For eons, monks have been meditating in the caves of the cold and barren Himalayas. Disciples are taught the nature of supernatural abilities inherent in a human body (what Indian yogis call siddhis) and how to work with them. Ascetics, totally isolated from the modern world, apparently possess the power to defy extreme weather conditions and control their body temperatures. However, ordinary people can also learn how to access their inner powers through meditation.
The Wim Hof Method
Wim Hof is an extreme athlete based in the Netherlands. He developed a method for controlling body temperature. Hof asserts that his system is rooted in the eastern yogic tradition of pranayama, or breath control. The Wim Hof Method uses meditation and breathing to access one’s “inner fire,” thereby enabling the body to withstand extreme cold. Traditionally, it takes years or even decades to master, but Hof says his method allows people to obtain benefits in a few hours. Even in sub-zero conditions, it’s possible for veteran meditators to raise their body temperature by several degrees.
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Wim Hof is also known as “The Iceman” for his ability to withstand extremely hostile conditions. He swam underneath ice for 190 ft (60 meters). In short pants with no shoes, Hof ran a marathon above the Arctic Circle and ran another full marathon in the Namib desert without water. Maintaining a steady temperature, he was scanned while packed in ice for over an hour.
Hof gives all credit to the breathing techniques he learned at the tender age of 10. “By 12, I was really getting into Buddhist and Hindu scriptures,” he said. “I read Sanskrit and the explanation of yoga I took from it is: Yoga is the silencing of the modifications of the mind. If we are able to control the mind, then the spirit can evolve and expand.” Recent studies also show that influencing body temperature is achievable with much less training than was previously believed.
The cold is your friend
“The mind under control is your best friend; the mind wandering about is your worst enemy,” according to the Bhagavad Gita. Wim Hof reached a milestone of self-mastery when he was able to control his nervous system. The autonomous systems of the body were previously believed to be independent of the individual’s control.
Furthermore, Hof claims to take control of his immune system. This was verified in 2011 when researchers at Radboud University injected his body with (flu) bacteria during a meditation session. To everyone’s surprise, Hof remained free of illness and did not show any symptoms.
If you are suffering from the bite of the winter cold, Iceman suggests that you ignite the internal furnace and build up body heat. Given below is one of Hof’s breathing techniques for beginners. Don’t do this in a strenuous environment that requires focus on the work at hand.
- Take a deep breath. Don’t push when exhaling; just naturally let it go. Take 10 breaths like this in succession.
- Inhale in a bit deeper with each breath.
- After your 10th breath, take one more deep breath. Hold it in.
- Use the muscles in your chest, back and shoulders to give the air inside your lungs a firm hug. You may notice a warm vibration inside the chest. While holding the breath, you’re actually heating up the fat within your body.
- Hold on to the breath for as long as can. That’s when you will gradually begin to notice the warm feeling in your chest.
- Let go again with an exhale.
- Repeat the 10-breaths-and-hold pattern as many times as you like.
Do this a couple of times, and you should be able to feel the inner energy. There are more advanced practices for regulating body temperature and surviving in extreme climates.
Medical Disclaimer: Please consult your doctor or physician before engaging in any strenuous exercises involving breath and extreme conditions. This article is not a substitute for medical advice nor does it claim to relieve any symptoms or ailments.