We review the entire country and culture of New Zealand, one thing at a time. Today, Don Rowe hops in an ice bath and gets introspective with the Wim Hof Method.
“Breathe into your ballsack Art. Breathe into your balls brother.”
Strange words to hear when one is concerned with visualising their diaphragm as an umbrella.
“Breathe right down into your nuts. That’s the one bro.”
I lay on the floor, eyes closed, trying to breathe into my own balls, to fill my testes with air. It’s all in the diaphragm, the instructor Nigel Beach said, breathe with your stomach not your shoulders. Focus on yourself now.
“Clear the mind,” I told myself. “I am a still lake. I am morning fog. Art Green isn’t even that famous. Your thoughts are like clouds, watch them drift away.”
I thought about Art’s testicles; his paleo nuts. Grass-fed, gluten-free bliss balls full of clean oxygen. Flawless, heroic balls, smooth golden eggs to my hairy nude business sock. Balls with abs.
My head throbbed, all craft beer and cocktails. With every inhalation my head swam, every exhalation left my mouth dry. “I am a disgrace, a philistine, I may in fact faint,” I thought.
“I think I passed out for a bit,” said Art Green.
Art, myself, and a community of yoga pants had assembled in Mt Eden for a morning of breath control, cold exposure and mindset training. The techniques, collectively known as the Wim Hof Method, are said to help control stress, fight disease, maintain a healthy weight, combat depression and anxiety, and improve your mental and physical performance.
These are all very good things – but if you believed every mind-body rejuvenation technique out there you’d end up drinking skinny tea with a colon full of someone else’s shit while a ponytailed, bead-wearing white guy eloped with your wife with nary a “namaste” for your troubles. The Wim Hof Method simply asks you to get a little cold every now and then. And it was born, it’s said, from a place of necessity.
When his wife committed suicide, leaving him with four children and a broken heart, the ‘Iceman’ Wim Hof turned to the cold for relief. In combination with breathing techniques inspired by Tibetan Tummo (inner fire) meditation, Hof found solace from his grief – and perhaps a new frontier in science.
He now holds upwards of 25 Guinness World Records, has completed half-marathons above the arctic circle in bare feet, climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in shorts, swam 65 metres and beyond under the ice, and can consciously influence his autonomic nervous system – long thought by science to be impossible. He’s been on virtually every health podcast worth mentioning, reaching millions of people on phenomenally popular shows like The Joe Rogan Experience and The Tim Ferris Show. It’s fair to say he’s something of a global celebrity, all down to his experiences in the ice.
“The cold is merciless, but righteous,” he says.
All that may be true, but could it defeat a mixed-booze hangover? And at what cost?
Between breathing exercises I looked over the waiver, which stipulated twice, in no uncertain terms, that if I were to die, it would be nobody’s problem but my own.
“We’ve got a defib,” said instructor Nigel Beach, perhaps reading my mind. “If you go down, we’ll bring you back.”
Oh good, I thought. Beach has been a devotee of Hof’s for three years, training with the Iceman in Europe and using his techniques alongside traditional physiotherapy in that time. After suffering from severe endometriosis, Beach’s wife was able to reduce her symptoms and give birth to a son and a daughter through utilisation of Hof’s methods, and Beach has been evangelical ever since.
“The modern world has screwed us up,” he said. “People say I’m crazy not wearing shoes, well, wearing shoes is crazy!”
A man after my own heart.
After running through various additional breathing methods, all of which left me tingling, lightheaded and energised, it was time for the ice baths; my own personal Kilimanjaro. Filled with salt-ice, the tubs were around four degrees and, as Hof says, absolutely merciless – at first.
But as the cold seeped into my bones, and the sensation of a thousand icy needles subsided, I became centred. My shuddering breaths slowed, my eyelids stopped flickering, and my body submerged itself further under the water.
I was relaxed, I was fizzed, I was invigorated.
I never wanted to get out, but when I did, the hangover was gone. And so were my doubts.
VERDICT: Fill your balls with air and coat yourself in ice – the Wim Hof Method is legit.
GOOD OR BAD: Good.
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