Hands Like Houses have not only scored a support slot on Bring Me The Horizon’s Australian tour this week, they’re also heading around the country on their sold-out Colourblind tour. But a few short months ago, bassist Joel Tyrrell was on a very different adventure. Joel wrote the following essay as a reflection on his time spent with Dutch man Wim Hof, and the lessons he has learnt.
For several generations, we’ve grown to fear the cold, alongside any place that doesn’t fall within our comfort zone. Over time, our species has lost touch with its ability to connect and adapt to not only our bodies but, just as critically, to our environment. We’re quick to put a jumper on when we’re cold, and fast to remove ourselves from situations that frighten or challenge us. It’s thanks to these learned reflexes that we are rarely tested and miss crucial opportunities for growth. Recently, I was able to spend time with a man named Wim Hof, a powerful soul who challenges all these ideas with a few simple techniques.
For those who are unfamiliar with this name, Wim is an incredibly humble Dutch man who holds 26 world records; from climbing Kilimanjaro and Everest in nothing but shorts and sandals, to being submerged up to his shoulders in an ice bath for just under two hours and running a full length marathon in the Namibia desert (50 degrees) with no food or water. Though the considerably appropriate term ‘freak of nature’ may come to mind, upon further research we uncover that ‘The Ice Man’ is simply executing the power of the human mind and body to control and regulate its systems. Lucky for us, Wim has made it his life mission to make these discoveries available to the world.
In August last year, I was fortunate enough to attend the WHM (Wim Hof Method) Experience in Aireys Inlet, a gorgeous area on the Great Ocean Road in Victoria. I’d been familiar with Wim’s work for about eighteen months prior to participating physically in his teachings, but over the five days, I gained a much clearer understanding of his techniques, and my very own access to their life changing properties. Even though Wim’s achievements and abilities are quite astonishing, it was clear to me that he didn’t perform them for any personal fame, but purely to raise awareness for human potential and share a lifestyle, mindset and set of practices that have the power to treat and reverse illness, challenging the pharmaceutical route of chemical cures.
There are a few different techniques to Wim’s method. Controlled hyperventilation-style breathing, moving meditation and cold-water immersion. Our breathing is an unconscious process regulated by the autonomous nervous system. The amount of oxygen we inhale affects the amount of energy released into our body’s cells, and the way you breathe impacts the chemical and physiological activities in your body. Through Wim’s technique you are inhaling deeply and exhaling without any force. By doing this you are increasing oxygen saturation in the muscles and organs and releasing more C02 from the body, making your blood pH level more alkaline. Which, in a very basic nutshell, allows your body to operate, adapt and function in a far more efficient way. I have noticed considerable changes in my body after practising this technique, becoming very light and tingly, as well as feeling charged throughout the whole body. It allows you to go deep into your physiology and consciously notice the various systems working inside. Each experience is different, but I have also had intense visualisations, which could be due to the significant levels of carbon dioxide being released, and the potential connection with DMT release.
In the moving meditation, the class was instructed in a ‘horse stance’ squat position. The practice involved slowly moving our arms away from our bodies from side to side, making the shape of an imaginary ball. The intention was to go inside the body and create energy through concentration, the physical movement being secondary. This was very much a mental exercise, as anyone would know, being in a squat position gets painful after a while. It was in this exercise that I realized, using your mind to overpower pain isn’t something we practise often, but by day four of the Experience, our group was in a circle listening to Pink Floyd while we held this stance for an hour.
The third (and arguably most intense) part of Wim’s method are the Icebaths, something for which he has become quite famous. This part of the workshop took place in a big inflatable pool filled with ice to give it a temperature ranging from 0.8-2 degrees celsius. It’s interesting how much cold water impacts the body and causes a jerk reaction and instant shivering. When these reflexes engage, it’s a message from the body to let you know you are losing control, which in part (with general discomfort) explains our resistance and fear of cold exposure. But as I learned, cold exposure for your veins is very similar to working out. It helps your veins to become stronger by contracting little muscles that surround them. This in turn improves blood circulation and reduces the rate at which your heart has to work to pump blood to the rest of your body. This exercise was a great lesson that through gradual exposure to anything, our bodies must and will adapt; and as I grew to understand, entering the cold (or any challenging situation for that matter) with a strong mindset and steady breathing dramatically altered my experience.
Up until recently, I was part of the large majority that would freak out at the thought of getting into water below two degrees, but when it comes to facing our fears, they don’t just go away. It’s something we must learn to confront and take control of: as Wim would bluntly put it, “Fuck fear!” Making yourself uncomfortable and forcing your body to take control improves mental strength drastically. Wim has been able to prove a multitude of benefits from practising this method, one of the most important being the ability to consciously influence the immune system, something we never thought was possible. Tapping into this resource could be a viable way to help cure diseases.
Reflecting now, I attended Wim’s workshop out of curiosity, but I left with an immeasurable depth and number of benefits for my mind and body. If you feel intrigued by these practices I urge you to watch the short film ‘The Ice Man’ and research Wim Hof’s methods!
We have these moments in our life, an expansion of our consciousness, leading to an expansion in our knowledge. These moments are meant to show us that there is more to life than satisfying our desires. Sometimes we need to broaden the parameters of our comfort zone.
Health, Happiness and Strength