Exploring the Wim Hof Method in Asheville, N.C.

AVLtoday Editor Brook takes an ice bath.

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Good morning, Asheville. 👋 Brook here. Ever heard of Wim Hof or the Wim Hof Method? If you’re like me, your first introduction to this Dutch daredevil + extreme sports icon came recently with the Goop Lab on Netflix, wherein “The Iceman” – as he’s known – demonstrates how deep breathing, a focused mindset, and gradual cold exposure can have powerful health benefits

As an athletic, health-minded person, I was instantly intrigued, especially when Hof claimed his scientifically-supported methods can boost mental clarity, immunity, and athletic performance, as well as reduce anxiety + symptoms of chronic disease

So naturally, I Googled Wim Hof Method Asheville and, lo and behold, I found a class on the subject here in Asheville – where there’s a large local community – the very next day. The online info said the class would include an introduction to the Wim Hof Method, breathing sessions, and an (optional) ice bath. 😱

I arrived at Mchone Performance Training in East Asheville where I met the instructor, Luke White, and 15 other people (including multiple out-of-towners) wanting to give the Wim Hof Method a whirl. After briefly introducing ourselves, we began learning about Hof and his methodologies. The holder of 26 World Records, Hof believes that because we work + live in temperature-controlled spaces, we’ve lost our connection with nature (which enables the natural stimulation of our bodies). As a result, we are less able to access our natural power + joy

We discussed the ways in which deep, controlled breathing soothes the sympathetic nervous system (which is responsible for the fight or flight response) and makes the body more alkaline by removing acidic CO2 (carbon dioxide). By making the body more alkaline through breathing techniques, our pain receptors become inactive. In the case of cold exposure, using Hof’s breathing beforehand makes it less painful. 

Next, we spent a good while practicing Hof’s breathing methods, which include a series of deep inhalations through the nose and exhalations through the mouth, followed by practice holding the breath for short periods of time before beginning the deep breathing again. The coolest thing to me was how I was able to hold my breath for increasingly longer periods of time throughout the practice. At one point, I and several other folks held our breath pretty easily for two minutes. 

Lastly, we practiced deep breathing followed by a series of quick, powerful exhales. The process made me feel euphoric and calm, as well as very clear headed; I also experienced some lightheadedness and tingling. Interspersed throughout were full body stretching and some tai chi-like movements in what Hof calls “horse stance.”

Once we’d learned about Wim, his breathing methods, and we’d moved our bodies, it was time to spend a few minutes in an ice bath.

Standing outside in February in nothing but a sports bra + gym shorts doesn’t sound too great, but the warming exercises and mind-calming breaths actually made it totally fine. Stepping into an ice bath made me instantly feel wide awake and decidedly not warm. But with the help of the participants and my sweet daughter cheering me on, I was able to employ the breathing that helped me get through it even when I had to plunge my head under the water and submerge my entire body.  

Once I got out and began continuing my breathing and horse stance movements, I didn’t even feel cold, which was straight up bananas to me.  

I’ve continued my Wim Hof breathing since then, especially when I notice myself feeling anxious or upset. And it has helped minimize those feelings so that I’ve been able to move past them, faster and with more ease. I came away from the intense experience feeling wildly empowered and committed to further studying Wim Hof and his methods.