Sunday, May 9, 2010

Meeting a Real Yogi: Wim Hof, aka the Iceman

Meeting the Iceman: Wim Hof

A couple of years ago I watched a video of Wim Hof, The Iceman, running a half marathon in Lapland, Finland.  It was -26 degrees Celcius and he was barefoot, wearing only shorts and a small-cap. I was very impressed by his ability to use his mind to withstand such cold temperatures.

Several months ago I decided to contact him.  I was hoping to learn from the Iceman himself something about mastering the mind and the body.

I found his website and I wrote him an e-mail asking if he had any training program.

Soon after he replied to me and told me that on the 1st of May 2010 he will give a one week workshop on a farm in Poland.

I immediately decided to join this workshop. I didn't know anything about it, but in the e-mail, he sounded like a really nice guy, so why not give it a try, right?

And guess what.... right now, I'm sitting in the living room of his country house listening to a cool song that Wim is composing at this very moment together with Justin, a guy that came for the workshop all the way from the US.

“I don't fear the cold..... I don't fear the cold.... I just found a way to cope....”

Wim Hof Playing Guitar
Wim playing the guitar

Wim Hof Country House Poland

 Wow, it's really cool to be here.

Update 2019:  We were only two guys in this workshop, Justin and I.  This was way before the Wim Hof Method (WHM) had been developed and branded by Wim.

A little adventure

The whole thing has been like a little adventure.

I didn't receive much information about the workshop. Wim just told me the location, the dates and that's it. There was no program, no daily schedule, no nothing, I was not even sure if it would be for real or not, I didn't even know what kind of clothes to bring but I was sure I would need a swimming suit at least.

Anyway, the last week of April I took a flight to Poland and took the opportunity to visit some friends in Warsaw and Krakow. Then, on the 1st of May, I took a train from Krakow to Wroclaw, 4 hours 30 minutes and then a 2-hour bus from Wroclaw to Lwowek Slaski.

Lwowek Slaski

When I arrived at Lwowek Slaski I realized that I didn't know at what time I would meet Wim and neither he knew at what time I would arrive. Shit!!

And this place seemed to be in the middle of nowhere.  The train station looked like it hadn't been used in the last 100 years.

Abandoned train station

So I started to get a bit worried.

I tried to call him but no response. I walked around and went to a pizzeria and ordered a pizza just to kill some time.

I asked the lady in the pizzeria if there was any internet place nearby, and as far as I understood there was nothing around in the whole town... well at least that was my interpretation cause she spoke only Polish.

Two hours later I returned to the train station, but on my way I passed by a group of people that seemed to be having fun, playing music and having a bit of alcohol.

I kept walking but all of a sudden the girls from that group started to call me, I guess they were saying something like "please join us", but the whole thing seemed a bit weird and scary so I kept walking.

Then one of the girls approached me, put her hand around my neck and try to bring me to the group. I realized she was completely drunk so I just said, "going to station" and I continued my way.

You know, it's just something a bit scary when you are in the middle of nowhere, in a place that you don't know and with a foreign language that you don't understand at all.

But soon after I crossed that little path I reached the station and all of a sudden a guy with a beard and sunglasses screamed "Marco!!! We found you!!!".

That was Conrad, Wim's logistics man, an extremely funny guy from Poland.

All of a sudden I was surrounded by four guys welcoming to the group: The Iceman; Conrad; Henin, a photographer from Holland friend of Wim and Justin, the guy from the US that also came for the workshop.

Conrad and Wim Hof
Conrad and Wim

It was weird but cool, I felt immediately at ease. They are really nice guys.

And since that moment we've been having a really cool time.

Talking yoga with Wim Hof

I've been learning from the Iceman as much as I can. We have been talking a lot about the benefits of the cold immersions, yoga, meditation, kundalini energy, expanding our consciousness, pranayamas and a lot more.

You can visit 9 Wim Hof Quotes for Yogis: The Iceman Words of Wisdom to get an idea of how Wim thinks.  These are some quotes that I picked up from our daily talks.  I love these quotes!

I have also been adapting little by little to the cold.

On the second day, we went three times to a nearby river for our training.

The water was between 8 and 9 degrees. I thought that it wouldn't be too cold. The weather was nice and I was wearing a t-shirt during the day.

So since Wim and Justin jumped into the river without hesitation I decided to do the same, but as soon as I jumped into the water I felt so much pain.  The only thing my body wanted to do was to get the hell out of there.

Then the Iceman said, “Breath Marco, breath; just focus on your breathing.”

His words reminded me of a scene from one of my favorite movies “The Matrix.”

I tried to stay for as long as I could but I managed only for five seconds. When I got out of the water my whole body was shaking uncontrollably.

We have also done some rappelling in a rock nearby, shopping for food, playing the guitar, playing Frisbee, cold water immersions, talking about deep stuff and a lot more.

Wim Hof setting up the rappel
Wim setting up the rappel

No program, no schedule, everything is just so spontaneous. I just love it. I wouldn't call it a workshop, it is actually much more than that.

Update 2019:  In case you are wondering, I didn't continue practicing the breathing exercises that Wim taught us, which are now known as the WHM.  I decided to focus instead on the traditional pranayamas as taught by the Indian yogis.  

But who is the Iceman?

Wim Hof in Mayurasana Peacock
Wim in Mayurasana, the Peacock

Wim Hof, known as the Iceman, is a great guy from Holland. He is a super funny person, very active and passionate about life. It's very inspiring to be around him. He has learned so many things just by himself, an autodidact.

His mother tongue is Dutch, but he also speaks English, Spanish, French, Italian, Polish, Japanese and even a bit of Hindi and Sanskrit, wow!! I love to hear him reciting some of the verses of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.

He knows how to play the guitar, a bit of piano and he sings really well. He also likes drawing and painting and he is quite good at it.

He is a rock climber and has even been a guide in the Pyrenees.

And what I like the most is that he has learned yoga and meditation by himself, with no guru and without following any specific course, just by doing it, and the proof that he has been very successful at it is the development of his mind control to stand extreme cold temperatures.

But it's not about standing the cold, it's about achieving real self-control, although Wim has proved that the cold immersions are extremely beneficial for the overall health of the body and mind. There are many studies that are being performed at this moment.

After seeing all this and after talking with him about so many things, I really feel as if I was talking with a real yogi, but a very practical one. Like he says “there is no hocus pocus, it's all natural and simple.”

Wim Hof words of Wisdom

Don't forget to visit my next blog 9 Wim Hof Quotes for Yogis: The Iceman Words of Wisdom.

These are some of my favorite quotes that I picked up from Wim during this week.  I love the way he thinks!

If you want to contact Wim for one of Wim Hof Method workshops you can find him here

1 comment:

  1. great work marco , as i read this article and the temprature in st kilda beach melbourne in the mid twenties and the summer is about to be in full swing, i just came back from a travel expo and have booked my ticket to europe, very exited at the prospect of catching up with wim if i am lucky....thanks for the kind word and hope fully we shall meet in real life one day