Wim Hof’s nickname is the Iceman, because he can withstand extreme cold and heat. The 57-year-old Dutchman has broken 26 world records. He has run a full marathon in the desert without drinking water. He has run a half marathon in the snow in his bare feet. He has even climbed Mount Everest wearing only shorts. He holds the record for the longest swim under solid ice at 80 meters at the North Pole. He has also broken the world record for sitting in an ice bath up to his neck for 1 hour and 52 minutes.
The amazing thing is that he is not only able to endure the pain, but that he can control his body temperature. The average person’s body temperature will drop quickly. Just a 2 degree drop will cause people to begin to shiver uncontrollably and feel very bad. When a person’s temperature drops 10 degrees, the body shuts down and dies. When Wim’s temperature was measured as he sat submerged in ice, his body temperature only dropped .4 degrees.
Our blood pressure, our heart rate, and our body temperature are all part of our autonomic nervous system. The word autonomic means involuntary or unconscious, but these things are not involuntary for Wim. He can control his body through the power of his breath and mind.
Wim also can control his immune system. In 2011, Wim was injected with a toxin that causes people to have fevers, chills and headaches. Wim was fine. The doctors testing Wim thought he was perhaps genetically different than the average human. Wim proved he was no freak of nature by training 12 normal people in Poland in his meditation and breathing techniques. After training with Wim, they showed less inflammation after being injected with the same toxin. All 12 of them were able to voluntarily raise their adrenaline, which suppressed inflammation in the body.
Doctors are cautious about these results. Is this a long-term solution to inflammatory diseases or just a short-term result? Is it healthy to practice Wim’s breathing techniques? There are many questions unanswered, but more research is planned. Wim says, “I don’t want to give false hope to any person in this world,” but he does believe that he is paving the way for a future in which we can heal ourselves.