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Is It Possible to Control Your Immune System?

 The man we’re about to discuss is often called a superhuman, as he is capable of withstanding extreme temperatures and apparently never gets sick. This 60-year-old Dutch extreme athlete named Wim Hof has held 20 Guinness records, among which was climbing Kilimanjaro in shorts, staying in ice water for prolonged periods of time, and running a marathon barefoot on ice and snow. For all these and other incredible achievements, Wim Hof is often nicknamed The Iceman, but the athlete himself attributes all of his accomplishments, as well as the ability to fully control his immune system to his signature breathing technique known as the Wim Hof Method.
Wim Hof Method in ice
Image Source: Imgur

How Is Wim Hof Capable of Controlling His Immune System?
The unique athlete claims that he is capable of consciously fighting any disease in his body, and in one medical study, Wim Hof was even injected with endotoxin that typically causes fever, headaches, and shivering, but didn’t exhibit any symptoms of the disease. A blood test further confirmed that Hof’s immune system didn’t respond to the disease and the extreme athlete’s test results matched up to those of control subjects.

Moreover, Hof claimed that he is capable of teaching his method to anyone, and he confirmed this claim when he had trained 12 volunteers for a week who were then also injected with endotoxin. The volunteers, too, exhibited reduced symptoms.

Wim Hof Method swimming in ice water
Wim Hof Method glacier
Images Source (top and bottom):    Imgur
For over a decade, Wim Hof has been working with researchers, who have attempted to understand how he is capable of voluntarily influencing his immune and nervous systems to withstand extremely cold and hot temperatures and consciously fight disease.
Researchers believe that the extreme athlete is capable of stimulating an extreme version of the stress response in the brain through his breathing technique, flooding the body with adrenaline, which makes it ignore the usual immune response and exhibit no symptoms of the disease. And while most of us don’t need to learn how to run through ice-covered terrain barefoot, Wim Hof claims that the method is capable of reducing pain and other symptoms in people suffering from various health conditions. Whether or not that is really the case, it definitely doesn’t hurt to try.

The Wim Hof Method

Wim Hof Method balancing on glacier
Image Source: YouTube
Wim Hof's signature training regimen is a mixture of breathing exercises, meditation, and exposure to the cold. The athlete developed the method after years of practicing meditation and yoga, as well as gradual exposure to extremely cold temperatures. Keep in mind that starting this method without previous consultation with a physician isn't recommended, especially if you're pregnant or have an underlying health condition. You will need to practice the method in a seated position, doing so in an upright position, while driving or swimming can be dangerous.

The Wim Hof method consists of the following 6 distinct steps:

Step 1. Relax

In the morning, when your stomach is empty, sit down in a comfortable seated position suitable for meditation. You should be able to expand your lungs freely in this position.


Step 2. Activate

Breathe in as deeply as you can. You should feel some pressure in the middle of your belly (the solar plexus) as you reach the peak of the inhale. Hold your breath for a moment, and then exhale vigorously, letting as much air out of your lungs as you can. Again, hold your breath for another moment, and then repeat the cycle. Do this 15 times.


Step 3. Do 30 Power Breaths

To complete this exercise correctly, imagine you’re blowing into a balloon. On an inhale, use your nose to suck in as much breath as you can very quickly, and exhale through the mouth in strong and rapid bursts. Engage your belly muscles and repeat these breaths in a steady and active pace about 30 times, or when you start feeling that your blood is becoming saturated in oxygen. You might feel light-headed, experience tingling sensations or electrical surges in the body at this point.

Wim Hof Method research
Image Source: highexistence

Step 4. Explore your body

As you breathe during step 3, become ever so mindful of your body. Explore what each body part is doing as you complete the breaths and how it reacts to the surge of energy and oxygen in the body. Can you feel any blockage, pain, or stiffness in any of your body parts? If so, try to expand the energy you feel in your body to those body parts. You may feel a bit overwhelmed emotionally, start feeling past physical injuries, or experience visual imagery at this stage. All of these 'symptoms' are common, and they will bring you closer to expanding the energy throughout your entire body.


Step 5. Pause

Once you complete the rapid breaths, slowly make a deep inhale, fill all of your lungs with air, and then follow with a deep exhale. Draw your chin to the neck to prevent an accidental inhale, and then pause, holding your breath until you feel a gasp reflex.


Step 6. Recover

For this last step, inhale as deeply as you can and relax your belly, releasing the solar plexus. Hold the inhaled air for about 15 seconds and try to relax the body, expanding the energy to every part of the body once more. This is a complete round.

Most people start with 1 or 2 rounds of breathing for the first few days, and should then be able to increase the number of rounds to a minimum of 6 (around 15 minutes). If you feel dizzy, anxious, or otherwise uncomfortable, you can come out of the sitting posture and lie down and rest. It is also recommended to rest for at least 5-10 minutes and scan your body after completing the exercises to feel the changes you encountered through the practice.

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