“You can’t understand immunity without understanding its neural regulation…and they [Wim Hof Method] have found one such regulatory circuit that can be modulated.” -Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in  New York.

Wim Hof Method Cold Therapy in New York City


Who is Wim Hof?

Wim Hof, also known as the Iceman, is a Dutch extreme athlete who is best known for his ability to withstand freezing temperatures. Wim has set 20+ world records for physical endurance activities such as swimming 60 meters underneath ice, running a half marathon barefoot north of the Arctic Circle, and climbing mount Kilimanjaro in nothing but shorts. Wim attributes his achievements to his Wim Hof Method which consists primarily of a combination of cold exposure and breathing exercises.  

Wim Hof developed his method after years of pushing the physiological limits of his body and the perceived limits of his mind through cold exposure and breathing techniques. The Wim Hof Method has many physical and mental benefits such as boosting the immune system, improving sleep, improving athletic performance, improving metabolic function, heightened metabolism, decreased inflammation,  regulated stress levels, decrease of pain, decrease in neurologic symptoms and a heightened mind-body connection among numerous other benefits.  

There’s even anecdotal evidence that a  portion of the Wim Hof Method referred to as the Wim Hof Breathing Method can induce shifts in conscious awareness, emotional states, cognition, and may even increase the likelihood of transcendent experiences.  In 2007 Wim Hof was examined by the well-known Feinstein Institute in New York with the results showing that he had developed a method to be able to activate his autonomic nervous system, a feat previously believed to be impossible.   Here in mid-town Manhattan I provide Cold Water Therapy services designed to enable you to activate your autonomic nervous system and enjoy the benefits of cold water exposure.  

What Is the Wim Hof Method? 

After decades of scientific studies and self-exploration, Wim Hof established the Wim Hof Method to empower the body to harness a higher level of control over the “fight-or-flight” triggering autonomic nervous system.  

Learning the foundation of the Wim Hof Method (breathing, cold therapy, and a commitment) will enable you to control pain, stress responses and become master of your own body and mind.  In simple biological terms, the Wim Hof Method is a teachable systematic approach to nervous system regulation and stress resilience.  Practically speaking, the Wim Hof Method is a structured program and approach to life aimed at empowering you to feel your best and realize your greatest potential.  

The combination of cold therapy, controlled breathing, and commitment  enables you to connect more deeply to your body.  The breathing component is referred to as the Wim Hof Breathing Method and involves powerfully inhaling, relaxed exhaling, and extended breath holds.  The objective is to train you on developing command of your nervous and immune systems, as well as your cardiovascular system, all to help you be stronger, happier, and healthier.   

Let’s break down the three components of the Wim Hof Method which combined are designed to retrain your breathing, body, and mind  to withstand freezing temperatures.

Wim Hof Breathing Method

The Wim Hof Method breathwork has a basic format that can be adjusted making it work for you as an individual, and how you are feeling on any given day.

The autonomic nervous system controls our heartbeat, internal organs, digestion, circulatory operation of blood vessels, breathing and more.  Prior to Wim Hof, the collective opinion of the medical profession was that no conscious influence could be placed upon the autonomic nervous system – however Hof discovered otherwise.  Hof has shown breathing is an “automatic” function that you can apply control over. The primary function of breathing is inhaling oxygen, fueling our cells, and exhaling the waste product, carbon dioxide.  How you approach breathing determines how efficient and beneficial this process occurs for you.   At its core, the science behind the Wim Hof Breathing Method increases the amount of oxygen your body absorbs while decreasing the carbon dioxide absorption in the short term.  This was affirmed in research that determined 45 minutes of practicing the Wim Hof Breathing Method, doubled oxygen levels  while reducing carbon dioxide (Kox et al., 2012).

 Thus the main objective of this portion of the Wim Hof Method is to increase the amount of oxygen in your body through controlling your breathing in very precise ways.    Wim Hof learned controlled breathing can be instrumental in influencing the autonomic nervous system and that the way we breathe affects both chemical and physiological activities within our bodies. After all, breathing has been scientifically proven to affect the heart, the brain, digestion, and the immune system. The Wim Hof Breathing Method is premised on inhaling deeply and exhaling, depleting the lungs of air,  in a controlled cyclic hyperventilation, applying breath retention at specific points during the process.   In treating you I guide you with precision through this breathing technique.  

When practicing the Wim Hof Breathing Method exercises you take in a lot of oxygen and the concentration of carbon dioxide in your blood declines almost immediately,  your pH increases significantly  (making the blood more alkaline) and acidity lessens.  In summary, the Wim Hof Breathing Method stimulates the cardiovascular system and can change cerebral blood flow and pH. During the breath-hold portion of Wim Hof Breathing Method, the brain recognizes that the body has stopped breathing and that there is no air in the lungs. This activates the sympathetic nervous system through autonomic regulation, increasing the amount of oxygen available to your muscles and organs.  An elevated concentration of oxygen translates to improved sports performance, cognitive function, and better sleep. This behavior demonstrates the autonomic nervous system, along with the endocrine system and immune system, can be regulated through controlled breathing.  

Unpacking the Wim Hof Breathing Method 

People generally use the top of their lungs when inhaling, usually leading shallow breaths. The Wim Hof Breathing Method engages the diaphragm, and the lower lungs are filled. The stomach should protrude while inhaling and flatten out with exhaling.  Wim Hof Breathing Method consists of 30 deep inhalations and relaxed exhalations followed by a full exhalation and a breath-hold (retention) for around 1 to 3 minutes. During the breath-hold,an interesting biological phenomenon emerges: without air in the lungs, the breather does not feel the urge to breathe for a prolonged period of time. This has been referred to as a paradox of respiratory control known as hyperoxic hyperventilation. It is a paradoxical phenomenon (the opposite of what you might expect) because the brain wants the body to breathe but the body does not have to breathe because the blood has been oxygenated and basified (pH levels in the blood more basic) from using  Wim Hof Breathing Method. 

Once the need to breathe arises, the breather is prompted to take a deep breath and hold that breath for 10–15 seconds.  That process is considered one round of the Wim Hof Breathing Method. Wim Hof recommends people do at least three rounds of this breathing exercise in one sitting in order to reap all the benefits that the method has to offer.

The point of this breathing technique is to optimize the increase of oxygen levels and blow out carbon dioxide which has been shown to help with depression, anxiety, mood, mental focus, and pain management [source, source].  In my program I train you on specific methods of controlled deep breathing that enhance sympathetic activity through autonomic regulation.  This in turn elevates oxygen concentration levels available to muscles and organs, enabling better sports performance, improved cognitive function,  and better sleep.

Wim Hof Method: Cold Therapy

Submerging your body in bone-chilling cold water is actually an age-old practice known as cold water therapy, a type of cryotherapy or “super-cooling” the body for therapeutic purposes. This portion of the Wim Hof Method involves taking regular ice baths as Hof discovered this as an essential force involved in accessing the autonomic nervous system (and the associated immune system). Research has shown that the combination of breathing exercises and cold exposure produced a more potent anti-inflammatory response in participants compared to either breathing or cold therapy alone (Zwaag et al., 2022). This is evidence the coupling of cold therapy with breathing exercises drives the activation of the body’s immune response.  

Cold water immersion for the first time can be eye-opening and challenging to simultaneously handle while staying in control of your breathing. While it may feel uncomfortable at first, don’t worry, you’ll start out with limited exposure and gradually build your cold endurance with practice.   Being safe is a primary factor to be mindful of as cold water immersion requires vigilance with respect to timing.   

In treating you I will show you how to quickly calm your nervous system upon immersion, which will activate the parasympathetic system, boosting nitric oxide production so your cells are more receptive to oxygen, as I coach your breathing.  But before submerging we’ll spend some time deep breathing, working to clear your mind. Once immersed, your breathing rate can increase all the way to 30 breaths per minute or about double the normal breathing rate for most people while they’re sitting still.  This is expected early in your Wim Hof journey and I will guide you through these stages on how to throttle down and acclimate your breathing to this new cold sensation you’re experiencing. 

Wim Hof Method: Mindset 

The Wim Hof Method stresses patience and persistence, all to foster the willpower to stay dedicated and committed, essential in exploring and eventually mastering your own body and mind.  The Wim Hof Method couples visualization techniques and controlled deep breathing exercises to reach a meditative state referred to as an inner fire, used to surface a person’s ‘inner heat’.  We all have this inner heat, but most of us are not aware of it.  Your inner heat enables you to control your body temperature, including keeping your body warm in cold conditions. Building an internal fire is not a new practice and Tibetan Monks have practiced this technique for centuries.  However in Wim Hof Method training there are no religious components involved and the inner fire initiates a brain-over-body mindfulness mindset, allowing the mind to regulate autonomic functions and control physiological responses. 

 

Some do bypass this final stage of the Wim Hof Method however, this mindfulness component serves as the foundation for the two other practices (breathing & cold therapy) which makes it an integral piece of this method. Increasing your focus, willpower and self-control will be helpful in withstanding cold exposure and enduring breathing exercises.  Sticking with the full Wim Hof Method regimen and completing the exercises–even just an initial cycle of breath coupled with 10 seconds of cold exposure–will be self-affirming that you do have the ability to go beyond your comfort zone, endure and realize new plateaus.  Within the Wim Hof Method, students learn there is an ‘accomplishment effect’ that snowballs into stronger willpower and more self-confidence, leading to even better results.

Why Cold Water Therapy is Popular

Cold water therapy, also referred to as cold water immersion, has been practiced by cultures around the world for thousands of years.  In ancient Greece cold water immersion was used for therapeutic and relaxation purposes and promoted as a treatment for fever, according to a study in the European Journal of Applied Physiology.  Today, researchers in Finland determined cold water immersion through regular winter swimming (4x a week for 4 months) significantly decreased tension and fatigue  while improving the memory and mood in their study’s participants.  Additionally participants struggling with asthma,  rheumatism, pain, headaches and fibromyalgia experienced pain relief.  

When exposed to the cold, your body responds by constricting your blood vessels, thereby pushing all your blood toward your organs and muscles.  However upon leaving cold immersion and warming up again, your blood vessels expand allowing now oxygen and nutrient rich blood to flow back to your tissues, helping flush out inflammation.

Cold water immersion induces several reactions and changes in the human body that improve physical, cognitive, and mental health.  Immersion into an ice bath such as in the Wim Hof Method activates the sympathetic nervous system, increasing the brain’s release of the adrenal hormone norepinephrine which:

  • Increases arousal, alertness, & attention.
  • Constricts blood vessels,  helping maintain blood pressure in stressful times.
  • Affects the sleep-wake cycle, memory & mood.

Whole body cold immersion promotes the brain’s spontaneous release of opioids, which can potentially  create a feeling of well-being, reduced anxiety, and mood control.  This is supported by research also concluded cold water immersion can help alleviate anxiety and stress by soothing the vagus nerve.  The vagus nerve represents the main component of your parasympathetic nervous system, responsible for relaxing your body after experiencing danger or stress.  Exposure to cold temperatures slows down your sympathetic nervous system, normally actively triggered when you feel anxiety or stress.  Soothing stimulation of the vagus nerve reduces your heart rate, stabilizes your breathing, and decreases your blood pressure – actions all relaxing your body

Benefits of the Wim Hof Method

RMIT University, officially the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology,  in Melbourne, Australia. conducted a survey of over 3,200 world wide Wim Hof Method Practitioners to learn what the subjective benefits of the Wim Hof Method are. The answers were divided into the following categories:

Physical Benefits of The Wim Hof Method

  • More energy
  • Natural anti-inflammatory
  • Better sleep
  • Increased sports performance
  • Faster workout recovery
  • Autoimmune disease relief
  • Arthritis relief
  • Fibromyalgia relief
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease management
  • Asthma management
  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Improved metabolism

Mental Benefits of The Wim Hof Method

  • Improved mental health
  • Stress relief
  • Burnout recovery
  • Improved dealing with depression
  • Increased willpower
  • Boost concentration
  • Improve mind-body connection
  • Increase happiness
  • Improve creativity

Experiencing the Wim Hof Method as therapy is definitely worth exploring if you are interested in building resilience in the face of stressors.  One of the more profound benefits to the Wim Hof Method is reducing stress and anxiety, both a result of the brain’s perception of a potential threat to the system. The Wim Hof Method trains a ‘top-down’ approach in which we can train our brains to not respond as impulsively, thus increasing our overall resilience to stress, ability to stay calm and focused, leading to better decision-making.

Wim Hof Method Research Supporting Effectiveness As Treatment for Autoimmune Diseases

There are more than 80 types of autoimmune diseases causing redness, swelling, inflammation, heat, and pain, which can affect nearly any part of your body.  Debilitating fatigue is the most common complaint among those suffering with autoimmune disease such as diabetes, celiac disease, and chronic fatigue syndrome.  Still others suffer with arthritis, joint pain and swelling, skin problems, abdominal pain or digestive issues, recurring fever, swollen glands and more.   Below is case study research supporting how the Wim Hof Method supports relieving these pain points.  

  • In this study one group of participants was trained for ten days on the Wim Hof Method, including breathing techniques and the control group was not given any training at all. Immediately following the training, the participants were tested for various markers of immune system activity. The research concluded those trained in the Wim Hof Method could activate their innate immune responses while the participants who did not undergo training saw no immune activation (Kox et al., 2014).  
  • This above claim is supported and affirmed by research in 2020 which also saw an elevated autonomic immune response in participants after receiving training on the Wim Hof Method (Zwaag et al., 2020).  The results of these studies suggest that the Wim Hof Method is an effective way to willfully activate your immune system, an idea previously thought impossible. This has a multitude of positive implications for the management of autoimmune diseases and other disorders.  
  • Research has proven the Wim Hof Method as effective treatment for arthritis by reducing its inflammatory factors (Buijze et al., 2019). 

Cold Water Therapy Next Steps

Life in New York City can often take more than it gives. The Wim Hof Method resets your inner balance – quieting your mind, reinvigorating your body and balancing your nervous system, leaving you strong, happy, and healthy.  You’ll learn how to utilize cold exposure and oxygen to optimize body and mind, and learn about their connection and underlying physiology. Whether you are seeking to improve physical performance or mental health, relieve symptoms of an illness, or are simply curious to find out what the Wim Hof Method is all about. I use this method as an adjunct to the in-office therapies I provide, let’s have a conversation.  

About Dr. Kaminsky & Craniosacral Therapy

Having a Chiropractic background since the year 2000, Dr. Kaminsky offers many methods of treatment with an emphasis on Craniosacral Therapy and Pranic Healing in NYC.

Dr. Alex Kaminsky

Craniosacral Therapy (CST) is a method focusing on the link between the cranium (head) and sacrum (the second to last bone at the base of your spine), scientifically proven to work in unison to pump fluid throughout the body, an unknown disruption of which can cause many health issues.  The craniosacral mechanism pumps vital fluid called cerebro-spinal fluid (CSF) through the body and in a sense energetically lubricates the joints, tissues, organs; basically all cells of the body. It is the driving force of all your body’s systems of function; including maintaining the tone of your muscles.

The Central Nervous System (brain and spinal cord) are surrounded with CSF generating energetic rhythmic impulses of fluid delicately pumping throughout your body’s parts “breathing” the movement of life. This measurable rhythm of moving fluid, like the heart rhythm, pulse rhythm, breathing rhythm is the foundational “blueprint” and primary principle of our real-time state of our health. 

Compromises of our rhythmic movements of fluid flow correlates to the impulse restrictions in the system which the body is unable to overcome or self-correct. This is the reason why we have “dis-ease”, symptoms, conditions, basically all ailments.  This is where the skill of an experienced craniosacral therapist becomes valuable.  By placing his or her hands on your body the practitioner can feel, detect, evaluate, and facilitate correction of these restrictive arrhythmic impulses.

The craniosacral therapist helps your rhythm restore and renew in compromised areas allowing for healing to take place of sensory, motor, musculoskeletal, neurological disorders, symptoms, conditions and pain.  To learn more, visit the other pages on this website. Call to schedule your healing treatment with Dr. Kaminsky.