By Christine Amour-Levar
Can you find inner peace from controlled hyperventilation and being really cold? One of my HER Planet Earth Partners, Quitterie Marque, seems to think so. Indeed, she has just returned from spending 6 days in the Karkonosze Mountains in the Sudetes range, in southwestern Poland, with no other than Wim Hof, aka, the Iceman, a Dutchman who is famous for climbing Mount Everest in shorts, running across deserts without water and setting numerous Guinness World Records for swimming under ice.
These days, he is teaching his transformational 'Wim Hof Method', a breathing technique that allows you to withstand freezing temperatures and consciously control your immune system to fight off diseases.
Quitterie herself is no stranger to tough challenges. In 2010, as part of a four-woman crew, she embarked on a 64-day journey to row across the Atlantic Ocean. The team successfully completed the 5,000-kilometre voyage, ranking first in their category.
Always on the lookout for new avenues to grow and learn, she decided to embark on this new challenge of self-discovery with Wim Hof after trying out the method with a Singapore-based instructor in February 2019. "After just 15 minutes of breathing and 3 rounds of 2-minute immersions in cold water, I had the same feel-good sensations as after running a marathon, but with less inflammation and stiffness! I quickly got addicted to the technique. The next step came naturally and it was to go on a deeper quest and join the annual winter expedition with Wim Hof himself," she shared.
At a time when the world is grappling with the aggressive, new COVID-19 virus, I thought it would be good to investigate and find out more about Quitterie's incredible adventure with the Iceman, and perhaps learn a few tips on how to boost one's immune system naturally.
Tell us a bit more about your experience Quitterie? What was the process like? Who else joined you on this expedition?
Our group was made of 27 people from 18 different nationalities, aged 28 to 63, with all kinds of jobs and life stories. Some were trained athletes, some just curious minds, others had health issues related to the immune system and some had a history of trauma and depression.
The mornings usually started with an extensive breathing session. In the afternoons we would be off into the freezing Polish rivers and waterfalls, slowly getting acquainted with the cold. As a group, we stayed in flowing 1°C rivers for 10 minutes. We “baptised” ourselves in an icy waterfall and crawled up the streams, on our hands and knees! The evenings were the time to consolidate what our body and mind had learnt and experienced. We would reflect, go into ourselves, unveil to the group and let go of our limitations. The method is aimed at training our nervous, immune, and cardiovascular systems.
At the end of the week, it was time for our ultimate test: summiting a peak in the Sudetes mountain range with temperature around -10 to -20°C…. and all this just wearing shorts! This was a formidable challenge; one that demanded complete focus. We did it, and we succeeded as a group with a very deep and strong connection.
What kind of person is Wim Hof?
Wim is a fun and spontaneous person. You can feel the genuine kindness and openness. He has this ability to connect with people and he took the time for some personal moments with each of us. What is fascinating is that he is also able to trigger the same connections and kindness amongst groups, helping us form a “tribe”. During cold challenges, he was there to encourage us and communicate his power. He managed to make every day full of surprises – it was the “no-programme programme", as our instructors called it, because Wim goes with whatever the cold whispers to him…
What was your biggest takeaway?
There is so much potential inside of us that is waiting to be released. Reconnecting with nature and “igniting our inner fire” is opening a new door. As Wim says “If you learn how to control your mind, anything is possible. So go in and dive deep!"
Equally important, which I learnt during this experience, is the power of the tribe. Moreover, I must say, I wasn’t expecting this after having been on so many adventures with teams myself. I was amazed at how such a diverse group of people grew into a tribe in just a few days. In the toughest moments, we would just let go and get carried by the group. It was a connection so open, caring and strong. We all felt as if we were soul mates. And the whatsapp group is still ringing non-stop till today, with impromptu gatherings planned all over the globe!
What is the message you would like to share?
This expedition is a testament to the capabilities that lie beyond our imagination. Guiding us to find our own path to inner peace and inner fire. So now, I encourage you to find an instructor near you and jump in, the cold is your warm friend!
Find out more
Wim Hof Method is now changing science books. The starting point of this scientific breakthrough was the study conducted by Radboud University on the voluntary activation of the sympathetic nervous system and attenuation of the innate immune response in humans. This video illustrates the method and results of this study.