Wim Hof revisited – Day 1,000,000

Since last writing for the purpose of writing, the Wim Hof methods have been taken less seriously but still practiced in varying capacities. Just two days ago I had my first warm shower since some time in October or November I guess it was. It really helped me to understand the acute benefits of the cold showers. When I stepped out of the warm shower, I was stepping out into my cold bathroom. I couldn’t wait to throw on a robe and get warm. This was a very different feeling from the satisfaction and relief that is felt after shutting off the cold water. Opening the curtain and breathing deeply, slowly drying off while simultaneously warming up naturally feels so great. This felt bad.

For years I hated winter. At this time of the year I would be at my most miserable and depressed. I’d dread stepping outside. My gear was always correct. I’d rock layers and layers and still I’d be cold. Constantly muttering, ‘I hate winter’. This winter has been the opposite, almost. I’ve found myself going for long walks in the cold. I always have enough warm clothes, but never feel cold. I have been wearing my minimalist shoes without socks pretty much daily. As long as I stay dry, I’m pretty much warm and comfortable outside. It is crazy. I have to attribute it to the cold showers.

The way that I tried to explain it to someone last night (who happened to be a philosophy student) was to compare it to the stoic practice of negative visualization. They would subject themselves, sometimes metaphorically or just in thought, to difficulties in order to allow them to appreciate what they have. For example, they would practice going outside on a cold day/night without a coat. This was done to inform the mind that one should be happy to have the ability to stay warm. I think one of the basic tenets of stoic philosophy is to want-what-you-have. We all ‘want’. And, wanting what we can’t have will lead to suffering. In order to avoid suffering, it is important to learn how to want and appreciate what we already have.

There are certainly some similarities between this practice and negative visualization. I hadn’t recognized it at first, but I do think that stepping into a cold shower is negative visualization in practice.

The part of the Wim Hof method that I struggle to find consistency with, is the breathing. It wasn’t long before I felt like holding my breath was a waste of time. While I am not convinced of this, I did feel like the hold was more or less a test. It feels like when a runner takes his pulse. The pulse will let them know how their body is reacting to the workout. I guess maybe I didn’t find much benefit in the hold because I had failed to see consistent times. That said, the running, and in my case, the breathing, is the practice/work. I have found benefit to my jiu jitsu, yoga, and meditation in practicing the breathwork.

The thing I need to focus on in the coming days, weeks, and months is making time to write. Writing will help to focus my practices, intentions, and will ultimately help me to improve all the above.

Wim Hof Method – Day 31

I’ve been missing a few days of writing here and there, but that comes with a new work schedule I guess. I am still trying to adjust, find my timing, and also fit in a few days at the gym. Following the holidays, it is easier to get a rhythm. No worries.

Speaking of the holidays, something I have been playing around with recently is this thought on seasons. The last leaves were just being raked up when our first big snowfall hit. The smell outside today as things warmed up was created by hydrocarbons being released from the frozen ground. It smelled more like dog shit than spring. But the last few days were like a quick glimpse of the seasons. The unseasonably warm days, even as leaves are dying and falling from the trees. The snow, the ice on the steps, and today water dripping from the gutters and muddying up the driveway. It felt a bit like spring.

The thought I’d been having, regarding the seasons, is directly related to the Wim Hof method. The inhale and exhale cycle is much like the seasons. The dead air (CO2) is expelled from the lungs on the exhale to make room for more O2. Granted, we know that not much of the 19% of O2 in the air is really absorbed and converted. This, just as only the leaves of the trees fall and die each year. The leaves fall, rot, and release nitrogen and other chemicals into the soils as they feed microbial life. This soil gives way to spring where new plants pop up. After a long cold winter, we step out into the sunshine and take a big inhale. The warm season is much like the inhale. It helps to sustain us through the winter. Fully utilizing the warm season is like breathing deeply and harvesting as much O2 as possible.

And this Wim Hof breathing method almost reminds me of storing up food after a harvest. The hyperventilating in order to preserve more O2 feels a bit like cheating. The thing is, the body will always go back to equilibrium. The cycle of in and out, yin and yang may be stretched slightly in one direction, but never permanently. What I mean is, nobody lives forever. How many vegetables would you really want to can?

I wasn’t able to express that thought as simply as it seems to flow through my mind at times. I don’t know that I will ever really be able to make the analogy between breathing and the seasons. But, to get back to the actual practice, I did try and picture this cycle as I went through repetitions of circular breathing (trying to equalize the inhale and exhale). Counting in my head the seconds, feeling the sensation of breathing, and keeping the vision of a circular image helped improve the practice both yesterday and today.

I am heading to the gym now and will finish writing shortly after I get back. I always have a clearer head after rolling . . . À tantôt. That just means see you real soon.

Okay, back and finished rolling. Cold shower after the gym was great. Really refreshing. I’m finding that I can control my breathing while I’m showering by focusing on exhaling fully. This becomes very important during difficult stages of jiu jitsu when a training partner is pinning you on your back by placing all of their weight onto your sternum with their knee. Inhales are not as easy as exhales at that point. So I can control myself and not panic by pushing air out. By emptying my lungs, unless my chest has collapsed, I will easily be able to get in enough fresh air.

I don’t have much in terms of observations. My schedule seems bearable and my body feels good when I take time to work on mobility and breathing. And, my mind feels good when I take time to sit. I put it all together when I take time to write. So, I’m glad I made time for it today. The rest of the week may be more difficult. But I am looking forward to the challenge.

 

Wim Hof Method – Day 29

Woody Allen said that “80 percent of success is showing up.” I’m fairly sure that what he meant is that showing up is one of the harder things to commit to doing. But I think the quote can be twisted around to make it seems as though the work isn’t what is keeping us from showing up. The work is what makes you successful. Working is where you make mistakes and learn from them. Showing up isn’t easy. But once you are there, the hard part is just beginning. I guess maybe his quote wouldn’t have been so memorable had he said “80 percent of success is showing up for work.” There is beauty in simplicity.

If yesterday felt like I was trying to drive in a rusty nail, today made me realize that the whole box is starting to tarnish. There is really no way to create more time to practice. There is no way to motivate someone when there is time to procrastinate. In the fall, our bodies are probably programmed to pack in some comfort food, and settle in for the long winter. But, I don’t know what that means outside of a stale attempt to try and understand why motivations change like the weather. Today was fine actually.

I started the practice much later in the day than I’d planned. I also went to the gym and rolled jiu jitsu for a few hours. And, I followed it up with a nice long cold shower (which I am really starting to enjoy).
My practice started with some mobility exercises. I rolled out my neck and shoulders all while trying to synchronize my breathing. I likened it to yoga when you breathe as you are moving between positions. I just went with what felt natural. I was just trying to stay present and practice controlling my diaphragm. It worked pretty well. I find that the mobility really does help with keeping a controlled comfortable posture. The breath holding was not very good. I don’t think I had the right rhythm with my deep inhales. That said, I’m pretty confused as to why I haven’t gotten this down by now. Maybe I need some audio cues to help me keep rhythm. I’ve used something like this in the past, but I doubt it will work for such a strange breathing practice:

Maybe I’ll try and find something tomorrow. I’ve heard a few people saying that the inhale and exhale should be fairly equal and last 2-3 seconds each. I feel like I’m going a bit faster than that. The gif is slower than that . . . I gotta find my rhythm.

______________________

Observations 

Breathing

Times : 1:30, 2:00, 1:45

Physical: I completed the mobility cycle posted a few posts back and added some breathing along with it. Very simple warm up and a good way to relax into the practice. I felt a bit full from eating before starting. That’s always a bad idea.

Mental: I was a bit unfocused and let my mind wander regarding the timing of my breathing. I’m really thinking that it should be coming easier than it is. I’m sure that with some instruction I’d be doing much better. But I kind of like the challenge of having to figure it out on the fly. Fuck it.

Notes: Stop eating until you’ve practiced, and stop procrastinating. Show up.

Shower: Pretty awesome actually.

Wim Hof Method – Day 28

Quite a few days missed. I had some more time today, and I will have more tomorrow and Monday to really spend some time practicing. These past few days have not been great in terms of practicing. And, I felt it today.

When you start to build up muscle memory from running or squatting or throwing a baseball, after a while it becomes easy. If you take some time away from an activity, depending on how soon you return, you may feel the pressure or stiffness.

While I have been continuously showering in cold water, I have not been spending as much time mentally preparing or focusing on my breathing. I would say that I’d been less present over the past few days. Today I was able to spend some time sitting and breathing and it felt good. The shower was cold as usual. I think that the cold temperatures outside are making this more difficult actually. I feel my core temperature is colder upon entering than it was a few days ago when the weather was warmer. I felt more pain when my head went under the cold water today. It didn’t take long to start shivering and feeling numbness in my hands, shortness of breath, panic breathing and ultimately closing off the flow of water before stepping back out into my chilly apartment.

So, today was slightly more productive in terms of conscious deep breathing and seated meditation. And I will continue to practice this and becoming better with getting my notes down in writing. In general I am pleased with how this practice has helped me to adjust to some lifestyle changes and has possibly helped keep me calm during the last busy week. More notes to come after tomorrow morning’s practice.

Hopefully by next week I will have a more structured schedule. But I guess it will depend on me.

Observations 

Breathing

Times : 2:00, 2:00

Physical: I completed the mobility cycle posted a few posts back. It really helps with relaxing and posture comfort. It’s a great warmup. After breathing I feel energetic and feel like moving and stretching.

Mental: I was still focused during all aspects of the practice. I found myself not focused on the goal, but the practice. That is a good focus in my opinion.

Notes: Practice takes showing up

Shower: Pretty refreshing. Pretty cold. My head was most sensitive. I feel like my shoulders and neck (which were previously most sensitive) have really become used to the cold. I think the tiny muscles around those areas are getting stronger.

I do feel like it is hard to breathe at times when the cold shock hits my head. That is when I remember that you can always exhale strongly using the diaphragm. I exhale powerfully, and the inhale will come without effort. I try and focus on this when I am in bad positions in jiu jitsu as well. It always helps to remember.