Happy Talk

The Iceman Cometh: What I discovered when I learnt to breathe like Wim Hof

Chronic back pain can be debilitating but something as simple as deep breathing can be life-changing. Christine Manby takes a deep breath in

Sunday 15 September 2019 12:01

Brexit did my back in. As the news broke on 28 August that Boris was going to prorogue Parliament, I felt muscles I didn’t even know I had contract with anxiety. Watching the subsequent row unfold in the news and on social media, I hunched over my laptop for much too long and when I finally stood up, wham. I was struck double by the “Hexenschuss”, the witch’s shot, as the Germans call it.

Knowing that if I sat back down, I’d never get up again, I leaned heavily against the kitchen counter to call my friend and fellow author Michael Maisey, who was due to tell me all about his experiences with the Wim Hof Method. Michael, who spent most of his teenage years in Feltham Young Offenders Institute, becoming a heroin addict and alcoholic along the way, is almost 12 years sober. The Wim Hof Method is part of the arsenal of wellness techniques he uses to stay that way.

Wim Hof, also known as The Iceman, is a Dutch athlete. His nickname is apt, if unoriginal. He’s set records for sitting in ice and for swimming underneath it. In 2000, he swam 57.5 metres, setting a Guinness World Record. He still holds the world record for a barefoot half-marathon on snow. He once climbed to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro wearing only shorts. He claims that his feats of icy endurance are down to his eponymous Method, which combines breathing techniques and meditation with frequent exposure to the cold. His website is full of video clips of happy people sitting in giant ice buckets.

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