CAUTION ADVISED: This podcast contains swearing from the start.
How long could you last in a freezing-cold shower? And for how long could you comfortably, peacefully hold your breath? My guest today insists you can learn to do both for far longer than you think. And that by doing so, you can battle disease, regulate your mood and connect with your true self.
This podcast is a fascinating insight into the mind, work and charismatic personality of Wim Hof, aka The Iceman. Wim has been described as a ‘trailblazer for human potential’ and a ‘modern legend’, thanks to his incredible feats. They include withstanding extreme temperatures, climbing Kilimanjaro in nothing but shorts – even, as he describes to me, being injected with a toxin and resisting illness.
But he is no mere showman, there is method to what some might see as madness. Wim wants to convince people they too can do the ‘impossible’ and prove it through evidence-based science. Brain scans now indicate we can take conscious control of our autonomic nervous system. But this sort of ‘top down’ regulation had been unknown in science before.
We talk about cold-water immersion – and why he believes that ‘a cold shower a day keeps the doctor away’. He explains that cold stimulates vascular muscle tone, increasing blood flow, slowing heart rate, increasing energy and lowering cortisol. Wim gives practical advice to help all of us build from a tense, 10-second blast of cold at the end of a shower, to comfortably showering cold for two to three minutes a day. And with benefits like reduced inflammation, improved cardiovascular function and immunity, reduced depression and anxiety.
Breathing techniques go hand in hand with his cold-water exercises, and we discuss how his particular practice can work to help us achieve peak functionality before endurance events, stressful times and more. Paradoxically, it involves over-breathing and breath-holding, to create a stressful spike in the body. Yet it results in a very tranquil sensation – and builds resilience to all kinds of stress, physical and mental, for the rest of the day.
At the end of this podcast, Wim kindly agreed to take me through one round of his technique, so you can give it a try with me and experience the effects for yourself.* It felt incredible, like accessing a different state of calm. I really hope you can feel the positive energy in this unique conversation.
(*As we discuss and as Wim makes clear in all his work, please follow his instructions carefully in order to carry out his techniques safely. It’s powerful stuff!)
Show notes available at drchatterjee.com/127
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