Change the way you breathe, change the way you feel…

Hear hear! Breathwork has played a massive role in my new found lung health.

Two men and their ‘methods’ are responsible for that : Wim Hof (Wim Hof Method) and Patrick Mckeown (Oxygen Advantage).

The Wim Hof Method and Oxygen Advantage have some things in common, but differ quite a bit as well. The past two years I’ve experimented with both techniques and combined best of both worlds.

Cold training in Iceland, autumn 2017. Cold exposure is an important part of the Wim Hof Method.

Differences WHM and Oxygen Advantage

Both methods embrace breath holding, but Patrick Mckeown is not a fan of the hyperventilation part before the breath holding that Wim Hof promotes.

In his eyes it‘s not necessary to hyperventilate (and can even be dangerous) before holding your breath. His point: with both the WHM and the Oxygen Advantage method you can create hypoxia (more about that later). But the WHM also creates hypocapnia (a shortage of CO2). According to Mckeown, creating a shortage of CO2 is not only interfering with a normal breathing pattern -you need CO2 to transport oxygen to your muscles and tissues- but it can also be dangerous because it disguises your normal breathing response, which can cause you to pass out.

To keep things safe, Patrick Mckeown recommends to only do the Wim Hof breathing when you have a BOLT score of 25 or more (and in absence of cardio vascular disease). More about BOLT score and how to determine it here.

Breath holding to improve lung health

Breath holding, which is key to both techniques, creates hypoxia. This can be beneficial for several reasons. For one it enhances the oxygen transport and enables you to clear waste products from physical exercise, such as lactate, more efficiently. That’s also why many athletes regularly do high altitude training (sleeping high, training low).

‘The breath hold exercises in both techniques -Wim Hof Method and Oxygen Advantage- disturb homeostasis and are a stressor to the body, causing it to make adaptations including possible improved immune functioning. Over the years, breath hold exercises have proven to be very effective for respiratory conditions including asthma.’- Patrick McKeown

Combining Wim Hof Method and Oxygen Advantage

Although I already joined a course with Wim Hof as early as 2011 I only properly started experimenting with the Wim Hof Method in 2017. I guess I needed to move to the mountains first in order to find and enjoy an actual cold bath…

After only a few weeks of experimenting with cold exposure I experienced positive results. At the very beginning I did the Wim Hof breathing before hitting the cold water.  Wim Hof encourages doing his breathing exercise before cold exposure in order to release your ‘inner fire’.

But after reading Oxygen Advantage by Patrick McKeown early 2018 I started to leave out the Wim Hof breathing exercise before entering the water, instead practicing reduced breathing through my nose combined with the inner fire visualisations known to Tummo meditation.

This works very well for me! I reap all the benefits from cold exposure whilst keeping calm and relatively warm in the water. Plus, I don’t mess up my normal breathing pattern by creating a situation of hyperventilation (especially by means of mouth breathing).

I talked about the latter specifically with Patrick McKeown when I was participating in his Oxygen Advantage course in Budapest last year. He stated that although Wim Hofs’ hyperventilation phase only lasts relatively short, the negative effects of that on our normal breathing pattern linger around in your bodies much longer.

Practicing reduced breathing during the Oxygen Advantage course in Budapest 2018.

Nose breathing vs. mouth breathing

Wim Hof says it makes no difference whether you breathe through your nose or mouth while performing the Wim Hof breathing.

On the other hand, one of Patrick McKeowns most important lessons -which he got from Konstantin Buteyko– is to breathe through your nose at all times. Even during exercise (with some exceptions for athletes). I have noticed the extremely positive effects of nose breathing and reduced breathing first hand. My stamina and lung function increased so dramatically that could get rid of my Foster inhaler -a strong steroid- within less than a year.

I’m very curious to hear from fellow asthmatics and others with respiratory problems who are experimenting with the Wim Hof Method and/or Oxygen Advantage. Drop me a line if you feel like sharing your experience!

 

I’m officially off all medication since March 2019. I’m currently celebrating my new found health in southern Spain. Wonderful clean air up here!