Wim Hof the Iceman and the Power of Meditation

Wim Hof aka the Iceman is a holder of over 20 Guinness World Records. He climbs Mt Everest in just shorts. He runs half-marathons in the Lapland… barefoot. He swims in lakes under frozen ice. And he runs marathons in deserts… without drinking a drop of water.

After all these feats his focus is now on teaching what he has learned. Wim doesn’t think he’s special. He believes anyone can do what he does, and he has set out to prove it. In 2011 Wim Hof claimed to scientists that he could influence his immune response with his meditation techniques. They told him it was impossible, but looking at his track record decided to give the experiment a go anyway.

They injected Wim with a harmless bacteria that would make him feel ill after an hour. No symptoms were developed. The blood tests showed that Wim was able to voluntarily increase his level of stress hormones to suppress the activity of his immune system. This wasn’t enough to act as scientific proof, so Wim sought out 12 apprentices to teach his breathing and cold exposure techniques to. Each of the apprentice spent 4 days with Wim in Poland doing intensive training.

At 8m19s in the video you see the same experiment done with the 12 apprentices, and at 9m30s you can see the control group. The difference is stark.

You can download the study published in PNAS titled Voluntary activation of the sympathetic nervous system and attenuation of the innate immune response in humans. You can also download an ebook he has published about the different methods he uses to induce this (requires email signup).

Could Meditation Cure Cancer?

Wim Hof has also claimed that this would be possible for cancer and other terminal diseases. Possible? In Lissa Rankin’s TEDxTalk she speaks about the placebo effect and cases of spontaneous remission. Patients with stage 4 cancers that disappeared without treatment, HIV positive to HIV negative, heart disease, kidney disease – the whole spectrum, all disappearing without treatment. There’s a ton of these case studies and they can be found at the Spontaneous Remission Project.

Could Wim Hof be leading the way in finding a consistently reliable method to cure yourself of illnesses? Wim Hof spent just 4 days training the 12 apprentices. If it were possible to use the same technique on cancer, how much training might it take to develop the ability to fight it off? What would happen if this was taught to children?

Instead of a culture where we pop pills as often as we can to treat a headache or fever, we might use certain meditation techniques to tap into our innate capabilities to heal ourselves. I’ve noticed the healing effects of meditation with my own practice. A common cold is easy to overcome. Headaches disappear after meditating. But how far can this actually stretch?

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