Last weekend I had the opportunity to attend an Advanced Wim Hof method-workshop hosted by Kasper van der Meulen. Kasper is Head Teacher of Wim Hof Academy and a science-geek, a great storyteller, a biohacker, a human performance expert, an author, funny and much more. But to do him justice you better check out his bio-video.
As a geeky girl myself I eagerly absorbed all scientific based information Kasper shared in the workshop. And I shall share some highlights in this blogpost.
Brain dictates behavior
One of the topics in the workshop was the triune-brain. This model, developed by Dr Paul MacLean in 60’s/70’s, divides the brain into three evolutionary components: the brain stem (in Dutch: hersenstam), or the “reptilian brain”; the limbic system, or “the mammalian brain”; and the neocortex, or the “the human brain.” In other words, there are certain interconnected parts of the brain that are responsible for different behaviors. While growing up you are more or less programming your brains about (in)effective behavior (stimuli A leads to response B and vice versa). And luckily in some ‘dangerous’ situations one part of the brain always precedes over the other. You will act (reptilian brain) before you start thinking (human brain). Now we are a bit more aware how our brain behaves, we can actually direct it for our personal health benefit.
Wim Hof Method
And that’s what the Wim Hof method is all about (Wim Hof is probably more familiar as the Iceman). With the use of breathing techniques and cold you will be able to influence both your physiological and mental state. Kasper mentioned a correlation between our mental state and different breathing techniques (fast, deep, yawn, hyperventilating, mouth, nose, ) AND the other way around. That last part I find interesting because it means that you can consider your breathing technique as remote control of your mental and physiological state. This is not completely new, because that’s what meditation and mindfulness also is about. However while meditation focuses on stillness, with WHM you can activate yourself as well. If you suddenly start breathing faster, your brain thinks you’re in danger and shall use the extra oxygen to create energy and releases neurotransmitters (like adrenaline, dopamine, serotonin etc).
Internal medicine cabinet
So our breathing technique influences our physiological state. Kasper explained in depth the impact on our respiratory system, our cardiovasculair/circulatory system, our endocrine system and thermoregulation (homeostasis). Amazingly interesting, but not something I can easily recollect and address in this blog. One thing that I do remember and really want to mention is the insight that we have our own medicine cabinet in the Limbic-part of our brain. It is part of your natural state. This section of our brain can produce and release neurotransmitters required, dependent on our state. And we can activate this medicine cabinet to release a specific neurotransmitter by doing a certain breathing technique. This is truly revolutionary!
Extreme cold like an ice bath (or warmth for that manner) is used in the Wim Hof Method to trigger a physiological reaction in your system. As such, you can de- or reprogram your brains. As not all programmed behavior is effective anymore or you just might want to increase your effectiveness. But this workshop wasn’t only about theory, there was opportunity for practice as well. And so I ended up plunging in an ice bath for the first time. And although I was scared in the morning, in the afternoon I wanted to experience my internal medicine cabinet. So I was very focused and committed and hardly felt the cold IN the bath. However getting out (movement) was more challenging and so I’m still not fond of cold showers or baths. Have to de-program a little bit more :-).
Now you can maybe imagine why I was excited to be in this Advanced WHM-workshop. If you feel inspired, do something out of the box and attend a Basic or Advanced Wim Hof Method training. One thing you know for sure, you end up in an ice bath!
PS Want proof of my plunge? Go check my Instagram-account (@yournaturalstate).