Getting High From Breathing
Who'd have thought you could get high from breathing? Introducing the WHM.
When people talk about getting high they generally mean using drugs. However, I have discovered a way to get a natural high.
It’s from breathing.
Wim Hof is one of the most interesting people you’ve probably never heard of. He is the creator of the Wim Hof Method (WHM) which is a combination of cold exposure, breathing techniques and meditation. He has previously held Guinness World Records for, amongst other things, swimming under ice, full-body contact with ice and climbing Mount Everest in nothing but shorts and shoes - he attributes these feats to the WHM.
There is much debate about whether the method is responsible for this, or if he’s just a supernatural freak. He’s made bold claims about boosting one’s immune system and fighting disease using the WHM - I’m not sure if these are true, and I don’t much care. I’m not doing it for the health benefits although I will gladly reap them if they exist.
I do this because I like to get high.
The breathing technique is as follows:
Deep breaths in and out (around 30 - 40)
Complete exhale and hold your breath for as long as possible
Full inhale for 15 seconds
Repeat as many times as you like
Wim Hof has his own app and YouTube videos where he takes you through guided breathing sessions. I find these helpful for keeping my breathing in time and pushing through when my body is screaming at me to inhale.
Under normal circumstances, I can hold my breath for 30 - 40 seconds. The first time I tried this I held my breath for over 1:30. I did it twice more with the same result - what happened after is what kept me going.
The Body High
Every time I do this breathing exercise, I get strong physical sensations and mental stimulation.
It starts with the hands. A tingling sensation, similar to pins and needles, will slowly start to appear and engulf them. Sometimes in the latter rounds my fingers will enclose together and I look like I have tyrannosaurus rex hands. I will also get a strange sort of tinnitus, not a ringing, but a static sound like an orchestra of cicadas playing. I have measured my heart rate during the sessions and have seen it drop by around 10bpm (this could be due to the fact that I’m lying down in a more relaxed position rather than the breathing).
Once I finish and the lightheadedness fades, I feel something. Not just a slight euphoria - but a revitalised feeling, a freshness, ready to take on the day. I’m not sure if this is just from the hypoxia and hyperoxia (meaning lack of oxygen or excessive oxygen, respectively) or if it’s something deeper in me that’s causing these feelings. But it’s something.
I did these breathing exercises for a month straight and the most intense sensation I felt was on day 9. It feels like I must have done something wrong and didn’t time it correctly because it seems unbelievable. My average retention is just over 2 minutes. On day 9, I held my breath for 3:23. I have never had such intense physical sensations like this in my life.
When I finished my body was intermittently jerking and I was shaking for 10 minutes, it was a full-body orgasm. It felt amazing. That’s when I realised there was something extraordinary here. To this day, I have not held my breath for over 3 minutes. I’ve come close and on a good day I can do 2:30+ to get similar bodily sensations, but nothing quite as intense.
This is what’s kept me going.
I decided to experiment with different types of breathing. As you would expect, the more you breathe the more intense the sensations are. I started doing 40 breaths at a slow rate (on the app you can choose slow, normal or fast). Halfway through the month, I switched to a faster pace to see the difference. I felt by doing it slower I could concentrate on filling my lungs up as full as possible. In contrast, breathing faster felt more like panic-induced hyperventilation rather than a concerted effort to breathe. I didn’t have feelings of panic and anxiety but I didn’t feel as mindful while doing it.
Even if all the stuff about boosting the immune system or assisting with depression and anxiety isn’t true, even if it doesn’t make you into the next Ice Man, you should try it. I’ll continue to practice, I might see long-term results, or I might not, the reason I will continue to do this is it challenges me and puts me in an uncomfortable situation. What’s best is I am immediately rewarded with a high.
Literally, I’m getting high off my own supply.