Breathing. It’s a fundamental part of life, right?

Our bodies are magnificent things. They draw in oxygen to nourish our blood, brain, and muscles, then expel that pesky carbon dioxide for trees to inhale. We then repeat that 22,000 times a day, 8 million times a year for about 75 years.

That’s a lot of unconscious energy. 

When I first heard about the Wim Hof Method, I thought it would be a cruisy way to kick off my working day – a little meditation and goal setting alongside some conscious breathing and bonding with my office colleagues. The Wim Hof Method claims that through this specific breathing and meditation style, you can change your body’s stress and immune system response. Deep breathing equals healthy living.

Yes, it sounds very woo-woo. And trust me, I’m a skeptic with, well, pretty much everything.

The fact that Wim Hof breathing is particularly recommended for those thrill-seeking, spontaneous extroverts amongst us didn’t escape me.

A slower, more conscious way to start the day, rather than my usual fast-paced, hit-the-ground-running, over-caffeinated style – how very novel!


Wim Hof is a Dutch extreme athlete nicknamed ‘The Iceman’ because of his ability to withstand extreme freezing temperatures. He developed the Wim Hof Method of breathing after ticking off a remarkable list of physical challenges including swimming underneath the ice, to running a half-marathon above the Arctic Circle… barefoot and in shorts, of course. 

The Wim Hof Method for us mere mortals combines breathing, often alongside cold therapy (cold showers and ice baths), and commitment to facilitate connection more deeply with the body.

It involves powerful inhalation, relaxed exhalation, and prolonged breath holds.

This breathwork is intended to train the body to breathe actively, regaining of control over a range of physiological processes in the body.

The practice is premised on the idea that the amount of oxygen that we inhale through our breathing influences the amount of energy that is released by the cells in our body—thus unearthing a number of health benefits, including:


I won’t lie. When I was told that our Xali day was going to start with a little heavy breathing with a bronzed, South American, extreme surfer, photographer, and Wim Hof practitioner named Humberto, it was definitely a moment of ‘I have the best job in the world’.

And while Humberto is indeed all those things, what he brought to the Xali office collectively and individually was something pretty special.

Under the guidance of Humberto, the Wim Hof Breathing Method experience consisted of the following:

The entire process took about 20 minutes, during which time the energetic shift in the room was something I have never before experienced. And I’ve done my fair share of group meditation, reiki, yoga, circle drumming, and all manner of alternative therapies… all in the name of research, of course.

Our team at Xali is made up of brilliantly creative, resilient, empathetic, and powerful women across a wide range of ages, life stages, and experiences, and in that moment of breathing, each and every one of us tapped into something in our own consciousness, and into the collective consciousness of each other.

While the meditation itself was certainly a personal experience, each of us emerged from our Wim Hof chrysalis a little more vulnerable than any of us had expected. We spoke about the physical manifestations of tingling hands, ringing ears, light-headedness; we marvelled at the rawness of the energy in the room; everyone was a little taken aback by the intensity of the creativity that followed.

Now, whilst neither I nor Wim Hof is saying that this style of meditative breathing is a ‘one-I’m-done’ situation (it’s absolutely recommended to be a regular practice), the obvious results from our one practice were undeniable.


What made me perk up a little to the Wim Hof Breathing Method benefits that could potentially change lives was not anecdotal stories from other people who have done it, or from even Humberto or Wim Hof himself, but the science behind it. Scientific studies have proven that Wim Hof Breathing makes your blood more alkaline (less acidic) and causes hypoxia, a positive form of stress that helps the body deal with negative stressors better in the long term in everyday life.

Research has been conducted in controlled experiments since 2007, and data doesn’t lie. A 2014 study, for example, showed that those who practiced the Wim Hof Breathing Method in the experiment experienced anti-inflammatory effects as well as changes to the immune system response. Research determines this breathing method could be the treatment of a variety of conditions associated with excessive or persistent inflammation, especially autoimmune diseases.

If the scientists say the Wim Hof Breathing Method works and shows promising signs for helping those with chronic disease, I’m on board. Anecdotal evidence mightn’t pump me up, but cold hard scientific stats do!


One of the biggest takeaways I’ve had from now regularly practicing the Wim Hof Method has to do with attitude and mindset. Yes – since our office experience, I’ve incorporated this into my most-days life. And in doing so, I’ve learned we’re a lot more capable than we believe ourselves to be.

Much of our daily life is staying within the confines of comfort and routine. When we inch out of that comfort zone, we learn change is not scary, and can actually improve our immediate experience and long-term wellbeing. 

While I do appreciate the physical benefits of the breathing exercises, I’m happiest with how the process has opened my eyes to how our bodies and minds can do so much more than we ever thought possible.


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