Breathing is perhaps the most fundamental human action. It catalyzes the critical mechanism of oxygen supply, which in turn keeps all the processes in your body going, every second of every day.
Doing something as simple as modifying your breathing has a direct and profound impact on your physiology. Here we explain how to practice Wim Hof Method breathing exercises, and why this is such an effective tool to keep down stress, improve sleep, and do many other wonderful things for your health & wellbeing.
What’s great is that Wim Hof Method breathing exercises are super easy and take only a few minutes, while the effects last.
NOTE that Wim Hof Method breathing can affect motor control and, in rare cases, lead to loss of consciousness. Always sit or lie down when practicing the techniques. Never practice in or near bodies of water, while piloting a vehicle, or in any other situation where losing consciousness could cause harm to you or others.
How to do Wim Hof Method Breathing
We recommend practicing Wim Hof Method breathing right after waking, and/or before a meal, when your stomach is still empty.
Step 1: Get Comfortable
Get into a position that you can maintain comfortably, either sitting or lying down. Ideally wear loose clothing, and make sure that your belly can expand freely.
Step 2: 30 Deep Breaths
Close your eyes and clear your mind. Inhale deeply through your nose or mouth, while pushing your belly outward. When your lungs are full, let your breath go through the mouth without force.
Take 30 such breaths, one right after the other.
Step 3: The Retention Phase
After the final exhalation, hold your breath until you feel the urge to breathe again.
Step 4: Recovery Breath
Draw one giant breath, once again letting your belly expand fully. Hold that breath for 15 seconds, then let go. This completes one round.
Guided Breathing Bubble
The Breathing Bubble is an audiovisual guide that helps you maintain rhythm and pace during your breathing sessions.
Simply watch the bubble expand and contract, and follow with your breath. Or you can close your eyes and follow Wim’s voice.
The Guided Breathing Bubble forms a critical part of the daily routine of thousands of people across the world, and has been translated into over 30 different languages.
Wim Hof Breathing App
While the online version of the Bubble is a fantastic tool, YouTube does not offer much in the way of customization to accommodate people’s highly personal physiologies.
With the Wim Hof Method app you can completely customize every part of your breathing session: set the number of breaths per round, change the tempo, and choose your own background sounds.
How do Wim Hof Method breathing exercises help with stress?
You are at all times going back and forth between being stressed out and chilled out.
Whenever a situation arises — whether it’s something small like having to do the dishes, or an actual emergency — your brain releases wonderful signaling potions like adrenaline and cortisol to give you a boost in focus. Conversely, when nothing is bothering you, your brain makes you feel relaxed, so that you don’t needlessly stress and waste energy.
Each of these two modes is regulated by their own system— the sympathetic- and parasympathetic nervous system.
Each system has its purpose, but when the sympathetic system has been at the wheel for too long, you start to feel stressed.
Wim Hof Method breathing stimulates the parasympathetic system, thus counteracting the sympathetic system and bringing stress levels down.
“The parasympathetic system is directly connected to the heart via the sinus node, a conjunction of nerves”, explains Cristopher Kopplin of the University of Bayreuth. "There is a phenomenon called sinus node arrhythmia, where exhalation increases parasympathetic activity, and consequently, lowers heart rate and makes us calm down. Deep, slow, and rhythmic breaths maximize this effect.”
A 2022 study put this to the test: subjects who did Wim Hof Method breathing reported markedly lower stress levels than people who breathed the old fashioned way.
Put it in the pelvis
Breathing from your belly (expanding your belly on the inhale, also called “diaphragmatic breathing”) stimulates the vagus nerve. Vagus nerve activity in turn downregulates cortisol— also known as the stress hormone. So remember to puff that belly up!
Hundreds of thousands of people have said goodbye to stress since they discovered the Wim Hof Method.
Luke for example was dealing with a lot of anxiety following a difficult breakup. He learned the Wim Hof Method via Wim’s online video course, and now keeps stress at bay with a few rounds of breathing.
Additional benefits of the Wim Hof Method
Besides calming you right down, practicing the Wim Hof Method has many other physical and mental benefits. These include:
- Faster recovery from physical exertion
- Better sleep
- Improved sports performance
- Enhanced creativity
- Greater focus and mental clarity
The Wim Hof Method is also linked to reduced symptoms of medical conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, asthma, sarcoidosis, vasculitis, and several autoimmune diseases.
Learn the Wim Hof Method
The most easy, fun and laid-back way to learn is directly from the comfort of your home. With the online Fundamentals video course you open up a new set of videos every week, straight from your phone or laptop. Each week has its own theme that directly relates to things you face every day— such as getting good sleep, keeping down stress, or finding your creativity.
Wim Hof has spent the bigger part of his life exploring the limits of the human mind and body, resulting in many world records. Over the course of his long journey, he gradually found that a particular way of breathing combined with controlled exposure to cold both promoted his endurance and energy during high output activity, as well as spurred his recovery and kept him from getting sick. Today, his method is practiced by hundreds of thousands of people across the world, for a wide variety of purposes.
Sign up for the Fundamentals course and learn how you can optimize both your mental and physical wellbeing with this simple yet highly effective method.