breathe and believe

I watched a video by The Minimalists few days back, in which they were having a conversation with Wim Hof, the Dutch extreme athlete also called as The Iceman.

Hof is known for his ability to withstand extreme cold environments, which he attributes to his breathing techniques, widely referred to as the Wim Hof Method. His method is mainly based on breathing exercises, focus, and cold therapy. Together, these exercises can equip anyone with a means of controlling their body to a level that was previously thought to be impossible. Research has shown that Wim and other practitioners of The Wim Hof Method have a stronger immune response and are capable of influencing their autonomic nervous system.

It was an energizing and inspirational conversation where Hof also demonstrated his breathing technique along with Joshua and Ryan. As I watched the video, I participated in this exercise myself. After doing certain cycles of deep breathing, (I lost the count, but I believe there were 20-30), Hof asked to take one last deep breath in, let it out completely and hold the breath for as long as possible. I was surprised but I was able to hold the breath from more than 1 minute 20 seconds. During that time, I actually felt calm and a sweet, relaxing nothingness. There was no stress and no panic. This entire experience reacquainted me to the fact that breathing plays such a huge role in ensuring our well-being and distancing ourselves away from stress.

Wim Hof, in his jovial and enthusiastic demeanor, spreads an invaluable message in this video: ‘Breathing and believing, those two will make the biggest stressors of life, in extreme shape even, being able to be controlled by you.” This is definitely a life-changing advice.

Deep breathing is also practiced in Pranayama — specifically in Bhastrika Pranayama that is similar to Hof’s breathing exercise — along with other exhalation and breath retention techniques that have their own benefits. I have been practicing Pranayama for many years now and always have known the importance of breathing exercises and their impact on our health, and this demonstration by Wim Hof made my belief in it more concrete.

Another aspect apart from breathing is believing. Belief is a powerful force that we all have to access to. It’s our beliefs that either make us or break us. As outlined in the book The Biology of Belief, our perception and the beliefs that we cultivate over time dictate our health and wellness. There is increasing scientific evidence now that proves this and shows how our mind and our psychology can influence our body and its well-being

So, whenever everyday stresses get to you and whenever you feel overwhelmed, depressed, scared or anxious, simply focus on these two things — breathing and believing — and you’ll be fine.