I was listening to the Tim Ferriss podcast and he was interviewing Win Hof about breathing. He is a Dutch extreme athlete who is known as the Ice Man because he can withstand extremely cold temperatures. He holds the record for a barefoot half marathon on ice and snow, and he has climbed past the “death zone” on Mount Everest while only wearing shorts.
The autonomic nervous system controls things in our body like breathing and heart rate. We breathe and our heart beats without us thinking about it. But Win has proven that we do have control over that system. He must be in control of it when in an extremely cold environment or he would go into shock.
He took part in a university experiment where he was injected with a toxin that would create an immune response including intense shivering and other symptoms that we connect with feeling sick. These are autonomic nervous system responses. Within 15 minutes of getting the symptoms, Win was able to control them and bring his body back to normal with breathing techniques alone. The leaders of the study said it was only Win who could do this and it was not transferrable. Win said he could teach a group of people how to do it within ten days. He ended up training the regular folks in four days.
He showed them how to control their autonomic nervous system response to a toxin injection with breathing alone.
This really hit me. Obviously none of us want to inject ourselves with a toxin. But how many days do we have that fight or flight response to life? Speedy heartrate, quick breathing, mind racing. And to know that we can control those feelings by taking a moment to stop and just breathe?
That is powerful. We are in control of our body’s health and its healing. We decide how much oxygen to take in and whether to engage with negative thoughts. We decide.
As author Arundhati Roy said, “Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”
Let’s remember to breathe.