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Interview with Wim Hof

Wim Hof

Wim Hof meditatingThe exceptional Wim Hof, better known as “The Iceman”, is a Dutch adventurer and creator of the Wim Hof Method. Wim currently (2016) holds 21 Guinness world records, the most famous of which saw him sit in a large cylinder filled with freezing cold ice water for one hour and 52 minutes! Even more impressively, Wim’s core body temperature remained exactly the same throughout this time. Scientists around the world were baffled by this exceptional performance.

Equally impressive, a 2014 research paper entitled “Voluntary activation of the sympathetic nervous system and attenuation of the innate immune response in humans” proved that subjects who performed the Wim Hof Method over a period of 10 days could gain control of their autonomic nervous system and immune system, a feat that was previously thought impossible by the scientific and medical communities.

Wim is living proof that the Wim Hof Method works. This exceptional man has been able to achieve the following feats:

  • Sit in a cylinder of ice water for one hour 52 minutes while maintaining a core body temperature of 37 degrees Celsius for the entire time.
  • Run a marathon, wearing only sandals and shorts, above the Arctic Circle.
  • Run a half marathon barefoot above the Arctic Circle wearing only shorts
  • Officially swam under ice for 66 meters with one breath
  • Unofficially swam under ice for 120 meters with one breath
  • Free climbing and hanging on one finger at an altitude of 2000 meters
  • Climbing the highest mountains on earth in only shorts
  • Undergoing heat tests while maintaining a constant body temperature
  • Completing a full marathon in the Namib desert without consuming water

This may all seem superhuman, but Wim remains adamant that: “What I am capable of, everybody can learn.”

Transcript from the Wim Hof Interview
14th April 2016

Wim Hof in Iceland 2019Steve Hooper (Director of Effortless Superhuman)
The Wim Hof Method is certainly beginning to receive a lot of attention recently. You must be very proud and very excited!

Yes, very much so! The results and outcomes achieved by the Wim Hof Method have made their way into the 3rd year of the University books for Physicians in the USA. It’s a full chapter and it’s a fact that that the autonomic nervous system (ANS) can be influenced by anybody in a very short period of time. So that is really exciting because then we get to the root, the cause of things and anybody can do it. So yes, that is very exciting. It is also very exciting that there is now ongoing research programs into depression, inflammatory markers, pain, even DMT (Dimethyltryptamine). We are doing brain research as well. Researchers have seen that my methods not only influence the ANS but also reach the deepest parts of the brain and it’s a total different scope now. And they are researching and investigating what is going on here. There will be significant positive outcomes from all this research and it’s all under investigation.

So you do good work and we do good work and together we can do it better.

Steve Hooper
What happened in your adolescence that lead you down this path?

I simply felt there was more between the earth and the sky. There isn’t a mother in the world who wants her child to be sick, unhappy or powerless. No, every mother wants their children to be full of energy, healthy and happy. But, because of our behaviour, we do not know how to tap into the systems that can ensure we remain happy and healthy. For most people, their comfort zone behaviour neglects the deepest parts of their physiology. Because none of this is stimulated, and those areas that are neglected are related to the immune system and the endocrine system. But most people do not access and stimulate these parts of the brain. It’s like having muscles but you don’t’ train them.

When I was young I saw war, poverty, powerlessness, pain, suffering and depression. All of this. And I said no, I’m not going to take this as a fact. I’m going to surge. I’m going to try to find the answer. There is more, I can feel it, I don’t know what it is, but I’m going for it.

So I went for it and I read many books, I practiced many esoteric disciplines, studied many religious traditions, cultures, etc I was looking into everything, but I finally found a real connection by going into the cold freezing water. And it made me realize immediately. This is it! These principles go beyond our thinking. They are innate within humans. And it is there in everybody, deeper within. And it is being awakened by one of the elements of nature, which is in this case the cold. The natural elements, they are all capable of brining about the best of our physiology.

So that it is.
Wim Hof in Iceland 2019
I am interested in the esoteric disciplines that you speak of. Did you go through Qigong, Tai Chi, and Meditation and where did you begin?

All! Yoga. Karate. Kung Fu, Sufism, Buddhism, anything! Anything I could get my hands upon. You know. Anything I could practice I did. And I’m still very capable of doing it all now. I learned Japanese. I learned Sanscrit and Hindi. I learned these languages and I was into it. I wrote books but I found out it’s all too far away for us to grasp, to understand, and to implement into our lives. But with My method we have found a way to tap into the autonomic nervous system and the best part is that anybody can do it. So, that’s the way.

The Wim Hof Method is pretty unique because it includes meditation, breathing control and adaptation to cold. How did you create this formula?

First of all, after reading hundreds of books. After visiting all of these religions, beliefs and philosophies and doing it all. I applied all of these principles and practices and worked it out in the freezing cold water of winter. I just felt an attraction. I went in directly, without thinking about it. And from there I took up this daily ritual. And from there my breathing began to change. It became deeper because I found out that by breathing better the cold is going away. Then suddenly I would get a lot of oxygen, because the impact of the cold water is a force, so you have to create a force from inside, and you do it by breathing. I recognized that if you do this breathing without the cold, then it is still able to generate power within. It oxygenizes, energizes, alkalizes the blood, and it changes the chemistry. And your brain is able to connect with the deepest layers of your physiology.

This is the way it went. So first the cold, then the breathing, now we do breathing exercises apart from the cold.

For example, people who are in the hospital lying in bed on their back, we have shown in University studies that these people, through breathing exercises can produce a fully tranquil state and be totally at peace. In fact, they feel like they’re getting ‘high.’ It’s crazy to think that someone just lying in bed can produce more adrenaline than somebody going into their first bungee jump! And that is comparative to other results. And the researchers saw this. When you go and produce in a tranquil way, adrenaline in that amount, then it surely helps the body to vent off danger, and what is disease, disease is danger.

So I want to implement these techniques in hospitals all over the world, instead of passively taking drugs and just lying there. Breathe motherfucker! And you will feel the difference. And they can all see it.

So I am so passionate about this because the results so far demonstrate that we can make a real difference. Lying around taking pills and receiving passive care will not provide a lasting solution. But we’ve proven that the deepest part of the brain, which is connected with the release of adrenaline can be stimulated within 20 minutes. Bang! And that brings about, instantly, a body that is most effective and can heal itself.

In the research studies there is a real physiological response. Is the theory at this point that you are having an effect on the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland?
Wim Hof Horse Stance in the snow
Both! The hypothalamus, pituitary, pineal gland, amygdala and the hippocampus. All! It’s the deepest part of the brain and they all get oxygen. The pH levels go up and then the neurology is able, from the neocortex, the surface of the brain, to connect with the deepest parts of the brain and to keep this connection. No animal can do this because it needs conscious manipulation and we are humans. So, use your brain man! And bang, get into the deepest part of the brain, control the endocrine system, which is controlled or regulated by the hippocampus, hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and pineal gland. The whole thing!

Amazing! Do you ever get sick yourself?

No. No! Alas, no sickness. No disease.

Have you shown with yourself or family or people who have practiced your methods that they can heal faster from pain, sickness or injuries from this type of training?

Oh yes! One reason is that we can increase the number, effectiveness and efficiency of red blood cells. And we have proven this in the Kilimanjaro climbs of 6000m. Last year (2015) we went with a man who was 76 years old, had no prior mountaineering experience, lived 8 years in Australia by the way, and he climbed it in 44 hours! To accomplish this means you have to tackle the oxygen problem, the lack of oxygen, the oxygen deprivation, and how to fill this gap.

Now we do the breathing techniques and training and you know what? There is no lack of oxygen! Everybody is able to do it. And this guy was 76 years old and he did it in a record time of 44 hours. Any physiologist, any expert in mountaineering, will say this is impossible and I did it with 29 people this year, 26 people last year and the year before that. Many of these people suffered from diseases by the way. Diseases such as Crohn’s, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and asthma. And people who had climbed before and had difficulties at 4000m now climbed to 6000m with record times.

It all comes by learning and by consciously connecting with the deepest parts of the brain, to accelerate red blood cell generation. And red blood cells transport oxygen inside the body, which alkalizes the body and enables us to perform much better than before. And that is exactly what people who are healing need. We have proven this. We have made a scientific paper out of it. And yes, now it’s about how to bring it to people who are just lying in bed and improve the healing process – triple or even quadruple it! This method is like being in an oxygen chamber, like a hyperbaric chamber. And yet you can do it yourself. Just do it!

And you can do it in 10 weeks according to your program. Is that correct?

I think you can do it in one day too!

Were trying to make history here man.

Mind you, now, to really master it, it needs proper instruction of course. And therefore a 10-week course is the ideal situation. And very little time when you think about it, to get into the deepest parts of the brain and enhance the physiology. And have it for the rest of your life.

What we do here from this side, is endorsing it with scientific scrutiny, with no speculation, just measurements and blood results. And we do that in contrast to what is stated by science to be impossible. We see that people are able to do so much more than we think.

Are these findings being embraced by the medical community or is there resistance to these methods and this type of thinking?

I am not sure how it will be received. When you consider the pharmaceutical companies, the medical associations and the rigid patterns of thinking with the authorities … I’m not sure. But we are getting into the system. We are in the university books and it’s up to them to implement these natural methods into regular health care. Because it works! And the scientific community is big and they have accepted these results as fact. But despite proving these methods through research it still needs to be implemented into daily life and daily structures.

So I don’t know how far this will go. But everybody will know in the scientific world, when they come across these facts we have produced and published in scientific papers, that this is real. It’s a matter of fact! Proven by blood results, numbers, and figures. Not speculation. But it needs to be implemented in regular health care and more importantly into the daily lives of the general population.

You state on your website that due to modern lifestyles people are disconnected from their natural state of being. What do you mean by that?

Our normal state of being is connected to the deepest layers of our physiology. But with modern civilizations and modern lifestyles this connection is not present. And that creates an insecurity in people. So when disease comes in the form of sickness, depression, or anything like that, they feel the need to go to the doctor and to take pills. This is the way it creates an absence of confidence within people. This is the psychology that most people have today.

What we believe, and what we have been able to show through this method, is that people can tap into their cells, create more energy, and can influence their moods. Whereas a state like depression demonstrates an inability to do this. Research has also shown that this method allows us to enter into the deepest layers of the immune system and have a positive response. When someone considers all these benefits, it will fill them with confidence. That’s the psychology we want for everyone on earth. It makes you stronger, you get more energy, and it creates the confidence that you are connected directly with all the layers of your body. You feel more alive. You are aware and at will you are able to tap into the deepest parts of your self. Thus, you create a mental state, which becomes so strong, disease is not coming and lack of energy is not coming anymore. Because you have a stick behind the door, you know. When anything like mood change or energy loss, being tired or becoming sick comes, you know you got the stick. And that’s psychological.

But in the beginning we have to reset the mind and the body. We have to take away the blockages, the inhibitions, the insecurities and the disconnected parts of the body and connect it neurologically with the brain. So the 10-week course (Wim Hof Method) awakens all the neurology and afterwards you can slowly but surely leave the discipline because then you’ve got your mental state and you know how to tap in any time. There is a little warning after the 10-week course. You’ll probably be addicted to cold showers!

It’s nice. It’s nice to do it.

There is plenty of scientific evidence coming out to support the benefits of Tai Chi, Qigong and meditation, especially in relation to healing from a diseased state. Do you think the unique blend you have created for the Wim Hof Method will eventually prove to provide superior benefits when compared to these results?

Yes. I think so. But, I go by science. So science is our way of thinking. That’s our belief. And this belief is actually a newer sort of religion. In Beijing there is Confuciusism and Taoism and Buddhism, and in Baghdad there is ISIS, and in Europe there is Christianity. Any belief has its own universities. And universities are all about data, about numbers, figures, statistics. There is no speculation in these institutions. So we reach and make new beliefs within the inner power of every person in this world by this psychology, this new religion called ‘Science.’ Beyond speculation! We make that stronger.

Taoism and Qigong are great. But they are not able to tackle the psychology within. We have to go by science because science is the fruit of the Western mind, the logical mind. And this type of mind is really stubborn.

Qigong and Tai Chi are good but when you stop practicing your old state of ‘mind’ comes back again. It’s like swabbing with a towel because water comes in but not paying attention to where all the water is coming from. We have to change the psychology. And this is what we do with the Wim Hof Method. Once the psychology is changed you don’t need to do anything any more. Do you see Rabbit’s and Giraffe’s exercising every day, doing Qigong or Taoism or anything like that? No! We have to act natural again. And it can all be found in nature. So we have to bring about the deepest parts of our physiology, become aware, connect and act normal. Like mammals do.

Do you think the general population in the Netherlands is healthy? Are they following the principles of a healthy lifestyle?

Maybe if compared to other countries. I don’t know. Yah, some sort of awareness is here. But yet not that awareness of which I am talking about. I not only want the general population to follow these principles, I also want to implement them into health care and hospitals. I want insurance companies and the medical associations to understand these principles and adopt this psychology. Because this is a natural method.

At the moment they simply do not understand that these statements are being proven by science. Research is showing that any person participating individually is able to tap into the deepest layers of their physiology. As long as this awareness isn’t there, we are only scratching the surface.

Today we are faced with all these autoimmune conditions, cancer, depression and sickness. And yet, like Australia, the Netherlands has advanced technology. But what I uncovered has more bites of intelligence than the entire Apollo 13 project! And that’s the fruit of our mind! So we have all this advanced technology and yet as a mother we are not able to guarantee health, happiness and strength to our childern! Hey, that’s no welfare. Here in the Netherlands there are 2 million people with rheumatic arthritis, 1.5 million suffering from depression and taking prozac pills. And every year we have 100, 000 people being diagnosed with cancer. And they say that’s normal. All the hospitals and pharmaceutical companies think this is normal! It’s an entire industry built on our disease and our sickness. And I say, hey man, you know what is normal? To be healthy, happy, and strong! And we can guarantee this now. So we have to keep up with the research until it these methods become accepted by the general population and implemented into regular health care. So up until then we are only scratching the surface.

What role do you think lifestyle plays, like sleep and nutrition, when it comes to ill health or disease?

Yes, it’s logical that food, being processed, is no longer in the form the body wants and that by nature the body cannot deal with these chemicals. These companies put chemicals inside the food to enhance the taste, reduce costs, preserve the food, and boost profits. And we eat it. We eat chemistry. These foods are not congruent with the chemical mechanisms we have in body. So, that is no good! Any person can conclude that. But how do you deal with this problem? It is an established part of the system and our culture and it will continue as long as people continue to buy this type of food.

I say ‘let food be food.’ Eat real food! Because we need food and it creates energy. Food creates energy in the cell called ATP. Molecules equivalent to energy. That’s why we take food. Now, if you breathe better you influence the same mechanism that creates molecules, thus energy, in our body. Thus, you need less food. Because you breathe better. It’s called aerobic dissimilation. Our lifestyle is shallow breathing and eating fucked up food. Hey man, you want to destroy your body, you want to go against nature, than do it, but you won’t like the outcome. We got to change our consciousness about it. I will use science to show why. And that will make it simple. Food needs to be food and we need to breathe deeper. That’s it.

So what would you have for breakfast in the morning?

Actually nothing! I haven’t eaten breakfast for nearly 35 years now. I feel great in the morning. I breathe, I take oxygen and I get a lot of energy. I’m work here on the land and I’m outgoing. I love it! You know what I love best? To have a great appetite after six o’clock. I eat so much my wife is always complaining! In a positive sense I eat like a farmer, a farmer who is going to work. And that’s because I store up and then the appetite is there and the chemistry in the body it likes it. The saliva is going and everything is going. I take my food and very rapidly it is energy inside of me. I am very slim but I eat lots of food, after six o’clock.

But I think to, if we want to tackle the food shortage problem in the world, we should pay far more attention to breathing. We should learn to breathe better. And we should make a study out of it. A study about how much energy food is producing and how much energy we can supplement by breathing better. You see? Simple. Simple method! A big problem solved. Because the study will show that by breathing better we can produce far more energy from the food we eat. This is a fact of the cell. There is anaerobic dissimilation and aerobic dissimilation. Anaerobic dissimilation is without oxygen and aerobic dissimilation is with oxygen. Anaerobic dissimilation is a chemical process that makes energy and is able to produce two molecules of energy. Aerobic dissimilation is able to produce 38 molecules of energy. There you have a significant difference. With and without oxygen, by consciously breathing we have the ability to produce 19 times more energy from the same quantity of food. I want to make a study out of this. And in the process tackle the food shortage problem and possibly the obesity problem.

Now, obesity is like you don’t get enough nutrients inside your body and at the times. It is a circular process. You don’t get real vitamins and minerals inside and thus the craving for food continues and at a certain point people remain hungry all the time. And it’s storing up. That’s obesity. Now, if you just breathe better and eat real food, you generate significantly more energy and the craving is gone. As simple as that! And I showed that, how to do that in a study at Maastricht University.

Maastricht University (Brown Fat Study)

Subjects in this study were exposed to cold, 11 degrees Celsius, for three hours. I was one of the subjects in the study and I did my breathing exercises before the study. The results showed that I produced, with the same amount of brown fat as the other subjects, five times more energy. Even more significant was the fact that the other subjects were 17-18 years old and I was 56 years old. Just because of breathing. So it shows. And if we want to tackle this problem of obesity, there it is. You need energy for your body but if you take the wrong foods the cell is not able to produce chemically and build up the energy molecules. Thus a degree of craving stays. And this is the sickness of today.

They should take me on in any university study because my mind comes from nature, not from the books. I have a very logical mind. And this logical mind says go back to nature because nature knows how to make the body most effective to be able to function within the elements. And we have a perfect body to do that. And I can teach anybody.

Do you have a morning ritual that you go through each day?

Yes, normally I like to do breathing exercises and go into the cold pool. And then work hard. With conscious breathing you can work hard all day long. And it doesn’t cost anything. It’s free man! The best things in life are free man. Like sunshine!

If you could go back and tell your 30-year-old self anything, what would you tell him?

Just keep on going buddy, you’re right on track! At that point in my life it was a positive situation and I was going on instinct. Now it’s a fact and research is proving it. So we just need to keep on from here too because there is still a whole lot to discover. But it’s a very spiritual process and I love it. I love to investigate, to dig, and to detect in life. Because we are here on this planet, this beautiful planet of ours, the most beautiful spot in the entire universe. That’s here, this beautiful blue planet in all its diversity! I want to wake up every day and say, this is a wonder, and feel it. Not just understand that this is magical and mystical but to feel it.

So until then I will keep on digging and get the dirt out and get to the big treasure box called the soul, the purpose of life, and to pass it on.

Do you have any books you recommend or give as gifts to your family and friends?

No, not really. I say YOU yourself! You are an open book. Go into it! The first Chapter of the book is called Steve! Ha, ha, ha, ha

Now write the first chapter man!

So why are you doing all of this Wim? What is your passion, what are you trying to achieve in life?

Wim Hof Iceland 2019Wim
I will continue as long as I’m seeing such suffering in the world, hopelessness, and a lack of the heart. We have to remember that we are apart of something bigger, we are tribal, and we are brothers. We are sisters, brothers and family to each other. We should love each other and care for each other. Be strong, happy and healthy. That’s what motivates me. And as long as that is absent, something is wrong.

It’s like the ghost busters. If there’s something strange in your neighbourhood, who you gonna call? WIM HOF! And Body Genius from Australia because you guys are investigators as well. You do it as well. We do the same work! We need to prove it through science.

It’s time to wake up the heart. And the heart should open up for everybody. No fear. We all deserve strength, happiness and health. Just that. We need to show them that the war will stop because then there is no tension, there is no grieving, there is no deadlines to go for. There is no positioning or craving for power because of the insecurities. No, you are happy, strong and healthy and that’s all you want! That is the way we stop the war. And we have to go hard. And I told these guys (in this study) it is the first time to show that the autonomic nervous system can be influenced.

Voluntary activation of the sympathetic nervous system and attenuation of the innate immune response in humans.

I told them about mindset. Hey guys, you are modern day gladiators. We have to win the greatest war ever. This is the war of the most casualties, the war of the most misery, the war against the virus and bacteria. And you know what? In four days they demonstrated that we can win this war. They had it going. First they demonstrated it within themselves and then showing it with the injection of the bacteria. One hundred percent, all of them! And now it’s in the books. By demonstrating this ability we are able to overcome the fear of the mind and open up to our inner power. Our insecurities no longer seem valid. And the best part is that anybody can do this.

I guess the bigger question is how are we going to implement this method and these findings into the existing infrastructure of thinking? I guess we just keep heart! You do your work, I do my work and together we are stronger. This is the way we do it.

Do you have any projects you are working on right now Wim?

Yes, many! We’ve have lots of research projects and analysis of the Wim Hof Method. All scientific. One study is on people who are paralyzed. Although they are paralyzed they love the breathing. Because this time they are not just passively lying there, they are breathing and they feel they are influencing their own neurology. This is an ongoing study.

There are also studies on the influence on inflammatory markers, depression, stem cells, a study on pain and anesthesia and another study on telomeres, the ends of each DNA.

The study on pain and anesthesia is particularly interesting because we have shown that pain can be influenced through breathing. We can change and influence at will the chemistry which causes the pain signal. The pathway for the pain signal is taken away. The pain pathway represents the wrong chemistry in the body and we need to make it right. So we are able to change this chemistry (through the Wim Hof Method), then the pain signal disentangles. We have shown this and it’s going to be published. A very spectacular study by the way. People exposed to a significant amount of pain and by doing the breathing are able to have five times more pain tolerance. And there are many people with unbearable neurological pains and we can help them. Those are big projects!

Another completely different project is the ‘Garden of Eden’ project. This study involves making a prototype of the natural reserves of Tanzania, Kenya and taking subjects from all over the world to these places. And then have them walk with the Masai ranger in those parts. No longer in cars and protected but rather fully exposed. That brings about a natural harmonious being within these people, instead of taking photos from behind a glass window, which is not natural. We bring about harmony with nature, even into the extreme, thus taking away the psychological fears people have against lions, elephants, and wildlife. They change and they will feel the beauty of nature. And that’s the ‘Garden of Eden’ project. It’s like paradise. We live in a fucking paradise but we are not aware of it. We’ve got to bring it back and in that way we will expose more people to the beauty and power that can be found in nature and by exposing themselves to the elements.

Any plans to set any world records this year?

Most likely if I set any world records I will do it with groups of people. But of course things will always pop up from time to time. So maybe I will perform a personal world record at some point but I’m getting tired of these shitty stunts. It’s surprising that people continue to believe I cannot do these things. That it’s impossible. I can do anything I put my mind to!

I requested a challenge a few months ago with a guy (Ross Edgely) who pulled a car a full marathon for charity and raised a lot of money in the process. I approached Ross and challenged him to climb Mt. Everest with me wearing only a pair of shorts. Of course we would raise as much money as possible for charity. I certainly don’t like to go into the snow and ice and experience extreme oxygen deprivation unless there is a benefit for charity. Unfortunately, I’m still waiting to hear from Ross on accepting the challenge.

So if anything like that pops-up and it can help charity or the cancer foundation or this or that then I am keen. You know something real, big time, with big exposure. Then I’m going to do a stunt like that. But otherwise, I’m into science and my exercising and leading groups into the mountains. Also Guinness world records with groups such as achieving the fastest time to ascend Kilimanjaro or go into the ice with the most people. Things like that is what I am interested in.

Hey, maybe I could do that in Australia. By the way I am in Australia in June and in August (2016).

Where in Australia will you be?

Melbourne, Byron Bay and Sydney. I’m going to be all around.

Are you going to be giving guest lectures, running workshops or just visiting?

I will be running workshop! Channel 7 is going to be there too. I just had a documentary with Channel 7 on Australian TV. And yah, things like that are happening. I am going to go with the Aborigines as well. Make music with the Aborigines. Maybe you can set up a few more things? You just come up with ideas Steve!

Where is the best place for people to learn more about Wim Hof and all the good work you’re doing?

My website. Inner Fire! Soon it’s going to be a big platform. But for now we already have many thousands of people communicating with each other by the website. So it’s all there.

Any closing remarks Wim?

No, I don’t think so. Just, I look forward to seeing you in Australia in August! Love ya man! Take care.

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