Every living person breathes. In fact, respiration is generally considered to be one of the key indicators of life. However, do you breathe well?
Shallow breaths give you just enough oxygen to supply a highly sedentary lifestyle. When you start to exert yourself, you tend to take slightly deeper and much more rapid breaths, and you still feel winded. After much practice, you might learn to control your breath a bit better while performing certain strenuous activities, but is that the best you can achieve?
Wim Hof is a man who has spent an hour in freezing water, climbed Everest in his shorts, and swum a hundred meters under feet of ice. Scientists have discovered that his blood is oxygenated above the supposed 100% limit (which is based on research subjects, not on theoretical maxima of oxygenation). Apparently he can also resist toxins, control his body’s production of heat, and exert tremendous strength and endurance at will. And, according to him, it’s all about the breath.
A Breathing Exercise for Better Health
Sit or lie down in a comfortable position, where the spine is completely aligned and the muscles are at rest. I find it comfortable to sit with my back to a wall, in a sort of stereotypical meditation pose (legs crossed, hands on knees in a mudra), but whatever you choose is acceptable. Once you’re relaxed, close your eyes – you want to mentally explore your body, and distractions can easily break your focus.
In this position, quickly inhale to your full lung capacity, then let it go. It’s important that you do not force the air out of your lungs, so that your lungs can continually draw oxygen from the stored air, so you want to simply release your breath instead of actively exhaling. Breathe like this for at least one minute – two minutes is amazing, if you can keep from passing out. When you start to feel light-headed and tingling in your extremities, your blood is saturated – take ten more breaths.
After your last exhale, do not inhale. Instead, mentally explore your body’s sensations as it consumes the stored oxygen – you’ll find you can hold your breath longer in this state than any previous attempt. When you feel the painful need to inhale, take a complete inhalation and hold it for ten to fifteen seconds – this might cause you to faint a bit as your body restocks itself.
Repeat the entire exercise three times in quick succession, at least once per day.
Why it works
Basically, this training increases your lungs’ ability to extract oxygen from the air you take in, and it will improve your body’s ability to store and process that oxygen. At the same time, it would seem the combination of exploring yourself while breathing in this way expands your control of your reflexes, which Wim Hof claims extends to his immune system.
However far it goes, I notice I feel stronger, more awake, and more willful when the exercise is complete. When I perform pushups immediately after the exercise, retaining a similar breathing pattern, I can usually double my base reps. It stands to reason that this exercise would equally extend to sprints, lifts, and other similar workouts. It’s a powerful tool in that way.
As with all meditations, this breathing exercise increases my focus and ability to control myself. It also functions for me something like a psychedelic, giving me a sense of better connection and understanding that lasts a few hours. When combined with affirmations, I gain a remarkable ability to reshape my personal sense of reality, which extends to my personality and responses to stressful situations.
If you find this helpful, I’d recommend looking into Wim Hof’s books and programs. He goes into much greater detail on the techniques and scientific basis for his claims.