I started Wim Hoff breathing about a year ago. Yep, you guessed it, on a whim. Wim Hoff is a Dutch guy who claims to be able to hack the human immune system using a breathing and retention sequence. I am someone who was diagnosed as having asthma in my 40s. I was told by multiple health and allied professionals that I would always have it because I’d had it all my life – untreated. This has resulted in residual inflammation that, without the help of preventive asthma treatment, I will never get rid of.
I have never been one to accept anything at face value. I’d been annoyed at being held hostage by asthma. I knew my triggers included smoke, cold, and change of season hay fever. I lived in Canberra – Australia – a cold, dry climate that is notorious for hay fever over the last 20 years – a lot. I did notice that when I worked in the tropics for a couple of years asthma all but disappeared. When I made a small change in location – like to drive to Sydney around 300 kilometres away – the bit of extra warmth and humidity made me breathe easier. Now you could argue that was just being out of Canberra but that’s a whole other thing.
As soon as my finances allowed it, I left Canberra and headed back to South Australia. I’d grown up there and it was a heap warmer. Part one of my asthma management strategy was in play. My asthma was better in that I could go on and off my preventer medication. But I was sick of relying on drugs or supplements so I started researching breathwork. Which is how I came across Wim Hoff.
I was pretty cynical. Throughout this whole asthma journey, I’ve been practicing yoga. I’d done a lot of breathwork. My Canberra-based doctor told me at one point that I probably would have needed more medication and a lot earlier had I not done so. I couldn’t believe that something so simple would be better than all that breathwork. But I watched my partner come off his preventer (not saying it’s permanent or encouraging anyone who needs medication to stop). I got curious.
Part two of my asthma management strategy went into play. I found the Wim Hoff app and did a simple breathing sequence that took me no more than 10 minutes each morning. The difference was noticeable and immediate. I had NEVER been able to hold my breath for longer than 30 seconds. Within the first month, I could hold my breath 3 times that. Just that made me feel that there was some chance I might be in charge of my asthma more often. After a few weeks, I was able to wean myself off the preventer – most of the time. If I got a cold, a period, or hit a bad allergy patch I would go back on it for a while and then wean myself off. Most of the time I didn’t need it though, I only needed Ventolin after I ran. My use of antihistamines fell to about twice weekly after 10 or more years of daily use.
Apart from not needing as much medication, weirdly enough, I found that I engaged more with my own respiratory system. Doing the breathwork meant that I worked out early in the day exactly where my breath was at. If it was good, I got on with my day. If it was less good, I had a hot shower to clear my airways, took a natural remedy and waited. If I still felt bad, I took an antihistamine. About 3 weeks ago, I got a rotten cold. I immediately called my doctor and got a script for a preventer. I watched my breath and within a couple of days went back onto the preventer. I knew I needed it early and was able to avoid that awful period of wheezing and coughing and not sleeping accompanied by quiet panic. It’s a familiar scenario for any asthmatic. I am currently in the process of weaning myself off it again.
I haven’t had a dramatic increase in the length of my breath retention. It is just inching up the more I practice. But I know now that the quality of the breath in the body is very changeable and anything you can do to help smooth that out is most definitely not a whim. I will be carrying on with Wim Hoff breathing as long as there is breath in my body. Hopefully, a lot more of it.