Last Sunday I attended an event in Sydney with a pretty crazy cat called Wim Hof. Some of you may have heard of him – his nickname is The Iceman. He is a highly energetic, wild haired Dutch guy who lives with such an abundant level of passion that it’s very hard not to be influenced by his enthusiasm and delight in the world.
Wim’s claim to fame is that he has climbed Everest (amongst other mountains) wearing nothing more than a pair of shorts. Yep – no shirt, no thermals, and definitely no oxygen tanks. In fact, during his introduction on Sunday, he shared a story of how he led himself and twelve other “Wim converts” up a mountain that sits on the border of Poland and the Czech Republic. As they crested the peak in their shorts singing “hi ho, hi ho” they ran into a group of Czech soldiers on patrol. These military men were completely covered in extensive thermal wear and balaclavas – it was only the slits of their eyes exposed to the elements.
I must say that Wim tells a bloody good story and he certainly brought the room to laughter as we all imagined what those soldiers were thinking looking at this group of almost naked humans; on top of a mountain, where the temperature was -27C!!!
Now, you are probably wondering “Why the hell would anyone want to climb a mountain in such freezing conditions?”. Some of you may also be asking another question: “and why no clothes?”. These are both very valid questions and the answer lies within the data that is currently shaking up what the scientific world says our bodies are capable of.
It turns out that we humans have WAY MORE POWER over our physical bodies than what we previously thought – and Wim is leading the way in proving it.
Wim’s mission is to empower every human being to be happy, strong and healthy. It’s a simple mission but one the world desperately requires. With record amounts of lifestyle diseases (cancer, diabetes, heart disease etc) and mental illness (depression and anxiety, amongst others) we are clearly doing something wrong.
As Wim pointed out, we are not taught in school how to manage our health (let alone manage our minds) and this is a key part of the problem. That we are capable of managing our physiology – and that modern medicine is merely there to compliment, not control us – is something we are yet to appreciate. We can be happier, healthier and stronger all on our own. Now, please don’t get me wrong, I know modern medicine has an incredibly important function when it comes to our health. It’s just that too many of us hand our personal power over to the medical and pharmaceutical industries and expect them to take care of and heal our bodies when it is actually our own jurisdiction. We have the power to do a lot of healing within ourselves, more than we realise and use.
The very first step of becoming truly empowered is getting control of our minds. Once we have developed that ability we can then control our bodies – or more specifically the systems that work within our bodies. This is what climbing up a snow-covered mountain barely clothed gives you: phenomenal control of your mind and body.
I have been asked on many occasions why I feel the need to walk on hot coals or broken glass (or to sit in an ice bath). Honestly, it’s because I know that my exuberant (and slightly cheeky) mind often needs to be reminded who exactly is running this show: me – not it!! I have identified that if I don’t continue to push myself outside my comfort zone or face off with my fears, then the voices in my head start to instruct me to play it small and stay safe. It’s the way we humans are wired. I’m not quite at the climb-up-the-snow-covered-mountain-in-my-undies phase yet but hey, who knows?!
As much as I have always held the belief that I am able to heal my body, I don’t really understand how I have done it previously – or what the plan of attack would be on future occasions. I just explicitly trust that I can.
That’s where Wim and his experiments come in. This wild Dutchman has now teamed up with the scientific community to prove beyond any doubt that we have the power to change and impact what our bodies do – like, for example, how we can protect and heal ourselves from illness and disease.
Science has long believed that we are unable to control our autonomic nervous system. This is the system that keeps our heart beating, ensures we take that next breath, and activates our immune system when we’re under threat. Honestly, this is a pretty spectacular part of our workings. Imagine if we were consciously responsible for keeping our heart beating and had to remember to breathe 20 times a minute! Sometimes I can’t even remember where I parked my car or what I stopped at the shops for. If I was responsible for the full-time management of my beating heart I reckon I may face a hiccup or two!
What Wim and his team in conjunction with Wayne State University have proven is that we can impact our immunity and our genetic make-up. Over several experiments, two Control Groups were injected with bacteria.
Control Group One – the ones who climbed the mountain on the Polish border – used the Wim Hof Breathing Method in the first couple of hours after the injection and Control Group Two did not. Group Two also hadn’t climbed a mountain in the nude in the previous week, which meant that the relationship they had with their mind wasn’t as developed as Group One. The results showed definitively that Group One were able to “turn their immune systems on” and therefore were significantly less impacted by the bacteria.
This study really is mind blowing in what it means for us as humans to be able to take charge of our physical bodies and health.
Yesterday, as I was sitting in that ice bath up to my neck feeling like a thousand knives were piercing my skin, I breathed. And I surrendered. And I breathed. And I surrendered.
And I felt like I found a little piece of calm in the midst of all those voices in my head that were screaming “GET OUT! GET OUT! GET OUT!!!”
It was beautiful, almost ethereal, and I was proud as punch when I got out of that ice bath having conquered my mind one more time. I have no idea when I’m going to need to turn my immune system on in the future but what I do know is that – like anything in life we want to become outstanding at – we must train and work at it. So for me there will definitely be more ice bathing in the future ☺
Give it a try… I’d love to know how you go.