“We are using the breath not only to go into these deeper systems of ours to bring it within our willful control, we are here to show that the breath actually is the carrier of consciousness.” – Wim Hof Breathing Method.
This episode of The School of Greatness is quite a bit different from most.
Usually, I have an in-depth one-on-one discussion with a single guest who embodies greatness in an inspirational way. This episode is a different sort of talk,; one with a collective of incredible people who have all enriched my life (and those of many others) in countless amazing ways. I got a lot out of learning from the perspectives of everyone involved, so I know you will, too.
Make no mistake – superheroes are real. And Wim Hof, A.K.A the “Iceman,” is one of them.
Wim was born in the Netherlands, where winter is a way of life. As a kid, he felt a sudden urge to jump into a freezing-cold river. So, he did. And while most of us would immediately regret that decision and vow to never do it again…Wim went the other way and made it his profession.
In the coming years, Wim made subjecting himself to extreme feats of cold endurance his personal claim to fame. He set a world record time (two hours, 16 minutes) for a barefoot half-marathon in freezing conditions. Another for spending nearly two hours in full-body contact with a solid slab of ice. He also climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in shorts – you know, it’s causal.
Yet another world record almost didn’t make it into the books when Wim literally froze one of his corneas during a practice run for an under-ice distance swim, but after a good night’s rest, his eye healed up enough that he successfully set the record the next day.
Like I said — straight-up superhero stuff. They call him the “Iceman” for a reason.
And somewhere along the way, Wim figured out that as he achieved these superhuman feats of endurance, he was doing something a little different; the Wim Hof Breathing Method that helped him bolster his system both prior to and during these incredible physical challenges.
Via practicing a controlled form of hyperventilation, Wim was giving his body a turbocharged oversaturation of oxygen that seemed to safeguard him against some of the worst effects of the extreme cold. And in experiencing this for himself, he reasoned that others might be able to benefit by emulating his example.
Thus, the Wim Hof Breathing Method was born.
In the years that followed, Wim gave workshops, seminars, and published literature that popularized his techniques. Countless practitioners soon came to swear by hyper-oxygenation as a means of combating fatigue, treating chronic pain, improving mental focus, and many more benefits.
Some time ago, I became a believer in the Wim Hof Method myself. So much so that I’ve made sure to include WHM workshops led by licensed instructors at The Summit of Greatness. They’re always some of the most transformative and talked-about events on the schedule.
Recently, I had the opportunity to organize a method breathing session in Poland with Wim himself, as well as a group of other friends, guys who have meant a lot to me over the years. If you’ve kept up with the podcast and/or attended Summit of Greatness, you’ll probably already recognize their names.
Afterward, we had a fascinating and enlightening roundtable discussion about where we all came from, what we’re grateful for, our reasons for turning to the Wim Hof Breathing Method, the results we experienced, and so much more.
If I could summarize the experiences of all the guys there in one word – which totally isn’t doing it justice – it would be “spiritual.”
There’s something about Wim Hof’s breathing method that takes you out of your body and into a different reality. Wim says that “breath is the carrier of consciousness.” When we take a moment to focus on our breathing and oversaturate our bodies with oxygen, it’s amazing how the mind can open up and how much freer we can feel.
Deep breathing puts you in a restorative state, where your body and mind are relaxed. Breathing correctly can negate the effect of stress and pain on our bodies and make us almost invincible to external conditions, like the the extreme cold Wim Hof exposes himself to on a daily basis.
When talking about his experience with the Wim Hof Breathing Method, Aubrey Marcus put it like this:
“I think a lot of people will look at Wim Hof, and they’ll look at the cold and that’s an important part. It’s an important part to be able to push yourself past your fears and recognize it’s something that’s good for you… And a lot of focus gets put on that, but I think [what we’re] seeing here in the breath work is something else that’s really special and powerful. That’s the release of emotions that have been stored, of things that have come up. I do breath work a lot. The second round here today I was so happy that I started crying because I recognized how often in my life I’m not that happy.” – Aubrey Marcus
That’s what’s so amazing about Wim Hof’s breathing method. It’s so accessible — almost anyone can take quick, deep breaths and saturate their body with oxygen. And it also has real results. Wim Hof’s breathing method has been used by health professionals and therapists around the world.
His method can not only help us endure pain like intense cold, but it can also help us confront our emotions in a spiritual way. In our busy lives, we rarely find the time to do this, but taking a moment to center yourself and focus on breathing is essential to living a balanced life and clearing your mind.
Everyone who went on the trip experienced something unique. Steve Weatherford, for example, experienced happiness that was not generated by something external but from deep inside himself:
“This has shown me that happiness is not something that’s ephemeral. It’s not something that just comes to you, or it doesn’t come to you based on some external thing. You can create it.” – Steve Weatherford
My best friend and COO, Matthew Cesaratto, is crazy allergic to dogs. Always has been. Whenever he’s around one, he’ll get all puffy and usually have to take a shower. But after finishing a breathing session with Wim Hof, he sat in the room with a dog at his side, and his allergy was literally gone. I know this sounds crazy, but I swear, it’s true.
You don’t need tons of things to be happy and healthy. You already have all the tools at your disposal. You have yourself and the breath inside you.
In addition to practicing the Wim Hof Breathing Method, we all were able to experience the true meaning of brotherhood together. Some of us knew each other, some of us didn’t know everyone, but at the end of the trip, we all were brothers.
Along with the breathing and meditation practices, we participated in several physical activities, all of which were extremely rigorous. Those ice baths for example — not exactly the most relaxing experience. First few minutes are like extreme pain. Then you get a little used to it. Then it’s extreme pain all over again. Having the right mindset is essential to conquering physical pain like this, but also knowing that you have people there to support you — well, that’s invaluable.
My friend, Humble the Poet had some great things to say about how he experienced brotherhood that trip and how it was different than some of his interactions with men in the past:
“There wasn’t any shaming. I didn’t feel like I was surrounded by a bunch of alpha males who were trying to peer pressure me. I grew up with only sisters [so] I often got myself in trouble chasing a brotherhood, looking for it in all the wrong directions… You can’t buy brotherhood. You can’t form a brotherhood by force. You gotta sit in that ice together and let it develop one freezing second by one freezing second.” – Humble the Poet
Brotherhood, or really any other friendship, doesn’t happen by force. You have to be vulnerable at some point. I brought my friend Taylor along to document the whole experience, that he said that’s what stuck out to him the most: that a bunch of successful influencers, athletes, and business owners could hold each other and cry together. That’s just something that doesn’t happen often.
Men are often expected to be courageous and not vulnerable, because vulnerability is weakness, right? I disagree, and I think everyone else on that trip would disagree too.
Think about it: What situation that ever involved courage did not also involve uncertainty, fear, and emotional exposure? On our Poland trip, we all experienced these things in addition to the intense cold. Running half-naked through ice and snow is about as vulnerable as you can get, especially in the midst of several other guys to whom you feel the need to prove yourself. Talking about your struggles, self-doubt, and issues to other men is equally difficult, but vulnerability like this helps create bonds that last.
All that self-doubt and fear of acceptance was negated by our support and love for one another. We weren’t there to compete. We were there to help one another become the best man he could be.
You don’t have to go to Poland to practice Wim Hof’s Breathing Method. You don’t have to go to Poland to experience brotherhood and community. These are things you can do in your everyday life — you just have to be intentional about doing them.
If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, taking moments to breathe and meditate would be extremely useful. Not only can Wim Hof’s breathing method help your body endure intense physical strain, but it can also open your mind and help you process thoughts and emotions more clearly.
My friend Mike Ponser says it feels sort of like “cheating” at life:
“Yes, it does feel unfair, almost silly, how powerful this stuff is that requires no anything. Everyone that’s alive has their breath, pretty much, unless they’re on life support. So the fact that we’re able to go that deep as we just went without taking a drug, without fasting…it feels almost like cheating. But hopefully that could become a part of more people’s daily lives.” – Mike Ponser
That’s what I’m saying — this stuff is so accessible, it’s crazy.
And brotherhood — I’m talking to all the men out there — real brotherhood is not something you create in a day. It takes dedication and vulnerability to actually get somewhere. It’s not all about being the alpha male here. The amount of what you can accomplish alone is insurmountable to the amount you can accomplish with brothers at your side.
Remember: It’s not about avoiding the pain. It’s about not minding that it hurts. Want to get in that headspace? Then take a deep breath and load up Episode 910 on the exhale.