Is Wim Hof Breathing the right thing for you?

Mind Garden’s co-director Ann-Marie James explains in this short video about Wim Hof Breathing and how it may or may not be good for your mental and emotional health.

“Wim Hof breathing is popular at the moment – but there’s a problem with that,” she writes. “People assume that all breathwork is like Wim Hof breathing. In fact, this is just one end of the breathwork spectrum.”

Ann-Marie goes on to explain that if Wim Hof breathing is the only breathwork you’ve tried, you could be missing out on other benefits of breath training. Wim Hof’s method is an interesting way of interacting with your fight/flight response but might not be the best breathwork for you, depending on the state of your nervous system.

Fight or Flight: Wim Hof Breathing and the Nervous System

Wim Hof breathing is a very activating form of breathwork – it stimulates the  ‘fight or flight’ response of your autonomic nervous system. It “hypes you up” by telling your brain to release stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline – which sounds cool but needs to be used with skill and awareness of how this affects you both in the moment and afterward.

If you’re already anxious, prone to overthinking, intrusive thoughts or have difficulty relaxing and letting go, WHB could be the opposite of what you need!

To put it simply: Wim Hof Breathing is about temporarily increasing stress in the body, while many of us need to find ways to reduce it.  

When Wim Hof Breathing Misses the Mark

Individuals who are dealing with panic disorder or generalised anxiety may find that WHB makes their anxiety more intense. Even healthy people who have no history of disorders could feel more on-edge and tense, without understanding why – all while doing it to themselves.

It’s important to learn how to read the state of you autonomic nervous system (how activated or deactivated you are) to determine whether your breathwork practice is serving you. You have to make sure that any breathing practice – Tummo or otherwise – helps you understand yourself better in the current moment.

Fortunately breathwork offers us a huge array of techniques. There are powerful anti-anxiety and pro-focus breathing practices that help reduce stress, tone down the ‘fight or flight’ response, and improve mental and physical wellbeing.

This video includes an alternative breath practice that is good for creating focus and energy in the body without overstimulating! Read more about this topic here.
Ann-Marie is available for 1:1 breath coaching sessions and you can enquire here. Breath training is powerful for boosting mood, managing stress with resilience and developing powerful self awareness.