Wim Hof Breathing Technique Review (Vs. Buteyko)

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- Updated on October 29, 2020

Wim Hof Breathing Technique Review (Vs. Buteyko) 1By Dr. Artour Rakhimov, Alternative Health Educator and Author

- Medically Reviewed by Naziliya Rakhimova, MD

In the video above, Dr. Artour Rakhimov discusses with Volker Schmitz the Wim Hof Breath Technique vs. the Buteyko Method.

During last years, I got many questions on this site and from our NormalBreathing and Buteyko students about the Wim Hof method and his hyperventilation technique that he uses before cold water immersion. Here are pages where you can find, in comments, recent questions related to the Wim Hof breathing technique:
Deep Breathing Myth
Yoga and Breathing
Breathing Techniques
You can search these pages for “Wim Hof” to read questions and my answers.

What does Wim Hof breathing technique involve?

The Wim Hof breathing technique involves brief controlled hyperventilation (such as 30 full inhalations and exhalations) followed by breath holding before immersion into cold water. This overbreathing and breath holding can be repeated several times.

Question: Does this go against the main principles of the Buteyko technique?
Answer: The Buteyko breathing technique is a breathing retraining method meaning that the purpose of the Buteyko method is to make permanent (or lasting) changes in the automatic (unconscious) breathing pattern. The Wim Hof method has a goal to prolong breath holding in cold conditions. It is not the goal of the Wom Hof technique to retrain or make any changes in automatic breathing patterns of students.
Thus, the Wim Hof method is not the method of breathing retraining, it is rather can be viewed as the method of cold adaptation, and this is another interesting and fascinating healing therapy that works in the areas of brown fat cells and immune function.

Question: Can this Wim Hof exercise help a student to increase the results of their CP test?
Answer: The Buteyko CP test is the main DIY tool that students and teachers use to measure their progress. This test requires sitting at rest and usual breathing for 5 minutes just before the measurement.
The Wim Hof breathing exercise represents voluntary hyperventilation before breath holding. This increases breath holding time in most people due to the reduction of CO2 in the lungs, blood and body tissues. For more details (about which categories of people do not improve their breath holding due to voluntary hyperventilation and how large is the gain in breath holding for people with the normal response), you can study Chapter 2 of my Amazon book for Buteyko breathing practitioners “Normal Breathing: The Key to Vital Health”. Chapters 1-5 of this book in PDF are available online for free here:

Limitation (restriction) of the Wim Hof method

Finally, here is one more comment (in italics, below) from readers of this site asking about my review of the Wim Hof method. I decided to write this Wim Hof review after I got it in January 2017:
My mom has stage four cancer. We have her on a strong protocol but would love to implement a breathing technique that can help her immune system and increase oxygen on a cellular level (cancer is anaerobic).
I messaged a breathing coach about Wim Hof vs. Buteyko to hear his advice. This is what he wrote back. Would love to hear anyone’s advice and if there’s evidence backing up one technique vs the other for cancer.
“I think you should do a little reading about hyperventilation, which is what Wim Hof’s method is. From the Buteyko perspective, it is absolutely not what your mother should be doing. Hyperventilating ‘blows off’ carbon dioxide. This will hamper aerobic metabolism. See the hemoglobin dissociation curve en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxygen%E2%80%93hemoglobin_dissociation_curve and the Bohr Effect.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bohr_effect
Simply, low carbon dioxide means less oxygen delivered to the cells of the body. Hyperventilating does not ‘load-up’ the blood with oxygen. Respiratory physiology doesn’t work that way. People who attempt to hold their breath for a very long time underwater will hyperventilate before. This blows off carbon dioxide and then the brain loses its signal to breathe. Carbon dioxide guides breathing in low activity. So by blowing off carbon dioxide, they can stay underwater for a very long time because nothing is signaling the brain to breathe. This is very dangerous. Those going for world records are having their heart rate monitored. If they pass out they pull them out of the water. People trying this at their local swimming pool have drowned which is why this practice is banned from public pools in Canada and the US.
Wim Hof may be ok for very healthy people. But in the long run, I doubt it. If your mother hyperventilates she will start to feel bad very quickly. See Forced Hyperventilation Provocation
You would be supporting anaerobic metabolism with hyperventilation, not lessening it.
I hope this is helpful”
Most people are biased on this topic and I’ve read many unnecessary and emotional jabs at Wim Hof. Please allow this thread to be an educated conversation while limiting biases and attacks. Thank you in advance for your time and advice.

This comment does not contradict to anything that is written above about the different natures of the Buteyko vs, Wim Hof methods. However, there is one more detail that is important to know for people with poor health and chronic health problems.

While working with such students, it is well known for Buteyko breathing teachers, that it is dangerous for most breathing students to use a cold shower and cold water immersion when their current CP is less than 20 seconds. In fact, this is the central requirement of the Buteyko technique for safe use of cold shower: Cold shower rules and benefits. This page also explains the benefits of cold adaptation and gives clinical references related to brown fat research.

Therefore, the Wim Hof method, while in my view powerful, has this temporary restriction. His technique cannot be used for people at any stage of cancer since they have only about 10 seconds CP during the initial stages of breathing retraining due to chronic hyperventilation. Later, during breathing retraining, when their CP gets above 20 seconds, it is possible and beneficial to use cold water and adaptation to cold environmental conditions both as intermittent (sporadic) and systematic sessions and constantly, during day-time and sleep.