A man practising the Wim Hof breathing technique, seated comfortably on a rug in a modern living room, with eyes closed and a calm expression.

The Wim Hof Breathing Technique: Lessons from The Iceman

Would you like to control your body's response to the environment, boost your immune system, and enhance your mental clarity? Because this isn't the stuff of science fiction but the very real promise of the Wim Hof technique, whose approach to wellness combines cold exposure, breathing techniques, and commitment. 

Breathing is one of the most vital functions of the human body, yet it is often taken for granted. It’s important to learn breathwork to promote relaxation, enhancing oxygenation, and improving overall health. Also, proper breathing increases oxygen flow to the brain, enhancing mental clarity and concentration, and helps regulate emotions, making it easier to manage anxiety and depression. That’s why so many breathing techniques have been developed across different cultures and time periods, and Wim Hof’s is one of the most fascinating ones.  

Who is Wim Hof?

Wim Hof, also known as "The Iceman," is a Dutch extreme athlete famous for his ability to withstand freezing temperatures. Among his impressive feats: climbing Mount Everest in shorts, swimming under ice, and running a half marathon above the Arctic Circle barefoot. Hof attributes his extraordinary abilities to his unique method, which he developed over years of self-experimentation.

The Science Behind the Technique

The Wim Hof technique is rooted in ancient practices, yet it is backed by modern scientific research. Your heart rate, digestion, and respiratory rate are all involuntary functions that you don’t even realise you’re performing, and they’re controlled by the autonomic nervous system.  

By tweaking your breathing patterns, the Wim Hof method helps you switch between your body's sympathetic (fight-or-flight) mode and parasympathetic (rest-and-digest) mode. Fight-or-flight kicks in during stress, making your heart race and giving you energy, while rest-and-digest helps you relax, slow your heart rate, and improve digestion. The Wim Hof technique, with deep breaths and breath-holding, helps you control these states. This balance enhances your stress resilience and keeps you feeling balanced and healthy, both physically and mentally.

How to Perform the Technique

The Wim Hof technique is quite easy to incorporate into your daily routine. Just a heads-up: you might feel a bit dizzy, so make sure you practise it in a safe place where it's not dangerous if you happen to black out.

  1. Find a Comfortable Position: Sit or lie down in a comfortable position. As we mentioned already, make sure that you are in a safe environment, as the practice might make you feel light-headed.
  2. Warm-Up Breaths: Take a few deep, slow breaths to prepare your body. Inhale deeply through the nose and exhale through the mouth.
  3. 30-40 Power Breaths: Begin the breathing cycle by inhaling deeply through the nose or mouth, and exhale through the mouth. Each breath should be full but not forced. Repeat this cycle 30-40 times. You might feel light-headed or experience tingling sensations, which is normal.
  4. Retention Phase: After the last exhalation, inhale deeply and then exhale completely, holding your breath for as long as possible. During this phase, focus on the sensations in your body.
  5. Recovery Breath: When you need to breathe again, take a deep breath in and hold it for 10-15 seconds before exhaling. This completes one cycle. Repeat the cycle three to four times.

The Benefits of this Technique

There’s all sorts of great benefits for people using the Wim Hof technique. Here are some of the best ones:

  • Boosted Energy: The deep breathing pumps your body full of oxygen, giving you more energy and vitality.
  • Stronger Immune System: Research shows the Wim Hof method can boost your immune system, making you less likely to get sick by increasing anti-inflammatory cytokines and decreasing pro-inflammatory ones.
  • Less Stress and Anxiety: The breathing exercises help calm your mind and reduce stress, promoting a sense of inner peace and well-being.
  • Better Focus and Clarity: The increased oxygen flow to your brain can sharpen your focus and improve mental clarity.
  • Improved Sleep: Many people find the breathing exercises help them relax and sleep better.
  • Higher Pain Tolerance: The technique can increase your tolerance to pain by boosting your body’s endorphin levels.

Long-Term Benefits of Regular Practice

Consistency is super important in the Wim Hof technique for getting and keeping results. Regularly practising the breathing technique helps your body get used to it and respond better over time. Here's why sticking with it matters:

  • Greater Resilience: Regular practitioners often handle physical and emotional stress better, thanks to a more balanced autonomic nervous system.
  • Stronger Immune Response: Consistent practice can make your immune system stronger, helping you fight off infections and illnesses more effectively.
  • Cardiovascular Health: Deep, rhythmic breathing can lower blood pressure and improve heart rate variability, boosting overall heart health.
  • Longevity and Vitality: By improving oxygen delivery and reducing stress, regular breathing practice can contribute to a longer, healthier life.

Practical Tips for Beginners

Starting something new can be a bit scary, but these tips will help you get the most out of the Wim Hof technique:

  • Be Consistent: Practise the breathing technique daily to get the full benefits.
  • Listen to Your Body: If you feel uncomfortable or dizzy, stop and rest.
  • Mix with Cold Exposure: For the best results, combine the breathing technique with cold exposure, like cold showers or ice baths.
  • Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of water before and after practising.
  • Do It on an Empty Stomach: It’s best to perform the breathing exercises on an empty stomach for maximum comfort and efficiency.

Remember, start slowly, listen to your body, and gradually integrate the breathing exercises into your daily life. The great thing about this technique is that everyone can benefit from it, including athletes seeking to boost performance and recovery, individuals battling chronic stress and anxiety, those needing more energy and vitality, people aiming to strengthen their immune system, and those looking to improve mental clarity. 

And here’s a pro tip: pairing this technique with NMN supplements can take the benefits up a notch. NMN, the NAD+ booster, helps with cellular energy production and metabolism, working perfectly with the Wim Hof method’s oxygenation and circulation boosts. Also, exciting news: Simply Nootropics now offers NMN Capsules, providing maximum effectiveness and convenience! Together, this technique and the NMN supplements will have a huge impact on your overall health, resilience, and vitality.

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