All my health advice should be taken with a grain of salt…actually make it 2 grains of salt.
I’m a total sucker for the latest health craze or life-changing medical device that “big pharma doesn’t want you to know about.” (You know the type)
Some of the techniques and devices I try are (joking aside) total BS, some are partially legit (but with a strong dose of pseudoscience), and some (although rare) end up being totally legit.
I’ve created a loose formula in my head for which of these health techniques and devices are worth trying, which goes something like this:
(Potential risk of side effects) + (cost) vs. Potential upside (if it works).
An inexpensive product or practice that has no risk of side effects, is free, and promises great benefits doesn’t need much scientific backing in my book to be willing to try.
Enter breathe work…
Different forms of breathe work have been touted by yogis and health enthusiasts to provide a vast array of benefits. A few of the more common claims are reduced inflammation, increased immune support, and strengthening of the autonomous nervous system.
The positive effects of regular breathe work have actually been fairly well documented by scientific research. This is something I didn’t know until I read the book Breathe by James Nestor, Breathe is possibly the most complete book ever written on the relationship between breathing and our overall physiology.
I started my breathe work journey with practicing the “Wim Hof method.” Which is possibly the most well known form of breathe work in the western world today, due to the fame of the man it’s named after Wim Hof, aka the Iceman.
Wim is somewhat of a freak of nature, he holds over 30 world records and has a long list of unusual yet amazing accomplishments including climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro wearing nothing but swim shorts, standing in an ice container for nearly two hours, swimming 188 ft. below the ice, running a marathon in the Namib desert without drinking any water and running a half marathon north of the arctic circle in bare feet.
But the (growing) popularity of the “Wim Hof method” is not built exclusively on the the legendary tales of the it’s ambassador/creator, but also some really impressive science.
In one recent study performed in the Netherlands, the researchers injected an endotoxin (ecoli) into Wim and the other 12 participants, then watched their charts in amazement as they consciously controlled their sympathetic nervous system and immune response, defeating the bacteria.
The Wim Hof Method is easy to learn, and unlike other breathing techniques, is accessible to almost anyone. You can learn how to practice it yourself here.
Although I’m not ready to climb Everest in my underwear and don’t levitate. I’ve been blown away by the profound effects that practicing Wim Hof breathing (1-2x day, every day for about a month now) has had on my body and mind.
Here are some highlights of my own experience in the past month:
- Max breathe hold improvement from 1:30 to almost 4 minutes!!! This blows me away.
- Increased endurance in sports, workouts, and my various recreational pursuits. (Basketball being the most noticeable)
- Reduced baseline anxiety.
- Better sleep
- Less mental fog.
It is still very early in my breathe work journey, but I am astounded at the early benefits; especially considering that breathe work is completely free and has no negative side effects. (If you can avoid passing out and hitting your head on the ground. Seriously though, be safe)
I encourage everyone to consider reading James’ book Breathe, and explore for yourself the lost art of breathing. From lower anxiety to increased immunity, breathe work gives us the ability to “take our health into our own hands” and really improve our lives without buying a new product or sacrificing something in return. (Other than our time of course)