“I do not fear death, I fear not to live fully.”
Wim “The Iceman” Hof
Today’s guest will challenge everything you thought you knew about human potential and leave you with one indelible, ineradicable truth:
We are all sitting atop vast reservoirs of untapped, almost superhuman capabilities.
Meet Wim Hof, aka The Iceman.
A Dutch-born world record holder, adventurer, daredevil and human guinea pig, The Iceman is best known for his preternatural ability to withstand extreme cold. Perhaps more significant and compelling is his experimentation and experience with specific and teachable breathing techniques. Rooted in the ancient yogic tradition of pranayama and canonized for a modern audience as The Wim Hof Method, Wim asserts that he can “turn his own thermostat up” and consciously activate his sympathetic nervous system by using his mind through yoga.
This may sound far-fetched. But get a grip on some of the crazy things this holder of more than 20 world records has accomplished:
- shirtless adorned in nothing but shorts, Wim scaled above death zone altitude (22,000 ft) on Mount Everest;
- barefoot, shirtless and again in nothing but shorts, Wim completed a full marathon above the polar circle in Finland;
- he summited Kilimanjaro in less than 2 days, again in nothing but shorts;
- above the polar circle, he swam a world record 66 meters under a meter of ice;
- he can sit in an ice bath for almost 2 hours; and
- in 2011, he ran a full marathon in the Namib Desert without water
But there’s more.
Under doctor supervision, In 2011 Wim voluntarily allowed himself to be injected with a poisonous E. coli endotoxin certain to make any human being very ill. The idea was to demonstrate that by using his meditation and breathing techniques he could effectively control his autonomic immune system response and nullify any deleterious health implications.
Wim did not get sick.
Beyond his countless feats of incredulity, he’s a long-time vegetarian who — for the last 30+ years — has refrained from eating any food before 6pm.
All of this is seemingly insane. But Wim is hardly a carnival sideshow act — the physical stunts merely a means of attracting scientific community attention for purposes of study and documentation.
Ask Wim and he will tell you that he is nothing special. He declares his feats replicable and his methods teachable — a curriculum that holds the potential to unlock a battery of human superpowers that extend well beyond extreme temperature tolerance to include control over a wide array of sympathetic nervous system and metabolic ‘reptilian brain’ functions previously thought to be beyond conscious manipulation.
Case in point? After a mere 4 days of instruction, Wim led a group of brave, volunteering students through his endotoxin exposure experiment (again, under doctor supervision and scientific observation). Not one of them got sick. And he now routinely takes groups of students – most of which you would characterize as non-athletes — up Kilamanjaro. In nothing but shorts of course.
An absolutely fascinating guy with charm and charisma for miles, my conversation with Wim is less about human biology than it is about about belief systems. It’s an exploration of dormant biological and mental potential. It’s about yoga, grief, depression, change and the nature of consciousness. And it’s about the ever expanding event horizon of human potential that should push and challenge and nudge you out of your comfort zone to call into question the unnecessary limits we self-impose upon ourselves daily.
Specific topics explored include:
- how to awaken inner dormant ability
- how to control metabolic pathways
- the science behind the Wim Hof Method
- surviving grief — catalyst for change & exploration
- delving deeper into consciousness
- furthering the message with 26 world records
- being of service and in tune with nature
- voluntary activation of the sympathetic nervous system
- breathing & extreme cold
- pH levels: acidosis vs. alkalosis
- voluntary E. coli endotoxin injection
- Mount Kilimanjaro ascent
- pain management & inflammation studies
- reversing chronic conditions
- combatting depression, grief & addiction
- intermittent hypoxic training
- spiritual, environmental, ethical, and health crises
- the primal path
- typical day with Wim Hof
Finally, a warning from Wim: Never practice breathing exercises before/during any activities where a loss of consciousness may prove life threatening. The breathing methods discussed may have a profound effect and should be practiced exactly as explained and always in a safe environment. Wim strongly advises you to gradually build up your exposure to the cold. Always train without force and listen to your body carefully. If not practiced responsibly, you risk hypothermia or worse. And finally, always consult your doctor first before beginning any exercise program.
With that out of the way, take a deep breath and prepare for the one of the most compelling and unique conversations I’ve ever had.
Peace + Plants,
Check out Julie’s new podcast divine throughline
Thanks to this week’s sponsor:
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Background, Context & Reference:
- VICE: Inside The Superhuman World of The Iceman
- TEDxAmsterdam: Wim Hof 11/30/10
- PNAS: Voluntary activation of the sympathetic nervous system and attenuation of the innate immune response in humans
- Book: Becoming the Iceman* by Wim Hof
- Book: Breathing Life: Yogi Coudoux’s Pranayama Techniques*
- Book: One Breath: Freediving, Death, and the Quest to Shatter Human Limits* by Adam Skolnick
- ScienceDaily: Research on ‘Iceman’ Wim Hof suggests it may be possible to influence autonomic nervous system and immune response
- ABCNews: Iceman on Everest: ‘It Was Easy’ by Joseph Angier
- HighExistence: The Wim Hof Method *Revealed* – How to Consciously Control Your Immune System
- Entrepreneur: A Mad Method by an ‘Iceman’ That Can Strengthen Your Mind and Body by Andrew Medal
- TheGuardian: Can the cold make you stronger? by Sophie Knight
- GQ: How To Build Your Immune System by Ross Edgley
- FreedomandFulfilment: Wim Hof Method Review: Deep Breathing & Cold Exposure to Supercharge Your Mind, Body & Spirit
- DailyMail: Wim Hof Sets World Record for Climbing Everest In Just His Shorts
- Lifehack: 9 Reasons Why Everyone Should Know Who Wim Hof Is
Notable People Discussed:
- David Blaine: American magician, illusionist and endurance artist
- Rhonda Patrick: American biochemist and science communicator
- Joe Rogan: American podcaster, sports commentator, and stand up comedian
- Laird Hamilton: American big-wave surfer, co-inventor of tow-in surfing, and an occasional fashion and action-sports model
- Alistair Overeem: Dutch mixed martial artist and kickboxer
Related Podcasts You Might Enjoy:
- RRP #019:Brian Mackenzie On Slaying The Sacred Cows Of Endurance
- RRP #078:Timothy Olson on The Spiritual Road to Athletic Supremacy
- RRP #115:Dean Karnazes on To Struggle Is To Be Alive
- RRP #170:Climber Conrad Anker On Suffering, Risk, Reward & The Allure Of Meru
- RRP #209:Rhonda Patrick On Longevity, Epigenetics, Microbiome Health & The Difference Between Eating For Long-Term Wellness Versus Performance
- RRP #212:Ray Cronise On Our Broken Plate: Disrupting Nutritional Science, Intermittent Fasting & How He Helped Penn Jillette Lose Over 100 Pounds
- RRP #218:Adam Skolnick’s One Breath: The Spiritual Allure Of Freediving Through The Life & Death Of Nick Mevoli, America’s Greatest Talent
Thanks to Jason Camiolo for production, interstitial music and audio engineering; Chris Swan for production assistance & show notes; Shawn Patterson for graphics; and Hari Mathis for the new theme music!
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