On today’s show, I interview Certified Wim Hof instructor Brandon Powell. We go deep into everything that is Wim Hof on this episode. So first we talk about exactly what the Whim Hof method is, how to practice is, and if you don’t have the time, how to do a 5-minute practice of the method.
Then we go deeper into the benefits of the Wim Hof method, and then we talk about Brandon’s journey to finding Wim Hof, becoming a certified instructor, and now doing seminars and working with such people as Josh Waitzkin, as well as Marcelo Garcia who is a very famous Brazilian Jujitsu player. So very interesting stuff about his aspect, and all the journey for him to get there.
I really hope you enjoy the show, if you are, please like and subscribe to us on iTunes, follow us on Instagram at @thealphahippie to engage with me and other like-minded individuals as yourself. My guest and I appreciate the feedback.
Enjoy the show,
Brandon began his training in martial arts at age nine in Karate. Immediately falling in love with practicing and training Brandon has been involved with many various styles including Thai boxing, Western boxing, KungFu SanShou, Stick and Knife fighting, and Capoeira. In 2000 he was introduced to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu through a good friend, and like a fish to water found a home. He believes that the practical application of Jiu Jitsu techniques and its ability to use leverage and balance to overcome an attacker or opponent makes Brazilian Jiu Jitsu one of the most effective ways to defend yourself. Beyond being the greatest martial arts workout Brandon has found, he considers BJJ to be a superior mind/body unifier. Blending over ten years experience in JiuJitsu practice and working as a personal trainer Brandon brings an extensive knowledge of the body and its mechanics. He says “It will enhance the way you move in everyday life, by giving you superior balance, coordination, and confidence.”
Angelo: Brandon Powell, thank you so much for being on the show today. How are you brother?
Brandon: Good. It’s great to be here man.
Angelo: Thank you. So, for those of you that don’t know who Brandon Powell is, he is a strength and conditioning coach, a Brazilian Jujitsu instructor, and also a certified Wim Hof instructor. There is a lot going on, and we were talking about this before we got on, it’s there’s a lot going on about Wim Hof and breathing and he’s sort of popularized a lot of these mythologies and made them mainstream.
As you might have seen there is a lot of celebrity doing these, I’ve even seen Wim Hof with like Tony Robins recently. So there is a much louder noise for him and what his protocols are all about. So thank you for being here and you are going to hopefully enlighten us and share all these amazing things.
And you also like we said too before we got on you’ve also been digging deep and experimenting with some of these protocols and coming up with your own research and evaluations which is going to be awesome here as well.
Brandon: Yes sir.
Angelo: This may be a very broad term, but let’s start with this just in case there’s some listeners that aren’t up to speed on it, what is the Wim Hof method? How would you define it?
Brandon: Well, in its simplest form you would just say that it has three pillars. They are; the breathing system, right, which is a complete system of breathing, and then you have the cold adaptation, so working with cold in various forms, and then we have mindset training which is sort of a result of doing both of these or maybe it’s the chicken, maybe it’s the egg, I’m not really sure, but it all fits together as a chain.
So you can think of it as like three different close-looped systems that interlock which would be breathing, cold set or cold training and mindset.
Angelo: Okay, and so take me through each pillar. Like what is an example of the breathing? What’s the example of the cold? Like, how does it play out in a practice?
Brandon: Well, you know, the breath training in itself is sort of a simulation of what happens when you are under stress, a great stress. And we are dealing with the autonomic nervous system and the central nervous system, and essentially we are interacting with the cold as a way to generate a specific response. And we use the breath training as a way to train the—I guess the practice of going into the cold, if you want to call it that- a practice, because that’s what it needs to become as you are diving into this program.
Angelo: Okay. I have a good understanding of it. Now tell me how it plays out, like you said the breath work, now take me through what the Wim Hof breathing looks like.
Brandon: Okay, the breath protocol is pretty simple, it’s out online everywhere. It’s 30 breaths around about, 30 breaths to get at specific responses from the physiology. So we do 30 breaths to a breath hold. The breath hold comes on the exhale, and there we are looking to hold our breath to again achieve a certain reflex, we call it the gas reflex. So we want our body to respond with this gas reflex and then we take a big breath in, we call it the recovery breath.
That breath lasts—it’s a breath hold on the inhale, it lasts for about 15 seconds, and that completes one single round with the Wim Hof method. So we go 30 breaths to breath hold to recovery breath. And each part has again, a specific response that we are trying to get from the body. The 30 breaths, breathing fast lowers the co2 in the blood, so we call it blowing off co2.
And when we go into the breath hold essentially on the exhale after 30 breaths—and really, let me back up—prior to the breath hold we are trying to achieve like a lower co2 level which in turn raises our pH. So this has specific responses or reaction within the body as well. So we go from the 30 breaths to breath hold, and at the last breath as we exhale there we are entering into some unique spaces.
You can call it like a hack into the system where essentially letting our O2 levels dive into a deficit that they normally wouldn’t because the co2 is what triggers our inhale response. So we’ve already lowered the co2, now the O2 dives down into a deficit, say past where it normally would. We’ve seen readings of extreme oxygen deprivation, and then what happens is the co2 begins to rise when our O2 is now down and the deficit, and as it comes up it triggers this response.
We are working at over a course of like 30 minutes trying to reach peak adrenaline levels in the system in our body. So each time we go through this process it gets at that, if that makes sense, you know. It gets at pushing ourselves to sort of hit this panic mode where we need to take that gasping breath. We take that full breath in because if we were to continue to hold our breath very likely we could go unconscious.
This is a problem with practicing the Wim Hof method in any type of dangerous situation like in the water. We could get into a couple of stories about that, but you know, you don’t want to do it anywhere that is dangerous. That’s kind of the caveat of the practice, it’s makes sure you are safe. We need to take that gas reflex because at that point the oxygen that we take in becomes extremely beneficial to the system.
So when the co2 levels are up and we basically hit the oxygen pedal we hit what we call the recovery breath because of all the reactions that we have and the physiology from it. A lot of people say it’s the best part of the whole practice, it feels great. We can get into why that is as well too because of the reaction with the hormones and essentially brain chemicals like endocannabinoids and maybe endo opioids and things like that, you know.
Angelo: Yeah. I would agree the breath in almost feels like you wake up, like it’s a whole big, like shock, like alertness. It feels great when you do that breath. You said 30 minutes, is there a particular amount of rounds that you would recommend?
Brandon: Well, rounds are not quite as important. Maybe you could say like, within—it depends on how long your breath holds are a lot of times. So if you have a shorter breath hold you are going to do more rounds, if you have a longer breath hold you might do less rounds within the 30 minutes. So what we are really trying to get at is more, you know, that 30 minute range which is exactly why Mark challenged you to that, right?
So it fits within the cycle, but we are looking for the 30 minute range because that’s where we get into, like I said, peak adrenaline state, epinephrine, no epinephrine. So at that point we can sort off back off and we can change the breathing pattern. Now there’s no reason that you can’t go beyond the 30 minutes, people like to, I’ve definitely pushed it past 30 minutes.
It’s a great practice to go deep but it’s not really necessary to get the results that we are looking for within it. You might say you get 5 rounds, 6 rounds, 7 rounds, 8 rounds if that makes a clear answer.
Brandon: You know what I mean. Some people can hold their breaths for a long time, some people need to strengthen that.
Angelo: That was my question. What would you consider a short exhale hold and a long exhale hold?
Brandon: Well, I think a short exhale hold would be anything—okay, let me back up. Let’s say that instead, let’s look at it from trying to accomplish a specific number. So what we want to do is try to hit about the minute and a half mark, minute and a half to two minutes. If you can get two minutes that’s solid, that will give you the results that you are looking for within this practice. So you are building up to that.
Now we hear a lot of people who say they get way over two minutes in the beginning, and that’s fine. Some people will say they can’t hit two minutes or anywhere near it, they are getting 30 seconds or more or right in that range. What you can do is use the mindset aspect of the practice to really start to look at the breath training or the breath hold, I’m sorry, as the portion where you can really get in touch with how your body is reacting to just you sitting and being there, present.
So this is where we can get into a little bit of like the meditation aspect or the idea of just being present with the body and figuring out your physiology a bit by going internal. Wim always says you should close your eyes, you should focus towards—what we are working at is what we call the reptilian brain, right, from more of a metaphysical sense or even from the sense of like sensation.
What we are focusing on could be thought of as the third eye or could be just thought of as using particular muscles in the facial structure to elicit specific effects. This can go into a much broader conversation, but if I want to stay on track the idea is; within that 30 breath range and within that 30 minute and a half breath hold and say 15 seconds to 30 seconds recovery breath, if you look at that that gives you kind of like an ideal round.
So it’s about 30 seconds of breathing, minute and a half breath hold. So there’s two minutes, and then a 30 second recovery. So there is a two and a half minute round. So you can break that down for over 30 minutes if that makes sense.
Angelo: Sure, okay. So you do 30 minutes of the breathing, and we talked a little bit about how the mindset kind of plays into that and just feeling how you react to certain things, now where do you get into the cold?
Brandon: Well, the cold could come in a lot of different places. There is no necessary, like uniform way to approach this that you have to look at it this way or that way. For people who like to get regimented with it you can really accomplish this practice in about 30 minutes and get great effects. 30 minutes would be, let’s say 20 minutes of breathing, 10 minutes of ice, and maybe 15 minutes of recovery if you are working towards something that was a strong practice.
It might be a little longer recovery in the beginning especially with the 10 minute ice bath. You could do it even shorter, you could go 20 minutes of breathing, 5 minutes of ice, and 15 minutes of recovery at that point. In other words, I would put the ice after the breathing because that way you are priming the system up before you get into the ice, because the practice is hyperventilation power breathing.
[0:15:02] It’s called a lot of different things, it’s a conscious practice so we are not really in distress, we are deciding to do it just like any other workout, and we are sitting down, but we are isolating the respiratory system and we are working it out. So we are doing 30 fast breaths. To get our co2 down you are really going to have to breathe hard. So it’s like sprinting or something.
This is kind of like why Wim, if you watch Wim breath he does it all in and out through the mouth for the most part. He’ll tell you you can breathe however you want to but through my observation usually when he is doing the practice he is doing it in and out through the mouth. And I think it’s because that’s more how you are actually going be breathing if you are under real stress, right?
If you sprint, it’s difficult to just breathe through the nose. Or if you are under real stress you are going to be breathing through the mouth in a lot of ways. As you become a better athlete you might be able to control that more and more but, you know what I’m saying, when you are being really pushed.
The interesting thing about that is that the mouth breathing is connected more to the sympathetic nervous system and the nasal breathing connected more to the parasympathetic nervous system. I probably lost track of the question a little bit.
Angelo: It’s alright, you are all good, but I got you. Just to back up, so we’ve got 20 minutes of breathing, let’s just say for a practical application, we have 20 minutes of breathing then you said ice. Now, for a lot of people having already ice bath is not that easy, and I’ve read people about doing cold showers, what are your thoughts on that?
Brandon: Cold showers are awesome man. Yeah, sure, the difference in the cold shower, sometimes people say the cold showers are harder than the ice bath even when the temperature of the shower is not as cold as the ice bath is because of the movement of the water. So having the water moving across the surface of the skin is definitely more challenging. So if you get into an ice bath and you want to make it more challenging you can add a pump and the circulation of water will definitely push you.
Again the cold shower is a powerful tool, I highly recommend it. Wim Hof as a beginner recommends a 20-day cold shower challenge. You can find any of that stuff on his website, the wimhofmethod.com. He says wherever you can get it in, get it in, and I recommend the same thing. It’s a great practice to do the cold shower but at the same time you’ll find the—in my opinion the best way to do it is cold water in nature because you can get the same kind of effect.
You get into a water fall, even now if you get up into the mountains now where the water is still going to push you a bit, in summertime here in North Carolina where I am we go up into the mountains about every week and do cold water just so that we can be in nature and water is still at about 60 degrees. But sitting in a water fall with the water running over your shoulders, over your neck and staying there 10, 15, 20 minutes it’s a push man.
It’s a good challenge, and it’s a great you stress and it really sets you into the parasympathetic. So it’s sort of like you go into nature looking for something and you walk out in the right nervous state and it just feels great, you know, you have the connection with nature rebalancing, again, your nervous system and you walk out feeling alert but relaxed, comfortable. It’s actually I think, a form of confidence.
Angelo: That’s my next question. So you mentioned confidence, what would you say for somebody listening and who’s never really done this, why would they want to do it? What is the benefit or some of the major benefits of doing this method or making it a part of your practice?
Brandon: Well, I got into it because I thought Wim was a bad ass, and it goes deeper than that. But I initially saw him doing all these stuff—he was recommended by a guy who I thought at the time, and still think at the time is a bad ass in himself which is Laird Hamilton. So I heard people talking about Wim and it was something at that time in my life that I really needed.
[0:19:59] So I just sort of found him online and got into his documentaries and looking at all the stuff he was doing and just said I got to go deeper there with a 10-week course that he had just put out, and dove right into that thing and the rest is history. So for me, the reason I would recommend it is because it will give you tools to advance in all kinds of different ways.
The method can be, and I believe it should be if you are an athlete integrated into your skill set and can really enhance you, and we are proving it. So it’s a great tool, and that’s why I would say you just put it in your tool box man as another thing that has serious effect. I’m the type of person that if it doesn’t work I’m a major skeptic, I have to have direct experience with it. It has to be impactful to me.
The Wim Hof method met me in a way that it just blew me off my feet. I’m a black belt in Brazilian Jujitsu, I’ve been an athlete, I feel like most of my life in various forms martial arts has been a predominant practice but I’ve done a lot of other things as well in sports and competition. I just felt that it was just something that impacted me in a way like nothing else, and it’s a great way that I’ve found to remove fear. If all of those things are important to you I would say that those are all good reasons to do it.
Angelo: Okay. So we have fear and some changes with an athlete, what would you say like those effects really are, like how do they play out? So people understand when you say effects that could be very different depending on who is going through them. So how would you say like this is one effect, or this is something that you’ve felt or you’ve seen people feel and change positively with Wim Hof?
Brandon: Well, that’s a great question because, again. when I came to it it was definitely more from an athletic perspective, but since I’ve been an instructor what I’ve seen are the major health benefits. So from a recovery aspect which is on a lot of people’s minds, some people I don’t think really give it any thought.
I’ve definitely heard people say about the ice like I would never do it because I have no desire to recover or even give it that much time, to each his own. I think two of the biggest benefits; one you could just say inflammation reduction. So, how do you quantify that? Because in removing inflammation might have benefits from everything from healing autonomic dysfunction to mental dysfunction.
We’ve seen people who are—for instance I’ve worked a bunch with soldiers, and we’ve seen a great benefit in helping people with PTSD. It’s hard to measure PTSD. A lot of people have it in different ways. I have definitely had a direct experience with it and I know that it’s something that—I can imagine the various stages that people can go through with it and how intense it could get on somebody.
So again, if you are trying to recover removing inflammation can be tremendous. What we’ve seen with the breathing for instance, what made the method “a scientific practice” or a scientifically backed practice was that Wim tested the method against injections of what’s known as endotoxin.
You could think of it as an inert bacterium that gets a specific response out of the system out of your body where you are going to have these kinds of marker effects of nausea and fiver, and everything that comes along with essentially an e coli like bacteria sickness.
[0:25:14] He was part of a study where along with, I think it was like 112 people, they were all injected and he showed through blood testing and everything else that he was able to suppress the inflammatory responses through using stress hormones adrenaline like we were talking about earlier.
He was able to surpass the immune reactions within the body and essentially walked away with no sickness, he said a mild, mild headache, and then he went back with a test group and tested against a group that was untrained. So he trained a small group for a very small time, so basically over the course of eight days, where they worked with him for like four days, and then four days on their own.
They went into the laboratory and basically displayed the same abilities that he had after just a small amount of training. As far as in reduction to the inflammation and—so again, at that point published it and showed that it was real science, but it shows what is repeatable with the practice. So if you were trying to just get at inflammation reduction, the breath practice all on its own offers you that.
When you put it with the ice the robustness of the practice is explosive. It’s an exponential difference because of how the ice affects you. The ice is almost, kind of has these marker effects, where, like let’s say, two and a half to three, to four minutes, somewhere in there, really about three minutes, you are going to have a peak adrenaline experience that equates to jumping out of an airplane.
It’s intense. I know people that would rather jump out of an airplane than get in an ice bath. If you think about like how intense sky diving or bungee jumping—I’ve never sky dived but I’ve done the bungee jumping, it’s intense, right. So when you do the method and you get in the ice after this about three minute mark you have, in order to stay in the ice reached an adaption, and you are at this peak adrenaline experience.
You are adapting to it, your breath is regulated and that should have actually happened way prior to the two minute mark, you should be getting adapted quicker and quicker as you practice with it. In the beginning it might take up to a minute, it might be a little less. I’ve seen a lot of people go through the ice, probably upwards of a thousand people at this point I’ve seen go through the ice in front of my eyes.
I’ve seen the responses are generally the same. I put people into different categories on how they respond, but essentially what I’ve noticed is with the right intention the adaption comes about 30 seconds to a minute, then at that point—and that’s the breath adaption, at that point you are just kind of riding it out; your body is working, you get the hormones and all the benefits there.
But then as you push deeper into it, like say towards 5 to 10 minutes you are really getting the inflammation reduction. Maybe there is a sweet spot in their 7 to 10 minutes maybe, there is going to be great inflammation reduction. But you are going to be entering into a zone now where you are going to be susceptible to the after drop and the experience of the after drop and the ice is essentially your cold blood and warm blood mixing in the core.
So the cold blood from the extremities, right, because people really feel the cold usually in the extremities the most initially; in the fingers and the toes, the hands, and then it moves inward because the warmth is really going in to protect the organs at this point. It’s circling the brain stem. It’s wrapping the organs and trying to keep you warm towards the core- survival mechanism.
[0:30:07] What we are learning how to do and what Wim had been able to display is maintain core body temperature through the practice. This is why he has been able to push into these deep waters with the ice and break world records and set world records, it’s because while doing the cold exposure he is maintaining core body temperature. So without divulging all the secrets come to our workshop, we’ll teach you.
Brandon: What we want is for people to understand that that’s what we are working at post-ice training is—and that’s why people see us kind of doing all the weird stuff; moving around and doing the stuff. But what we try to do is isolate some particular movements that will help generate moving the heat from the core back out into the extremities and being able to resist the after drop. This is where you can into some really unique things with the method.
The metabolic effects and all the stuff of just warming yourself up after ice, it’s like you run a marathon in some respects. It’s tremendous for your system. A lot of people like contrasting where they go back and forth between the hot and the cold, this gives you great metabolic effects as well, but the way that I feel when I spend the time, 10, 15, 20 minutes, maybe even a little more just really warming my system up afterwards, the feeling is incomparable, and the energizing effect of it.
A lot of time contrasts live me personally feeling a little drained because you are going back and forth and I feel tremendous the next day, but I’m usually ready to go to sleep after a contrast. But with the warming effects of the practice you really get the sense of like intense energy that kind of sits with you for the whole day.
Angelo: That’s awesome. Let me ask you this, somebody might be listening to this and they say, you know Brandon, I don’t have 30 minutes a day or all these kind of stuff and I don’t know if you’ve encountered that, I’m probably sure that you have—so what is your response to that in the best way possible for people to put aside this time to do something like this?
Brandon: Well, the ice bath effects, like specifically the ice bath effects they have shown to last in the system for up to like six days. So you don’t have to necessarily do an ice bath every single day, and it is a form of stress. I recommend not doing anything exactly the same every single day. As a coach and as a performer myself I like to mix it up. But you find what you love, for me I like to spend a lot of time in the ice. I probably do it multiple times a week.
There are definitely times where I don’t do ice baths for a week here or there, but for the most part I would say I do cold training three to four times a week. I do the breathing every single day, and I think that you should incorporate the breath training every single day as an athlete. I think it’s really important for the benefits. If you don’t have the time you can break, the Wim Hof method has a 5-minute practice, if you can’t give us five minutes I don’t know what to say.
Angelo: Alright, so what’s the 5-minute practice?
Brandon: The 5-minute practice is pretty cool. You want to do a few rounds of the breathing, so you could say two to three rounds of the breathing, and then we finish the final round out with a breath hold and hypoxic pushups. So you want to do as many pushups, you can think of it as like a density kind of practice where you just do as many pushups as you can while holding your breath. You can do that on the inhale or the exhale.
Brandon: And both will give you some different reactions. I recommend in the beginning practicing it just like the Wim Hof method in doing it on the exhale, it’s a little less dangerous. The inhale holds can cause people to pass out a lot more easily than the exhale holds because you are maintaining constriction as you go through the whole practice.
So as you are breathing fast you are constricting everything, you are pushing all your blood to the core, you are going into the sympathetic state, this is what fast breathing—you are tricking the system or hacking into the panic mode.
[0:35:03] So when we go into the exhale we have actually been stimulating the vagus nerve and going into the dilation mode. So in the exhale hold we are stimulating dilation. So we went from constriction all the way through the breathing, but if you hold your breath on inhale hold you are actually constricting if that makes sense, and you can pass out.
Brandon: You see it with people, like there have been a lot of people—they call it a parasympathetic drop, and I’m sure you’ve seen it before. Somebody stands up too fast and they pass out, and that’s a major constriction on the system. The blood is not going to the brain and then you just drop. It’s a reset essentially. So the 5-minute workout is two to three rounds of breathing and then as many pushups as you can do on the exhale hold first, and then the inhale hold if you want practice that as well.
You just stop your practice once you’ve done as many pushups as you can do or you need to take a breath, one or the other, you just stop. Then you can just, you’ll amaze yourself man. You’ll do—especially somebody who is active and athletic—Man, I’ve seen—I’m not lying when I say I have seen a guy blast through 100 pushups on a single breath.
Angelo: Holy fuck.
Brandon: And solid pushups, solid pushups, lock outs at the top. Fast but he was going. He’s a seasoned athlete as well. I’ve had all kinds of people who say they don’t do a lot of pushups still hit pretty impressive numbers with that. So it’s a cool practice, and then we can get into how you can integrate that hypoxic training in lots of various ways, and I’m sure you’ve heard of hypoxic training before.
Brandon: Lots of coaches integrate it in. That’s the 5-minute warm up, wake up kind of Wim Hof practice; two to three rounds, pushups at the end of maybe the third or fourth round.
Angelo: That’s awesome, thank you. There’s a practical way. So let me ask you this, we talked about it when we first got on, you became an instructor, what made you want to actually be a Wim Hof instructor after finding out about this method? What attracted you to it enough that you wanted to put it in your tool box to be a teacher?
Brandon: Man, to be honest I did not get into this at all to be an instructor. I got into it because there was a—it had these components to it that really appealed to me. I’m a snowboarder, I love the cold, some people do not. As a kid whenever there was snow I was the first kid in it, I love the snow and I loved the cold. I never thought about being in the cold without any of my clothes on which has now become a practice.
Back then mom definitely made us tighten up and wear some clothes, but as I looked at the system it was breath work which I’ve always been interested in as a fighter. You find out in Jujitsu especially breath practice is so important and so many of the great martial arts masters have impressed upon us to train the breath. So I saw the Wim Hof practice actually—and knowing that Wim was a tremendous yoga practitioner and teacher but I saw it as a martial art.
So it was this thing that hit me from that perspective so I dove into it, and as I was integrating it into everything that I was doing because that’s just—if I can’t bring it into my umbrella it’s not going to make sense to me. First I noticed the change in my sleep patterns totally, and I was wondering why, and then it started to make me feel balanced. What I mean is, I just woke up and I didn’t feel like an asshole, I just felt good man.
I didn’t feel—the world brings tension man, and I was going through some trauma-based things that ultimately were just kind of being released from the system, and it was having this effect on me, and this was not something I was looking for at all.
It wasn’t even something I was thinking. Maybe it was in the back of my head but it wasn’t something that I thought was going to have an effect on.
I thought it would have an effect on my sports performance but I didn’t realize that it was going to help me in the way that it did. So it just started hitting me in these ways that were like emotionally related, and it was giving me relief, and it was making my relationship with my wife strong. And it was really important to me man. It was making me present with my family, and that was so important to me.
I was like emotionally available for everybody all of a sudden. I felt like I was doing my job as a dad. I had a young son at the time and it was hitting my heart in a way. Wim’s message, maybe it’s overlooked a little bit by some people, maybe it’s not, but Wim’s message is that he was doing this to repair his own part. And it was like having that effect on me and it wasn’t something that I was necessarily looking for, but man, it was impactful.
If you look that might be one of the biggest anecdotal sort of result-oriented things from the Wim Hof method is that people get this relief man. Everybody tells Wim, ‘you saved my life’. Why are they telling him that? Is it just because he’s got some fame and he’s on the internet, or is it because, man, it’s impactful? People tell Wim all the time, ‘you saved my life’.
I have heard it constantly. I’m not sure I didn’t say it. It was impacting me. If you were around me you were practicing it with me, because that’s how my dojo works. We train hard man and we get after it and we do things that work. So we were doing it before BJJ class, we were doing it before kickboxing classes, or whatever, strength classes. Then we were using it in different ways within the strength workouts and we were seeing results.
All the stuff was happening and I had a client who was getting some really good results from it and I was using it with him a bit. We couldn’t tell anybody, we can’t say we are teaching the Wim Hof method, and we weren’t doing that, but we were definitely practicing it. This guy was getting some great results, and he wanted to be like—he was the type of guy who was looking to be like an instructor of the stuff.
He was like, ‘how can I be an instructor?’ I was like, ‘yeah, sounds pretty cool man, le tem know if you figure it out’. So he came back at me, he was like, ”here’s everything, they are going to start their very first international instructors course, it’s hasn’t even hit online yet, it’s going to be on this day, let’s sign up”. So we decided to sign up man, and we were I think, the first two people signed up and ready to go on the international instructors course.
So it just was organic man. I was living it for well over a year and a half or so before I went out and decided to become an instructor. Then we had to go through a series of trainings with Wim in order to actually become an instructor. It’s like a testing process. They are trying to do some legit certification. They want a legit certificate process, so they push their instructors.
I basically wasn’t looking for it but I was one of the best moves I’ve made I think for my business and for where I’m trying to take my own personal training and my client set I work with.
Angelo: That’s awesome. I would have to say that one thing I’ve noticed is, let’s say you wake up and 10 you are flying off the handle, and let’s say you wake up at like 6 or 7, after doing the breathing you would definitely tell you are at a one or two to start the day. Because things still come up the same way, but for me anyways, my response is much different, it doesn’t get as hot as quick as it used to.
Brandon: Oh, absolutely. The breathing will cool you down in itself.
[0:45:01] Look, I said—there are a lot of ways you can approach this, that’s the cool thing man. One of the best things I’ve figured out as someone who trains skill is that you have to work within parameters until you don’t, and that’s when you get the secret sauce, you know what I mean?
Brandon: So you start with the fundamental way of practicing this but then you realize you can bend it a bit. You still want to get these particular responses, but you don’t always have to breathe through your mouth, you can breathe through your nose, it’s a great way to train. In and out through the nose or in through the nose out through the mouth, that’s probably the best, most efficient way to breath.
Some people can’t breathe well through their nose. The nose actually signals some interesting things as well too, like you can tell, like watching people’s nostrils for instance, if they are in more of a sympathetic or in more of a parasympathetic response. This is important. A lot of the stuff can be adapted to heart rate variability as well, so if you are trying to monitor these things and see the results specifically I think that a great way to look at the effects is through the heart rate variability.
Again, not getting too cold or not getting too hot I mean, in the practice is one of the biggest, I guess rewards of this for an athlete, and what I’ve noticed is myself especially with jujitsu which can be a really hot practice, you know, guys smothering each other, and especially with gears on, I’ve just noticed being able to basically not redline out nearly as fast. But the breath also helps with that.
The cool thing is if you isolate the breath you rarely have to think about it in the moment, the practice would just be there for you. So I think you should isolate in various ways just like I would say you isolate the muscles in various ways. You can work your chest out obviously in multiple ways, you can work your back out in multiple ways, and also you can work your breath out in multiple ways.
The benefits of the breath alone like—you take advantage of like pre testosterone, for men it’s tremendous. I believe you can cure a lot of problems with the breath. That’s why it’s so connected to like these practices like tantra, and things like that because the breath can—controlling where your nervous system is can control how your body will react. So are you in fight or flight? Or you are in feed and fuck. You know what I mean?
Brandon: So if you are in the right space your body is going to react right. You don’t want to eat when you are under serious stress, and you don’t want to perform in certain ways when you are under serious stress. I think a lot of people are hard wired, and this is what connections between people are lost. This can get into such a powerful interesting aspect of the Wim Hof which is its effect on the social environment that it gets placed within.
So let’s say there’s a group of people practicing the Wim Hof, what we see is this overwhelming effect on the vagal—you can say the vagus nerve. It’s like what they call the Polyvagal theory, and it’s this overwhelming effect on the vagus system, the vagus nerve that has social effect, meaning that it brings people together, and it makes people react better together.
And this comes down to how we perceive each other’s body language, our faces being the first part. Everybody gets happy, and then all of a sudden that effect is contagious, and then all of a sudden everybody in the moment is just feeling this love for each other. You know what I’m saying when I say that, I mean. There’s obviously still always going to be a protective mechanism around us, but we see people reacting, like developing friendships—I certainly have.
[0:50:10] When I trained with Wim and first group of instructors I didn’t know any of these people, but because we were all doing this together and we pushed it hard for a week, and we were up in the mountains and really working it the effect, the social effect, I’ve developed friendships that are really lasting, and it’s powerful in that regard. I see it putting its tentacles in a lot of different things if that makes sense.
It’s going to affect you on the personal level and that in turn is going to make you feel better interacting with people. That’s what I’ve noticed, that’s one of the biggest things I’ve noticed.
Angelo: Agreed. For you now, you are doing seminars, you are practicing this in your dojo, you’ve even worked with Marcelo Garcia who is a very famous Jujitsu player, so how are you trying to experiment with this, and where are you trying to take this, your instruction of Wim Hof?
Brandon: Well, I’ve been really fortunate to work with some amazing people doing this. You mentioned Marcelo, and I’ve been working with Marcelo’s business partner as well Josh Waitzkin, and Josh has a reputation on his own. So I’ve worked with people in the financial sector and seen the effects that it has on them, so I’ve enjoyed that.
Then I’ve also worked with people, one person in particular who was terminally ill and she wanted to push herself before she passed away. It was amazing to see the things that she did. With having seen the spectrum of people that I can affect with it man I like to do this in multiple ways. So we do seminars on the fundamental level.
We do seminars on the advanced level, and then we do multiple day workshop retreats which incorporate various things, the Wim Hof being sort of what we focus everything around, but then we do a lot of other integrated work that goes with the Wim Hof method depending on who I’m working with in the specific retreat.
So in some retreats it might be strategy, in some retreats it might be something much more exercise oriented, fitness oriented like mountain climbing or something specific in that way. You could say this thing can go in lots of different ways, and what I’m doing is, I’m just trying to experiment.
We’ve been going up this now for a little over two years as an instructor, actually going up three years almost now, but as an instructor I’ve just seen the impact that it has in so many ways that I don’t want to stifle it, but I mean, I love to work with large groups, we’ve done 100 people groups, and the way I connect with that group is a little different than how I connect with say a 15-person group or a 10-person group.
I see the benefit in both. So I’ve been taking it in all kinds of different ways but what makes it specifically and uniquely my thing, I think is how I integrate music into what we are doing with the Wim Hof. A lot of people have done that, and whim does that specifically, but we all have a different way of maybe approaching the music. So we use the rhythms of the drums specifically to drive the breath practice.
This can become intense for some people especially if you are really hanging in there and keeping up with the whole practice but we want to give people that type of experience if they want it. We also let everybody know it’s up to you how hard you push yourself in this room. I had a woman one time who was breathing like this (wheezing) on her own, and she was just saying I want to stop, I want to stop.
[0:55:04] I just said, ‘whoa, you could stop any time you want’. So I’ve seen people just get lost in the breathing practice. Truthfully, I think in the—you see a lot of people who are interested in this type of thing, the response that people have—I’ve seen so many emotional responses to this, I’ve seen people tell me it was transcendent, just breath work. So I want to be able to expose as many people to that as I can.
People have definitely equated it to psychedelic experience, people have equated it to birth experiences, I’ve had mothers telling me it reminded them of birth, I’ve had soldiers tell me that it took them into places in their minds that was scary, but then they were able to come through it with the release, where they were actually able to let go of a lot of trauma.
When I see all this response I want to take it all over the place. As a musician this is something—I’ve been involved with music most of my life and I feel the desire to get out and play my music with people and expose them to something that’s super unique, like this integrative experience of you come in and we do this thing and we get you the results all within, anywhere from 3 hours to say, 3 days or 7 days, however long you want to go with me.
Angelo: That’s awesome. That’s incredible. You’ve worked with these amazing—I love it that you’ve had experience working with people from all different levels and you could see the benefits of this work. Where could people find you? How often are you doing seminars? How could people get in touch with you to learn more about you or when you host a seminar, do a seminar?
Brandon: Well, the best way now is through the social media platforms. What we’ve done is, we’ve created a brand that brings everything again under like a single umbrella, we call it Phyr, with a ‘p-h’, P-h-y-r. So you can find all of our stuff at this point really through just my Instagram page or through our Facebook page. My business in Charlotte, North Carolina is called Dojo Body Mind, and all of that is online.
You can find us there, and we post all of our seminar information through the Dojo site right now. But we are currently bringing again, everything under one umbrella, so the Dojo Body Mind is all going to be brought into this Phyr concept. We are going to have the Phyr Dojo down here at this point.
What we are doing is, we are putting out a bunch of free content for people to get in and just have some fun with our breathing practices with us, and then we have a few programs that are going to be coming out online teaching people how to do everything, from become more rhythmic, and how to integrate rhythm better into their lives for timing.
You can imagine what this can do for everything from athletics to developing different forms of strategy, timing we believe is crucial for everything. So we are working with people on learning how to—what we do is show people how to adapt the Wim Hof method to this practice that we do and then we show people how they can kind of step up the practice a little bit if they want to.
Angelo: That’s awesome. I love that name too, Phyr. That’s an incredible brand man, I love it.
Brandon: I appreciate it.
Angelo: My pleasure. So the name of our show is The Alpha Hippie Podcast, and one thing I allow every guest to do is define what Alpha Hippie means to them and give their own interpretation of the word. So now is your chance to say what Alpha Hippie means to you.
Brandon: Well, man, it’s an interesting concept and construct. I think I fall into that category specifically because of all the hippie-like qualities that I bring to fitness. People have definitely seen the drumming and everything and wondered, what are you guys doing? But the way that I would explain it is, maybe you could think about how we need to move into the future, right.
And one thing that’s really important to me is to be confident at this time. It’s sort of like with our brand we call it Phyr, but we spell it P-h-y-r, and a lot of people have perceived it as fear. If anything, I think there are so many amazing ways to move from say fear into the fire, and the fire doesn’t mean that you lose the fear, what it means is that you are ready to take it on.
So the Alpha Hippie to me would essentially be somebody who is preparing themselves with as many tools because they need the confidence, they need to know that they have the support. So I like to think of looking outside the box sometimes. I think that that was one thing that brought me into the Wim Hof, I think you should embrace the weird.
I think that with all of this amazing stuff that we have around us now there is no reason not to be confident that the tools aren’t there for you. So the Alpha Hippie is a great construct because it’s telling us to be free but to also be determined. It’s not about turning on and tuning out man, we need to tune in, we need the highest function at this point.
That’s what I’m hopefully—when I connect in to people I’m helping them attain this high function, and that’s kind of what the Alpha Hippie name speaks to me, it’s a higher function.
Angelo: I love it. That’s awesome man, it’s perfect. Thank you for sharing. It’s a good explanation of it. I definitely think you embody it totally, so you are definitely an alpha hippie. For you before we sign off, one last question; this is one question I ask everybody; if you had one word to be remembered by what would it be?
Brandon: It’s very simple. Most important word ever man, for me- dad.
Angelo: That’s awesome. It’s beautiful man. Thank you for sharing.
Brandon: Absolutely man. Thanks for having me.
Angelo: No, it’s awesome man. Thank you so much for this amazing insight. I was taking notes the entire show and all these stuff. So thank you so much brother, I really appreciate your time.
You’ve been listening to the Alpha Hippie Podcast.
Angelo: Thanks for listening to the Alpha Hippie Podcast everyone. Again, if you are enjoying the show please subscribe and give us a rating on iTunes. My guest and I really appreciate the feedback. And if you are on Instagram follow us at @thealphahippie to see what’s going on in our world, upcoming shows and all our news. See you next time.
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