While there is no question about the validity of Wim Hof's abilities, I question some of the claims made about his ability.

He is claimed to be able to consciously control certain aspects of his autonomic nervous system with his mind.

But while his feats are undoubtedly impressive, and his training program was proven effective, I find it hard to believe he's reached a point where all he needs is his mind.

As much as I'd like to believe one can do the things he did without the special breathing techniques he uses.

Is there any reason to believe there is something to it beyond conditioning the body and breathing in a specific manner (which, from what I understand, causes the body to react in a certain way leading to the desired effects)?

  • $\begingroup$ What is ANS? It is not a common acronym on this site. $\endgroup$
    – Seanny123
    Jul 15, 2015 at 22:17
  • $\begingroup$ @Seanny123 it stands for "Autonomic nervous system". I edited the post :P $\endgroup$ Jul 15, 2015 at 22:39
  • $\begingroup$ Good question, this is very interesting stuff. $\endgroup$ Nov 16, 2015 at 2:32

1 Answer 1


Disclaimer: just an opinion of someone on the web, it's not health advice. And I might be wrong.

With that said...

In my opinion it's wrong. He can't control his ANS just by using his mind. He uses: breathing techniques, exposure to cold and having the right mindset in order to withstand the cold. There's also a Dutch article on the site that says this. The way he handles the cold is also the same way he handles his ANS in general.

I think the wikipedia page is wrong about it. Also, the researchers that did studies on him at the Radboud University of Nijmegen are not specialized in understanding meditation. In most cases I'd disagree that what Wim does is meditation at all. While I respect the knowledge of the researchers, I think they were dead wrong in understanding what meditation is back then. It's really more of a behavioural thing with your breath. The meditation I know is more about mentally focusing on your breath or body, not physically altering it. Their expertise is in all sorts of: viruses, bacteria and the human body in general -- including combining the 3 for experiments.

Here is a better source about the science of Wim Hof: http://www.icemanwimhof.com/science

In my opinion that source is a lot better. Then again, it is a very wise to be sceptic (hint: also with my post). I think a lot of people made wrong claims about his method. I think almost everyone involved made at least a wrong claim about something of it. People are enthusiastic and lack expertise in some area and that's when claims might be overstated or misinterpreted by the one reading about them.

You don't have to be too sceptic though, it definitely works and improved my life. I love all weather now with regards to temperature. I sometimes use his method as a natural painkiller as it releases adrenaline, though I'm still on the experimental side with that.

The reason I believe to know all this is because:

  1. I participated in one of the experiment and trained for 4 days with Wim and other participants
  2. I asked a ton of questions to the researchers who were there from the Radboud University.
  3. I have 400 hours of meditation experience and read about 100 articles on them from Science Daily, and about 30 real papers and 1 book about meditation that uses science as its way of justification (Search Inside Yourself by Chade Meng-Tan).
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Wow. I'm jealous (I've tried meditation, feels nice, but to me - not worth the effort, as 6 months of daily meditation didn't seem to do much good for me beyond the short-term feeling-better, which lasted for a few minutes after I was done meditating). However, I disagree with your claim that this isn't meditation (though I likely know far less than you about meditation), since (from my understanding), there are various techniques (admittedly not practiced by the general public and not well studied) that are referred to as a type of meditation which involve more than just observing. $\endgroup$ Dec 26, 2015 at 16:41
  • $\begingroup$ This is a tough discussion that I don't know all the answers to. I don't know the def. of meditation. In my mind I always see it as "cultivation". With the WHM the goal is not about doing an exercise over and over again in order to cultivate something. E.g. compare it to Tummo, which is a meditation technique. In Tummo they use a breathing technique, but the technique itself is not the meditation. Aspiring to enlightenment by using the technique is. Even washing dishes can be meditation, as long as you're focused on cultivating e.g. equanimity. Any activity can be a meditative one. $\endgroup$ Dec 26, 2015 at 20:14

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