Sitting in a barrel chest-high in ice cubes seems more like torture than a birthday treat.
But not for
Wim Hof. The eccentric Dutchman, who celebrated his 61st birthday last year by spending 61 minutes in ice, has gone from stuntman caricature to wellness guru during the pandemic.</p><div> <p>His techniques, combining hypoxic breathing with ice baths and cold showers, have been adopted by a cult following of extreme athletes and tech entrepreneurs. Scientists are studying his almost superhuman ability to eliminate fear and control his immune response. </p> <p>Now, a lot of regular people are taking his advice.</p> <p>Amanda Henry, a mother and sixth grade teacher in Sutter Creek, Calif., says the stress of distance learning pushed her into 5 a.m. cold showers and Wim Hof breathing. She says the practice helps her to keep her patience. If she finds a student annoying, she says, “I take a deep breath and tell myself, ‘I will be OK. I don’t have to have the stress response right now.’ ” <div data-layout="inline " data-layout-mobile="" class=" media-object type-InsetPullQuote inline scope-web|mobileapps article__inset article__inset--type-InsetPullQuote article__inset--inline "> <div class="wsj-article-pullquote article__inset__pullquote "> <p class="pullquote-content article__inset__pullquote__quote"> <span class="l-qt article__inset__pullquote__mark--left">“</span> “We are mammals, but we’ve forgotten how to be mammals.” <span class="r-qt article__inset__pullquote__mark--right">”</span> </p> <small> <span class="inset-author article__inset__pullquote__author">— Wim Hof </span> </small> </div> </div> The techniques have struck a chord during the coronavirus pandemic because they teach people how to tolerate extreme discomfort. “Challenging nature makes us strong and stimulates our deeper physiology,” Mr. Hof says. “We are mammals, but we’ve forgotten how to be mammals.” His advice to people who shudder at the thought of cold water: “Just do it once.”</p> <p>The techniques have serious risks. The Wim Hof Method website says the breathing can cause lightheadedness and loss of consciousness and the technique isn’t meant for people with certain medical conditions. Warnings on the site advise against the practice if you have epilepsy, heart disease or if pregnant or on a prescription for high blood pressure. It advises anyone with a serious medical condition to consult a doctor before attempting any of the techniques.</p> <p>For years, the Iceman, as Mr. Hof is called, gained publicity—and some ridicule—for daredevil feats such as sitting for hours on bare ice and climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro and part of Mt. Everest half naked. His ideas for a long time were considered fringe.</p> <p>But scientists increasingly are interested in his ability to survive dangerous conditions and to influence physiological responses thought to be involuntary, like immune system and inflammatory responses. <div data-layout="inline " data-layout-mobile="" class=" media-object type-InsetMediaIllustration inline scope-web|mobileapps article__inset article__inset--type-InsetMediaIllustration article__inset--inline "> <figure class=" media-object-image enlarge-image renoImageFormat- img-inline article__inset__image " itemscope="" itemtype="http://schema.org/ImageObject"><div style="padding-bottom:66.66666666666666%;" data-mobile-ratio="66.66666666666666%" data-layout-ratio="66.66666666666666%" data-subtype="photo" class="image-container responsive-media article__inset__image__image"> <img src="https://parentsecurityonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/im-311946" data-enlarge="https://images.wsj.net/im-311946?width=1260&size=1.5" alt="" title="Wim Hof endured nearly two hours immersed in ice for a 2011 feat in Hong..."/></div> <figcaption class="wsj-article-caption article__inset__image__caption" itemprop="caption"><h4 class="wsj-article-caption-content">Wim Hof endured nearly two hours immersed in ice for a 2011 feat in Hong Kong.</h4> <span class="wsj-article-credit article__inset__image__caption__credit" itemprop="creator"> <span class="wsj-article-credit-tag"> Photo: </span> Huang Shaokui/Color China Photos/ZUMA PRESS </span>