti-inflammatory, allowing the body the ability to heal itself while maintaining healthy cells.

Studies have also backed the method as an aid for various autoimmune conditions. Many have used the Wim Hof Method for rheumatoid arthritis, while others have used the Wim Hof Method for multiple sclerosis (MS). Some have even claimed to use the Wim Hof Method to treat Raynaud’s syndrome, a circulatory disease.

4. Improves sleep

Two women lying on the ground

Many people use the Wim Hof Method for sleep since it serves as a natural sleep aid. Since the method helps reduce stress and promotes relaxation, it helps create conditions necessary to help a person fall asleep and stay asleep. Its ability to also increase energy and allow practitioners to be more physically active also can help them feel more tired when it’s time for bed.

5. Increases energy

Another of the top benefits of Wim Hof breathing is its ability to act as a natural energy booster. Practicing the breathwork allows the body to release any stress that might be draining energy, while also helping to feel more rested. This results in feeling more energized and being able to complete more physical activity.

6. Improves focus

Wim Hof breathing is also great for those who need a boost in concentration. This is because the breathing exercises, and even the cold exposure, helps practitioners feel more relaxed and energized. Since stress can also be linked to one’s ability to focus, practicing breathwork also helps improve focus in this way.

7. Helps manage asthma

A woman blowing dandelion seeds next to water

The Wim Hof Method relieves asthma in two key ways. Firstly, the breathing exercises help to reduce inflammation and boost immunity in ways that directly benefit those who struggle with asthma. The activation of the parasympathetic nervous system also helps to relieve stress that can result from symptoms of asthma.

8. Relieves eczema

Another great advantage of the Wim Hof Method is eczema relief. Despite being on the outside of the body, eczema is typically triggered by immune responses and stress. By practicing the method’s breathing exercises, those who suffer from eczema can help soothe their bodies and return their skin to its natural state.

9. Clears acne

Similarly to eczema, the Wim Hof Method also clears acne. The skin and respiratory system are closely linked, which is why skin tends to break out during stressful times. Using breathwork to help relax and ease inflammation allows one’s skin to regenerate cells and clear acne.

10. Relieves headaches

A woman lying on a yoga mat

A final benefit of the Wim Hof Method is headache relief. Whether you suffer from regular headaches or migraine headaches, practicing both the breathing exercises and cold exposure addresses your autonomic nervous system and immunity. This helps reduce the inflammation

How to do the Wim Hof breathing exercise

Those wondering how to do Wim Hof breathing will be relieved to know that it can be done by following a few easy steps. Here is a standard version of how to do the Wim Hof Method’s breathing exercise:

  1. Get into a comfortable position, either sitting or lying down, that is safe and away from danger.
  2. Become aware of your breathing.
  3. Slowly inhale, feeling the air fill your lungs and belly.
  4. Don’t force your exhale. Allow the air to go as it feels right.
  5. Continue to breathe in and out up to 30 or 40 times.
  6. After your final exhale, hold your breath for as long as you can.
  7. Once you begin to experience a bit of discomfort, take a deep breath in, then hold your breath for another 10 to 15 seconds.
  8. Repeat all of the above steps up to 3 or 4 times.
  9. If you begin to experience any unpleasant feelings, stop the exercise immediately and try again at a later time.

3 best Wim Hof breathing apps

If you want to try using a Wim Hof breathing app to help you practice the technique, these are a few recommendations for Wim Hof breathing method apps that you can try using now.

Othership home screen

1. Othership

Download it Now: Android | iOS

Cost: 7-day and 14-day free trials available with a $17.99/month or $129.99/year subscription, respectively.

Features: 500+ classes, inspiring soundscapes, streak & progress tracking, and a global community.

Othership is a breathwork app with a focus on fostering a connection with your body and mind. The app features over 500 classes that teach a variety of breathing exercises and breathwork techniques, including the Wim Hof Method. The classes use inspiring soundscapes and are taught by the world’s best facilitators.

Wim Hof Method exercises screen

2. Wim Hof Method

Download it Now: Android | iOS

Cost: Free to start using; in-app purchases available.

Features: Instruction videos, progress tracking, stopwatch, and health app integration. 

The official app of the Wim Hof Method, this app allows you to continue your practice on the go. It contains a variety of guided videos for breathing, cold showers, and yoga exercises. You can also use it to track your progress and unlock badges for achieving different milestones.

Guided Breathing home screen

3. Guided Breathing

Download it Now: Android | iOS

Cost: 7-day free trial available; $2.49/month or $18.49/year to access all features.

Features: Curated exercises, calming design, guiding animated breathing wave, and progress tracking.

Guided Breathing is another breathwork app that guides users through Wim Hof breathing and other breathing exercises. It uses simple animations to guide users through each exercise and allows for creating custom exercises. The app is full of information about all the exercises and provides short and clear instructions, so you can get the most out of your breathwork practice.

6 FAQs about the Wim Hof breathing technique

There’s a lot to cover about the Wim Hof breathing exercise, so it’s understandable if you still have questions. Below are some frequently asked questions about the Wim Hof Method and its benefits.

1. Is the Wim Hof Method healthy?

A man in a cold water bath with another man standing next to the tub

Those asking “is the Wim Hof Method healthy?” can rest assured that it is. There are many Wim Hof breathing technique benefits that can be gained with practice. The keys are to be in relatively good health to begin with, and to follow the instructions step by step. As long as the method is done properly, it will result in health improvements.

2. Are Wim Hof exercises safe?

So are Wim Hof breathing exercises safe? Yes! The Wim Hof Method is completely safe to practice as long as you follow the instructions from certified instructors or resources. You should also make sure to practice in a safe location, away from any danger. If you are pregnant or have certain medical conditions, you should avoid the Wim Hof Method. If you have any concerns, ask your doctor before beginning your practice.

3. What is the best time to do Wim Hof breathing?

The best time to do Wim Hof breathing is in the morning on an empty stomach. Doing your breathing before breakfast (or between meals when your stomach is empty) will ensure that any digesting food cannot interfere with your breathing. You also want to make sure you are somewhere safe and seated comfortably, in case you accidentally faint.

4. Is it beneficial to do Wim Hof breathing before bed?

A woman practicing breathwork on a bed

Although Wim Hof breathwork is best practiced in the morning, practicing Wim Hof breathing before bed has its benefits for sleep. Those who practice Wim Hof breathing before sleep are able to fall asleep more easily and stay asleep. It’s also helpful for those who want to wake feeling more energized in the morning.

5. How many rounds of Wim Hof breathing should I do?

For those wondering how many rounds of Wim Hof breathing to practice, it has been suggested to practice up to 3 or 4 a day. However, Wim Hof has advised doing as many rounds as feels comfortable, without forcing things.

6. How often should I do Wim Hof breathing?

When it comes to how often to do Wim Hof breathing, there is no definitive answer. According to Wim Hof, the method should never be forced, and is best done whenever one feels they would best benefit from it. However, those hoping to turn it into a daily or regular habit can consider trying a 10-day challenge as a starting point.

5 best resources to learn more about the Wim Hof breathing method

If you want to know more about the Wim Hof Method, there are plenty of ways to continue your education. Here are some great resources to learn more about Wim Hof breathing, including Wim Hof Method books, videos, and courses.

  1. What is the Wim Hof Method?: An explanation of the Wim Hof Method’s 3 pillars, from the official website.
  2. The Wim Hof Method: Activate Your Full Human Potential: The Wim Hof Method book by Wim Hof himself on realizing your physical and spiritual potential using his method.
  3. Wim Hof Method Guided Breathing for Beginners (3 Rounds Slow Pace): An 11-minute guided video for beginners wanting to learn the method. 
  4. Wim Hof Method | Safety Information: A 3-minute video outlining safety considerations for practicing the Wim Hof Method.
  5. Wim Hof Method Video Courses: The complete list of e-learning courses offered by Wim Hof.

If you’re ready to try Wim Hof breathwork or other breathing techniques, explore the class styles available on the Othership app.